As we celebrate Black History Month, we also exhale on the New York City Opera negotiations. It’s time to move forward…
February is Black History Month and we’re pleased to feature a cover story by our own jazz rep Todd Weeks, who is also a published jazz historian. On page 12, Todd discusses how the union’s Justice for Jazz Artists campaign has a larger historical context within the history of black music.
I’m very proud of how our jazz department has upped the ante in this campaign. I believe that the jazz clubs are taking notice and that we are going to see some movement.
We will keep you posted on how you can help in this campaign. For years, the union was not as attentive to jazz musicians as we should have been and it’s now up to us to correct this.
I’d also like to announce that the union is investing more resources into this campaign. Our Web site, www.JusticeForJazzArtists.org, is going to get a major makeover and become a professional site that will galvanize our support.
Jazz clubs still have time to do the right thing before we step up the pressure even more. I encourage those club owners to meet with us soon.
Finally, we salute Local 802 member Jimmy Owens, who was recently awarded the title of NEA Jazz Master. I wrote about Jimmy and this honor in my September 2011 column. There’s a picture of Jimmy at the awards ceremony and an excerpt of his acceptance speech on page 12.
NEW YORK CITY OPERA
As members know by now, we finally concluded negotiations with the New York City Opera, but at great cost.
It’s going to take a long time for NYCO management to rebuild their relationship and trust with their orchestra, assistant conductors and Local 802.
The path that management has taken with the company is a risky one. Relying solely on contributions without regard to ticket sales and the size of the venues at which they will play is wrongheaded and, in my opinion, will ultimately lead to the demise of this once great opera company.
Hopefully, management will heed the advice of the true experts: the musicians and chorus. With the help of the newly formed Labor/Management Committee, the opera may return to its former stature as a main stage opera company.
The musicians have voted to move forward with the hope that the deep concessions they have accepted will help the opera return to fiscal health, expand its audience, and – like the phoenix – rise from the ashes.
Voting yes or no on the contract was a choice between two evils. As Orchestra Committee Chair Gail Kruvand stated, it was a bitter pill to swallow.
Ultimately, we had no faith that even if we had waited out this entire season, management would change course. It was even possible – if not evident – that management would fold the company. That’s how low this management had sunk, and that was the critical point.
It was an impossible decision for the musicians to face, and I respect so much the pain, hard thinking and soul searching that went into the contract vote. It was by far the most contentious and difficult negotiation I have ever been involved in.
This was a situation where the decision was whether or not there would continue to be a New York City Opera.
It is with great appreciation and gratitude that I recognize the hard work, diligence and commitment that the members of the orchestra’s negotiating committee demonstrated, never forgetting their obligation to fully represent the NYCO orchestra, ultimately putting the final decision in the orchestra’s hands.
It is with equal appreciation that I thank the assistant conductors for their hard work through this process. Though the issues for the assistant conductors – who include the rehearsal pianists, vocal coaches, and the pit, recitative, continuo and recital keyboard artists – were negotiated separately, they too suffered the constant barrage of sacrifice thrown at them by management.
In the end, in a sign of total solidarity, they too accepted the concessions rather than abandon the company.
The opera orchestra is now an ensemble with no home. Musicians will have at least some guaranteed income from the opera during the season in each year of the agreement. There will be health insurance for one year followed by a percentage health contribution in years two and three based on wages in those years. There will also be instrument insurance for three years.
The company has agreed to maintain the current size of the orchestra, as well as the number of assistant conductors, moving away from their initial position of requiring the shrinking of the two groups through attrition.
Because of the severely truncated season, there will be no attendance requirement.
Worth mentioning is that, after strong resistance by NYCO to recognizing the AFM as the exclusive bargaining agent for electronic media, the company finally agreed to sign on to the AFM’s Integrated Media Agreement.
This was a bitter, bitter struggle and one we won’t forget.
OTHER NEGOTIATION UPDATES
Contract negotiations have finally begun for the Metropolitan Opera Music Staff. This group is made up of the assistant conductors, rehearsal pianists, coaches, prompters and pit keyboard artists. We are waiting to schedule our next session and we’re looking forward to concluding these talks soon.
We are also currently at the table with the New York Philharmonic. Talks are continuing with the help of a mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services.
Lastly, we are in the process of scheduling dates to begin negotiations for the successor agreement for the Encore Series Orchestra at New York City Center.
Dozens of new liquor licenses have recently been granted in the theatre district, and a handful of huge new clubs are coming to our neighborhood. But these clubs usually mean lots of drinking and pumped-up recorded music – not live music or jobs for musicians.
State Sen. Tom Duane (D-Manhattan) recently hosted a community forum here at Local 802. The goal of the forum was to work toward solving issues related to the rise of new nightlife in the area.
Representatives from the state Liquor Authority, the NYPD’s 10th and Midtown North precincts, FDNY and the city’s Consumer Affairs and Environmental Protection departments were present.
The event was co-sponsored by several other elected officials, including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
The 14,000-square foot XL Nightclub plans to launch this month, and La Boom, a three-floor Latin nightclub, will likely open by the end of 2012.
A few years ago, Allegro published a feature story on how these kinds of clubs are, at best, an iffy proposition for musicians. That story by Rebecca Moore appeared in our December 2007 issue and it won the coveted Saul Miller Award for labor journalism.
EMERGENCY RELIEF FUND
We are still very motivated to make sure that the union’s Emergency Relief Fund is able to do its job and help musicians. Please ready Andy Schwartz’s appeal below, and Cindy Green’s article on page 40. To donate now, go to www.Local802erf.org.
EARLY MUSIC GETS A WINDFALL
The New York Times recently reported that Juilliard is announcing a $20 million gift to endow its graduate-level program in historical performance. Anytime there is serious investment in music education, we applaud. And Juilliard’s early music program also presents its own concerts, which helps keep the magic of the Baroque period alive for the public.
The reason that this is important to all of us is that we need audiences who love and want to hear the music that we play. We all have to be ambassadors for classical music, and the music schools have their role to play, too.
The donor of the $20 million is Bruce Kovner, the chairman of the school’s board, who had already financed Juilliard’s curriculum in period performance. The program is directed by the English violinist Monica Huggett and has attracted guests like the conductor-instrumentalists William Christie and Jordi Savall.
Local 802 and Juilliard have a very special relationship. When groups like the historical performance ensemble Juilliard 415 perform as an accompanying orchestra at Carnegie Hall and elsewhere, Juilliard insists that the musicians be treated as the professionals they are and demands that they be compensated and protected under the appropriate Local 802 agreement.
Speaking of audiences, a new TV show is going to bring musical theatre into the living rooms of America. “Smash” is an upcoming series set to premiere on NBC, on Monday, Feb. 6. The show revolves around a group of characters who come together to put on a Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. The series will feature original music by composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. NBC signed a deal with Columbia Records for a soundtrack of the series, which means that musicians who record the soundtrack will be covered under an AFM agreement. Additionally, the musicians involved in the scoring sessions for the show will be covered by the AFM Television Agreement.
All of this may seem trivial, but any time live musical theatre is glorified in popular broadcast culture, we think it’s a good thing. Perhaps young people watching this show will come to understand that musical theatre goes hand-in-hand with real instruments and real human beings rather than tape and sequencers. This is the kind of programming we have to foster.
OFF BROADWAY UPDATE
We are pleased that our Theatre Department is continuing to bring several Off Broadway shows under contract each season. This kind of organizing keeps up our union density in the field and allows musicians to get their foot in the door with union benefits.
The show “Silence” recently signed our Commercial Off Broadway Area Standards. The musical opened last fall and is playing at the P.S. 122 performance space in the East Village. Under this agreement, producers will pay musicians the rates from 2009-2010 for the first 12 weeks of the run, and then bump up to our current performance rate, which is $696.71 per week. Pension is 9.81 percent and health contributions are $112 per week. There are three musicians in the show.
We recently negotiated a two-year agreement with Transport Group, a small nonprofit Off Broadway theatre company whose most recent production “Queen of the Mist” was the first show under this contract. The minimum weekly scale per musician is $515. Health benefits are $72 per musician per week, and pension pays 8.72 percent.
Also, the production of Shakespeare’s “Richard III” at BAM is the third and final production of the Bridge Project joint venture, a three-year series of co-productions by the Old Vic, BAM, and Neal Street Productions. The minimum weekly scale per musician is now $1,200 for seven performances or less, health benefits are $105 per musician per week, and pension pays 9.81 percent. For rehearsal and audition musicians not in conjunction with an orchestra, the scale is $1,515.75 for a 40-hour, six-day week with no more than eight hours in any one day. If audition and rehearsal musicians are called by the day, the scale is $117.45 for two hours or less. Orchestra rehearsals terminating no later than 7 p.m. are paid at $32.86 per hour with a minimum 2.5-hour call.
If you get called to play in an Off Broadway musical, or a reading or workshop, please call the Theatre Department at (212) 245-4802. Let’s get you the pay and benefits you deserve.
Thanks to theatre representatives Marisa Friedman, Claudia Copeland and Theresa Couture for their role in organizing these contracts.
Paul Garment, 50, a celebrated clarinetist and a member of Local 802 since 1989, died tragically in early January. He is survived by his 8-year-old son and his wife Tanya.
Paul and I were friends and colleagues and it pains me to have to report to you the passing of such a young and talented musician.
To help sustain Paul’s legacy and to help assist his family in this dire time of need, Local 802 has set up a special account through the Emergency Relief Fund.
To contribute, write a check payable to the Emergency Relief Fund or ERF. In the memo line of the check, you must write “Garment Family Fund.”
Mail checks to the president’s office, Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036. Thank you.