Since starting my work as Local 802’s political and communications director on Feb. 1, I’ve been struck by two things: the passion for live music performance exhibited by our membership, and the vast amount of work and music taking place across the city. New Yorkers have an endless appetite for music, and with that appetite comes exciting opportunities for performing artists.
Having been raised in an arts household – my father is a musician and teacher, my mother an actress, my brother a cinematographer and my grandfather an art historian – as well as having degrees in music performance and political studies, I’m able to bring a passion for the arts and an appreciation for the difficulties that the industry presents to my fifth floor office here at 322 West 48th Street. From here, I will take my intimate familiarity with the challenges that face musicians in New York City into the world of New York City politics and communications. How fortunate am I to have been afforded this chance to link my greatest passions and interests!
The challenges before us are well known and many: producers exploiting every opportunity to lower their bottom line at the expense of musicians and musical integrity; outsourced film scoring; the advance of technologies in increasingly rapid and disruptive ways; and the assault on recording rights and intellectual property. Musicians are now required to find new ways to ensure that they can provide for their families.
But as these challenges have arisen, our members have shown that they are both incredibly adaptive and remarkably resilient. This ability is heartening, for as new challenges are identified, new opportunities are revealed. By communicating and working in ways that encourage collaboration, inclusion, diversity and innovation, our union will thrive. That must be our mission and vision: encourage collaboration, inclusion, diversity and innovation.
As the political and communications director, I find myself with the unique task of linking our political priorities with our communications assets and needs, all with the goal of strategically strengthening Local 802 and furthering our members’ interests and agenda.
With the help of an active and engaged membership, we will be able to work with our elected officials and city partners to incentivize the growth of music through legislation and political advocacy, as well as identify programmatic, funding and legislative partners for great education initiatives like the Council for Living Music and our new Jazz Mentors program as well as citywide initiatives like the Cultural Plan Citizens’ Advisory Committee. President Tino Gagliardi is the only representative of a labor union on that committee, and we will fight to preserve the integrity of the arts while also ensuring that New York City remains a place that not only supports the arts, but also the artists who create it.
We will simultaneously prioritize public communications opportunities that encourage inclusive engagement with our communities and neighbors across New York City. Between our formal press releases, working with journalists on stories, our own Allegro magazine, our electronic newsletter 802 NOTES, and our social media channels, we will use external communications as a tool to promote the vibrancy of the arts throughout New York City and encourage the growth of the Local 802 family as a whole.
Our vision must be to once again become an authority and bulwark for the arts across the city. I will need the help of our entire membership to tell our story. Together, we will help the world appreciate that musicians are collaborators and artists, not simply contracted facilitators for productions, shows or performances.
But to realize this vision, we must work together. Engage your colleagues to participate in union-wide events and initiatives. Tell your business representatives about problems facing you. Explain to prospective members that the union is not only fighting for pay and benefits but also for the industry standards of today and tomorrow. Involve yourselves in your communities and get involved in the legislation affecting your neighbors, your family and your career. Call me with questions or concerns about politics, policy or elections. We must communicate with each other and act as one if we are to strengthen live music in New York City. Collaboration and communication are vital. We are and must continue to be more flexible, adaptive and solution-oriented than ever before. This is not your grandfather’s union!
Contributing to TEMPO, Local 802’s political action committee, is one way you can provide support. TEMPO is one of the vital tools in our belt, an important resource and an asset for our work with our elected partners and government officials. This tool is crucial for our work at the local and federal levels to ensure that the interests of musicians and the art community are heard, protected and strengthened. To contribute, visit https://www.local802afm.org/tempo-802/
This is an incredibly exciting time, both for me personally but also for Local 802. This year and next will be marked by landmark elections at the national and local levels, and Local 802 will be a player and important voice. But this is also an important time for Local 802 as a labor community. With our city fighting to address rampant economic and social inequalities, we are in a position to strengthen the role the arts play in our entire society.
After all, the arts are vital to our societal heritage, able to traverse lingual, generational, cultural, economic, social and educational divides. Together, we will be able to ensure that our city’s actions, values and priorities reflect the level of importance that must be afforded to the arts.