At the recent IEB meeting, Local 802 was
assigned new jurisdiction. Also, recording
musicians gained a voice over their own fees.
I recently returned from a meeting of the International Executive Board in Toronto and I would like to report to you some of the events of specific import to our local. One outcome of the meeting was that Local 802’s jurisdiction has been slightly increased. Local 802 will be absorbing the jurisdiction of AFM Local 809, which is based in Middletown, NY, on the west side of the Hudson, north of Rockland county, about 70 miles northwest of New York City. This jurisdiction includes all of Sullivan County, some of Orange County, and some nearby areas across the Pennsylvania state line.
Local 809 no longer has a staff to sustain itself and the IEB decided that Local 802 would best serve the members in that jurisdiction. It should be noted that we have approximately 35 active members who currently reside within this area. With this expansion comes responsibility. There is live music in this jurisdiction and Local 802 will do what it does best: work to ensure that musicians receive fair wages and benefits for all of the work they perform.
The board also discussed the state of the Music Performance Fund. Interestingly enough, we discovered that the word “Trust” had been removed from the fund’s title by the previous administration without the concurrence of the fund, and it was agreed to restore its original name: the Music Performance Trust Fund.
As members know, the MPTF has a diminishing source of income now that physical products (i.e. vinyl records, tapes and CD’s) are no longer the principal form in which people buy music. The fund does not currently receive any money for digital downloads of music and, as a result, it is essentially finding itself unable to sustain itself. Without increased revenue, the fund will eventually be completely out of cash and may have to dissolve.
At the recent AFM convention, it was resolved that the AFM make a priority of proposing MPTF contributions in the negotiation of future electronic media agreements.
Additionally, the IEB discussed the general well being of the Federation and the steps needed in order to preserve the financial strength of our union, including our Electronic Media Services Division. With the guidance of the EMSD Oversight Committee, the AFM Convention agreed to propose a small fee in connection with non-symphonic recording, i.e. sound recording, live videotape, TV and film motion picture, as well as commercial announcements (jingles).
For the first time in AFM history, recording musicians will have the opportunity to democratically elect to assess a fee in connection with the work they do under negotiated national recording agreements, rather than having a tax imposed. This fee would amount to 0.4 percent increase in work dues in any year in which you have earned $2,500 or more in wages under national recording agreements. That’s 40 cents for every $100 in earnings. Around the second week of November, ballots were mailed to those musicians who earned $2,500 in these fields during 2009.
The purpose of this money is to strengthen the AFM’s hand in enforcing your contracts and in expanding new media coverage in our agreements.
In the words of RMA President Marc Sazer: “There will be significant costs (beyond what’s being spent now) for monitoring, analysis, and legal support in order to get new media right. We have to get it right – it’s our future. That can only be done if the AFM has the money to do so… When your employer is a huge international corporation, only the AFM can stand up for you. When the contract you are working under is the same contract that colleagues all over North America are working under, only the AFM can hold us together. We need a strong AFM more than anyone else because all our (recording) contracts are national contracts.”
The EMSD Oversight Committee is currently comprised of Phil Ayling, Bruce Bouton, Neil Stubenhaus and Bill Foster. You can read about the committee and its members on the AFM Web site at www.afm.org/news/emsd-oversight-committee-appointed.
EMERGENCY RELIEF FUND
All members will be receiving an appeal from 802’s officers, asking for a donation to our union’s Emergency Relief Fund. The ERF helps musicians when they find themselves in dire financial straits, such as needing money for a rent payment or paying a hospital bill. But now the ERF needs your help. Here’s the text of the letter:
Dear Local 802 Member:
We write in regard to a matter of the utmost importance – the continuing viability of the Local 802 Emergency Relief Fund (ERF).
As you may know the resources of the ERF are used for both the maintenance of the Musicians’ Assistance Program and direct economic support for musicians who have fallen into financial difficulty. The source of these funds has been the purchase of ads in the fund’s annual journal and income from investments of fund reserves. In more recent years, the fund has begun to run a deficit and the officers have taken steps to increase our fundraising, including this year’s production of a fundraising CD.
The increase in requests and the continuing recession have forced the fund to run at a deficit that if allowed to continue would end this valuable resource once and for all by the end of 2011. For this reason, Local 802 is making this special appeal for donations.
We hope that you can find a way to make a donation, no matter how small. Every dollar counts! Your less fortunate colleagues will thank you and so will we. If you wish to make a donation, please make your check out to the Local 802 Emergency Relief Fund, or you can make a donation by credit card by calling the membership department at (212) 245-4802. All contributions are tax deductible.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
PLAYING ON BROADWAY
In this issue of Allegro, we’re pleased to present interviews with several Broadway musicians. At the union, we get many calls from new members, asking what it’s like to play on Broadway and how to get a gig there. Hopefully, these interviews will educate – and also entertain!
This may be an appropriate place to briefly let readers know about my own Broadway story.
I was a chair holder on 10 Broadway shows and one Off Broadway show in the last 20 or so years.
When I first came to town, I hoped the work would come to me. It didn’t. I decided to reach out to several veteran musicians that I knew in the business. I called every trumpet player I could who was attached to a Broadway show and kept a record of all the replies. I was impressed by the professionalism of those I called. All but a very few encouraged me to come by the theatre and meet with them.
I was eventually given the opportunity to sub, and from there I was able to meet and work for various musical directors and contractors, who are always keeping track of how well you do and how well you interact with the orchestra. However, it has always been my opinion that the most important relationships are those that you have with your colleagues in the section. After subbing for several years and building a reputation of my own, I was able to land my first show.
The first piece of advice I would give new members is to create a relationship with current Broadway musicians. The truth is that all Broadway chair holders need subs. Being a musician is a freelance industry and it is important for theatre musicians to be able to sub out from their shows in order to retain their identity with other types of work.
If you can build a relationship with an active musician, the next step is to ask to sit in the pit to check out his or her book. Explain your experience and mention other musicians the chair holder may know for reference. Hopefully this will get you in the door and you will be given an opportunity to do a sub.
Be sure to have the book over-prepared. I personally make sure that when I’m watching a book, I’m actually paying more attention to the conductor, knowing I will have a copy of the book to study later. Some shows have recordings of the parts available for study. If not, it’s important to make one yourself so that you can listen for subtleties such as phrasing and articulation in the regular player’s performance.
You should be sure to know the material before going in for the first time, no matter how long it takes. Some books take more time than others. Subbing is a lot of work. My experience is that it is far more difficult than having your own show and I don’t believe I will get an argument there. There is really only one thing you want to avoid as a sub – and that is messing up! As a sub, you can play a near perfect show, and the only thing remembered is the mistake. This is why it is imperative that you be prepared if you want to be a busy sub. Naturally this becomes a maintenance issue the more books you sub on.
For me, as a trumpet player, the most interesting thing about playing shows is the versatility required. On any given night, I might be required to play in any style including classical, big band, rock or the more traditional Broadway style.
One show on which I was subbing had a short eight-bar solo and all it said as a direction was “hot jazz.” Well, not being terribly experienced at the time, I blew what I thought the conductor was looking for. Unfortunately for me, it wasn’t. You see, I was doing a lot of Latin work at the time and I believe the conductor’s comment was “That sounded like Louis Armstrong doing a salsa gig – try again!”
There’s good and bad in every steady job. Dealing with the performance of the same product every night can become monotonous. I believe that the drive to play the best we can no matter what the challenge is how we deal with that monotony.
Being a strong sight-reader is a plus for any musician working in any field of music. A good sight-reader takes less time learning the book, whether during a pre-production rehearsal or at home learning a new book to sub on. Because of the repetitive nature of what theatre musicians do, it is yet another aspect of our playing that requires attention in the practice room.
Playing on Broadway can be mellow when we’re all swingin’ and having a good time with a looser kind of atmosphere appropriate for that show – or it can be quite nerve-wracking because of a solo situation or a particular passage that is technically challenging or particularly tiring. I’ve experienced both, although more of the latter.
Staying fresh comes from doing different types of work and from practicing. We all fall into ruts when doing a show, and we all get ourselves out of those ruts differently, but I think the common denominator is the time we spend with our instruments, everyday for hours, before even considering going to the gig.
Broadway can be a rewarding experience that requires considerable stamina and discipline. If it’s something you want to do and you are willing to commit to the job the same way one commits to any job, it can be enjoyable.
GOODBYE, JACK HOOK
We were sorry to learn about the death of Jack Hook, secretary-treasurer of AFM Local 40-543 (Baltimore), on Nov. 2. Jack was a great supporter of the Baltimore and Annapolis Symphonies, and the Baltimore Opera. He was a true champion of the labor movement. He will be missed by all who knew him.
The e-mail address of trombonist Douglas Edelman was printed incorrectly in the latest edition of the Local 802 Membership Directory. The correct e-mail address is: email@example.com. Local 802 regrets the error.
In the article on the RMA-NY in the last issue, we incorrectly referred to Michael Comins as a “founding RMA-NY board member.” In fact, he was a founding board member of the International RMA and was also that organization’s founding secretary.