MPTF Funding Helped 802 Members Respond to WTC Tragedy

Volume CII, No. 2February, 2002

Erwin L. Price

When disaster struck the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, it affected the lives of people everywhere. Local 802 quickly took action to deal with the new reality. At the first Executive Board meeting in the week following the event, the board’s first concern was the health and safety of our members. There was also great concern regarding the work situation in various venues.

The problems experienced on Broadway were addressed by Local 802 in concert with all the entertainment unions, through a four-week concession in wages. Reports on actions taken by the union appeared in the November and December Allegros.

Meanwhile, the union received many requests for musicians to perform at memorial and funeral services, and many calls from members willing to donate their services for these events. The board suspended its usual policy of requiring payment and encouraged members who wished to do so, to perform pro bono at bona fide benefit concerts, funerals and memorial services in honor of victims of the WTC catastrophe.

One of the more unusual undertakings was a series of concerts presented at St. Paul’s Chapel, which is affiliated with Trinity Church, a few blocks from ground zero. Three times a day – at 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. – one-hour musical performances were presented by a rotating roster of musicians for the benefit of the personnel at ground zero: demolition workers, police, firemen, support and relief workers. St. Paul’s became a place to seek solace, comfort and calm from the high level of stress and danger involved in clearing away the debris in the aftermath of the tragedy. 802 member Christine Gummere was the first organizer and coordinator of the project. See November Allegro for more details.

The musicians performed without compensation for some time, until I was contacted by members Elissa Kleeman and Ralph Farris, who had taken over responsibility for coordinating the roster of musicians, and asked about the possibility of union support. Noel Berman, Trustee of the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF), responded immediately to Local 802’s request and arranged for several weeks’ funding for all the musicians performing there. This payment turned out to be very helpful to some of the players who had lost work, had engagements cancelled and were in rather dire financial straits.

MPTF also funded another inspiring event related to Sept. 11. A group of public-spirited citizens from Colorado arranged for a holiday party for children of victims of the disaster and children of workers who lost their jobs and were economically distressed. NYC Councilmember Christine Quinn, one of the local sponsors, asked Local 802 to supply music for the event, which took place on Sunday, Dec. 16, at the Metropolitan Pavilion. More than 1,500 adults and children attended the party, which featured live music, food, drink and presents for each of the children.

Bruce Bonvissuto headed up a group that included Leo Ursini, Jacqueline Presti, Greg Ruvolo, Ronnie Zito, Steven Shelto, Sturgiss Pardalis, Richard Iacona, Madeline Kole and Michael Carubia. The band helped to make this event a huge success, as children danced to holiday tunes and pop music throughout the day.

Local 802 is pleased with its partnership with MPTF and Trustee Noel Berman. I also wish to express the local’s appreciation for the many efforts and caring shown by our members and all musicians in participating in events associated with 9/11.