WEST COAST VISIT: Leslie Lashinsky, the secretary/treasurer of Local 47 (Los Angeles), recently visited the Local 802 Executive Board. Pictured in the front row, from left, are Tino Gagliardi, Leslie Lashinsky and Jay Blumenthal. In the back row, from left, are John O’Connor, Tom Olcott, Clint Sharman, Bud Burridge, Andy Schwartz, Gail Kruvand, Maxine Roach. (Executive Board members John Babich, Patricia Dougherty and Martha Hyde were not pictured.)
When it comes to live music, more is better. That’s why we are saddened and even a bit outraged that the producers of the current production of “West Side Story” at the Palace Theatre are cutting the string section in half and replacing the five missing strings with a synthesizer patch.
Contractually, they are within their rights to do this, since the minimum at the Palace Theatre is 19 musicians and the producers originally hired 30 musicians for this production. We applauded this decision at the time, because whenever producers hire musicians above the minimum, everyone wins: the composer, orchestrator, orchestra, cast and audience. And the production usually gets rave reviews – look at “South Pacific” at Lincoln Center, which also used 30 musicians, and countless “Encores” productions at City Center in which critics especially commended the use of a full orchestra.
We believe that musicians are being cut simply to increase the profit to the producers. It’s not a crime to make money, but we assert that the extra income to producers is not worth the musical loss to the public.
When you have a beautiful, lush sound, why compromise it? Whether this constitutes greed or simply misplaced priorities on the part of the producers, I have to express my disappointment in this decision from an artistic point of view.
Equally disappointing was the decision of the Bernstein estate to agree to this cheapening of what can only be described as a landmark Broadway score. What is so confounding is that the estate was such a critical factor in the preservation of the score when this revival was launched. One has to ask what drove the estate to have a change of heart.
The five musicians who will be cut from the production are on the so-called “cuts list.” This list is generated for each production where there are musicians hired above the minimum. These musicians must be made aware at hiring that they are on the “cuts list” and that they may be dismissed at any time, after the tenth week of the run, with two week’s prior notice.
I encourage you to read member Paul Woodiel’s essay on page 6 of this issue. Paul is a violinist in the show and one of the strings players who is not being cut. A shorter form of his excellent and compelling essay appeared in the New York Times on July 10. Thanks to Paul for letting us print his original version.
In the middle of August, I attended the Theatre Musicians Association conference in Los Angeles. In attendance were several International Executive Board members, including newly elected AFM President Ray Hair.
Reports on the state of theatre across the country were made by the directors from the various TMA chapters. The conference is essential to the sharing of information among theatre musicians and I am happy to report that Local 802 theatre musicians will now also have a voice at the conference.
Local 802 Broadway Theatre Committee Chair Walter Usiatynski was elected the director from Broadway. This is not only beneficial to our Broadway community but it is also hugely helpful for the conference to have this kind of connection with Broadway. It is no secret that what happens on Broadway has an effect on theatre at the national level. It was a very productive meeting and I am proud to say that we are now an integral part of the conference.
The new AFM administration officially took office on Aug. 1 and our first meeting as the new International Executive Board took place in Houston shortly thereafter. The meeting coincided with the International Conference of Opera and Symphony Musicians conference and afforded the new board the rare opportunity to meet the delegation of this important player conference.
Although I was disappointed that the work of the board took me away from some of the events, one highlight of the conference was the appearance of the entire IEB before the ICSOM delegation to individually introduce ourselves, say a few words about our background and answer questions posed by the delegates.
One of AFM President Hair’s first actions was to appoint new trustees to the board of the AFM pension fund. As I wrote last month, I was among those appointed, and I thank Ray for this honor and privilege. The other trustees that Ray appointed are Local 47 President Vince Trombetta from Los Angeles, Local 10-208 President Gary Matts from Chicago, Phil Yao from RMA, Laura Ross and Brian Rood from ICSOM, and former Local 802 President Bill Moriarity. I am particularly pleased that Bill has agreed to once again serve as a trustee. The resource that he represents for all things pension will benefit not only the new trustees but all the participants that rely on the board of trustees to make the proper decisions to help ensure the health of our pension.
The IEB meeting in Houston also brought other appointments to various committees. The Electronic Media Services Oversight Committee consists of four rank-and-file representatives and four IEB members. I will be serving on that committee, as well as on the Finance Committee and the Expense Committee. Additionally, I will be a member of the Sound Recording Labor Agreement bargaining subcommittee and the Live TV/Videotape bargaining subcommittee. I was appointed by Ray to these committees in recognition of the amount of work Local 802 musicians do in these areas. I am happy to take on these additional duties and responsibilities to ensure that the voices of all musicians who do this work are heard.
Organizing is a major priority for this administration. The drop in membership, as well as the enforcement of our agreements, have become a particular problem Federation-wide. I have also agreed to serve on an Organizing Committee.
In order to address some of the problems facing all locals – but most notably the smaller locals – Ray also appointed a subcommittee to assist and help in any issues small locals may have. This kind of resource on the Federation level will allow for even greater communication and education where the AFM needs it most.
Also announced was the appointment of Lew Mancini, assistant secretary to the AFM secretary treasurer, to a newly-formed position of chief operating officer. This will streamline the business operations of the Federation and allow for more efficient service to the members.
Finally, there was another component of what will be an ongoing restructuring of the Federation and how it does business. An assistant to the president assigned to service locals and members located in the western part of the United States was appointed. Ken Shirk, long time union activist and executive officer emeritus, agreed to once again serve our union and take on that responsibility.
All in all, the first series of IEB meetings was productive. The IEB was able to act on several open issues left over from the 98th AFM Convention in addition to establishing policy that will better serve the AFM both financially and organizationally.
In the July/August issue of Allegro, we mistakenly listed oboist Margaret B. Steele as a deceased member. As soon as we discovered the error, we sent out an e-mail blast with a correction and posted a notice on our Facebook wall. Our investigation showed that this mistake occurred due to a computer error. When Local 802 recently overhauled its database system, some data apparently became corrupted. Local 802 regrets the error and we apologize to Ms. Steele.
FROM THE HEART
Benny Powell, who died on June 26, was a major jazz musician as well as an active and valued member of the Local 802 community. As we wrote in Allegro last month, Mr. Powell was a vital force in the 1997 campaign that led to the union’s contract with the New School. At its July 20 meeting, the Executive Board voted to donate $500 to the education fund set up to aid Benny’s grandchildren.
Finally, we were saddened earlier this summer when we learned of the death of Diane Moriarity, the wife of former Local 802 president Bill Moriarity. There will be a memorial service on Sept. 19. Details can be found in the Requiem section of this issue.