Musician networking group is now open to all

Musicians' Assistance Program

Volume 115, No. 9September, 2015

Siena Shundi, LCSW-R
Siena Shundi, LCSW-R

Siena Shundi, LCSW-R

The office of the Musicians’ Assistance Program is your one-stop shop for musicians’ health. We offer counseling – both one-on-one and in groups – as well as information on all kinds of social services, including health insurance, food stamps and more. All services are free to Local 802 members. Contact us at or (212) 397-4802.

It’s September – which for musicians could mean the summer gigs are done or that the summer teaching slump is thankfully over! Either way, it’s likely time to reassess your schedule and find new work (as always). Earlier this year, my office partnered with the Actors Fund Work Program to sponsor a networking series to help musicians with marketing, time management and cash flow. Since then, musicians have been gathering for a monthly meeting at Local 802 to share industry knowledge and make new connections with other musicians as well as meet the organizing reps at Local 802 and interact with professional life coaches. We call it our Musicians Networking Group.

I’ve had the privilege of facilitating this group and I continue to learn so much about what musicians need from each other, the union and the community these days. Originally the plan was to limit the group only to those who attended the original series in April, but now we’ve decided to open it up to any musician. See below for details and an invitation to our next meeting!

Our first meeting in June was an initial meet and greet followed by a focus group to start brainstorming about what kinds of guest speakers or resources participants would like. Everyone had a lot of questions about how the union could help them find work (more on that below). We discussed the new, hot clubs that hire live musicians and how the jazz and swing genre is being revived by younger players.

For our second meeting, we were joined by Local 802 Organizing Director Maggie Russell-Brown and organizer Todd Weeks, who explained to musicians how to use the union as a resource. Everyone wanted to know how to stop the “race to the bottom,” where musicians undercut each other and end up playing for less and less. Maggie discussed the union’s plans to tap into the trendy live jazz scene at downtown boutique hotels and help musicians earn the pay and benefits they deserve. She also asked musicians about their relationship to the union. Musicians told us how they enjoyed receiving information from the union (including Allegro magazine) and how the union helps them stay connected to their peers.

We also talked about subway musicians – how much they make and the Musicians Right to Perform Act, which is supposed to protect musicians from getting harassed for playing on subway platforms.

Todd spoke about the history of the union and what its mission is: helping musicians to work collectively and to establish a fair standard for pay and benefits. I brought back a question from our first meeting: “Why doesn’t the union help musicians get work?” Both Maggie and Todd explained that Local 802 isn’t a hiring hall and can’t possibly find jobs for all of its thousands of members. Instead, the union exists (among other reasons) to help musicians win the pay and benefits they deserve – and to bring back live music, one sector at a time.

We’d like to invite you to join our networking group! Our next meeting is Wednesday, Sept. 30 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. here at Local 802. Refreshments will be served. This group will be meeting monthly for the foreseeable future. Please RSVP to We are encouraging participants to attend as often as possible to get the most out of the experience. All musicians are welcome to attend (both members of Local 802 as well as non-members) as well as their guests and friends. We hope to have union reps on hand to answer questions each month.