Musician’s Voice

Volume CX, No. 4April, 2010

The Musicians’ Voice is an open forum for discussion about the state of union affairs. The letters here do not necessarily express the views of Local 802. E-mail letters to or write to Allegro, Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036.

If you earn less than $16K, check out this tax tip

As a CPA specializing in musicians and performing artists, and an advertiser in Allegro, I read your tax article in the last issue with interest.

For those musicians and performing artists who earn less than $16,000 per year, the following information will be especially helpful in preparing their income tax returns. The excerpt below was edited from Wikipedia; however, additional information on this subject and on employee business expenses in general can be found in IRS Publication 529 or by consulting a tax professional.

Certain performing artists are eligible to deduct business expenses as an “above the line” deduction, meaning that it can reduce a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income. It is an exception to the general rule that requires job-related expenses to be a miscellaneous itemized deduction subject to the “2 percent haircut” rule of itemized deductions. As such, it is a favorable tax situation for the performing artist taxpayer.

To qualify for this deduction, a taxpayer must fit certain criteria:

l The taxpayer must have worked as a performing artist for at least two employers

l The amount of the deduction must exceed ten percent of the taxpayer’s gross income that is attributed to those performances

l The adjusted gross income of the taxpayer, not counting this exception, does not exceed $16,000

In determining who his or her employers were for purposes of this statute, the taxpayer must only consider those employers who paid the taxpayer an amount equal to or greater than $200 for the taxpayer’s performance.

For more information, e-mail me at

–Michael E. Kates, CPA

Petrillo’s strike

Robin D.G. Kelley’s article “Monk’s Union” (Allegro, February 2010) contains a common misconception regarding AFM President Petrillo’s 1942 strike against the record companies. Although he claimed that the strike’s purpose was to procure musicians’ royalties for playing their records on the radio and on jukeboxes, Petrillo actually created a trust fund to pay for live concerts that came to be known as the Music Performance Trust Fund. Money from this fund was doled out to all AFM locals, including some where it funded the only employment, thereby guaranteeing Petrillo’s re-election at the AFM’s then annual conventions.

In addition to not receiving any of this royalty money, musicians making the records received no wage increases from periodic renegotiation of the AFM Phono Agreements for the next 14 years. This led to a 1958 uprising in Los Angeles where studio musicians formed a new union called the Musicians’ Guild of America. It also led to Petrillo’s termination as AFM President and to the election of Herman Kenin as his successor.

In a 1961 letter of “dissolution” to Guild President Cecil Read, Kenin promised to reinstate all Guild musicians to AFM membership without penalty and further promised to negotiate for pension, health benefits and royalties in all future AFM media contracts – some 20 years after Petrillo’s “royalty” strike.

–Michael Comins, RMA-NY

Dr. Robin D.G. Kelley responds: I appreciate Mike Comins’s thoughtful response. I don’t dispute his claim, but it doesn’t contradict my point (it just gives more detail). I simply state, according to existing scholarship, what the union ultimately wanted – to not lose royalties when their records were played in places that typically used live entertainment. How Petrillo went about compensating musicians, i.e., the creation of a Music Performance Trust Fund, is a different matter and doesn’t take away from the union’s primary concerns. That very interesting story is beyond the scope of my book, but it has been written about by many scholars.

Thanks from Ron Raffio

To Gloria, Renee and the entire Health Benefits Department: thank you for your assistance and compassion.

To President Tino Gagliardi: thank you for your help and support and for being a dearly loved and close friend to Rich.

To the New York music community (especially to the Broadway and Radio City Music Hall musicians): thank you so much for your visits, thoughts, prayers, kind words and generosity. Our family has found comfort in knowing how truly fortunate Rich was to have your friendship.

–Ron Raffio and the Raffio family

Rembering Al Schoonmaker

My copyist and dearest friend of 50 years, Al Schoonmaker, died peacefully at Roosevelt Hospital on Feb. 12, from complications of a stroke. He was 90.

Al was a composer by night and a copyist by day. He copied the scores of Leonard Bernstein, David Diamond, Aaron Copland, Sam Barber and all the Broadway composers.

Born in Fargo, North Dakota, Al studied composition with Ernst Krenek. He quit school at age 14 to tour as pianist with all the territory bands in the 30’s and 40’s. He was a member of Local 802 since 1954.

An unsung hero for displaced and disadvantaged children, Al gave freely of his time every Saturday, talking to them, making them feel good about themselves and cheering them up. He was a raconteur of the highest order and never once did I see him upset, angry or downtrodden, nor did I hear a critical word from him about anyone. He always added words of encouragement to my scores. I will miss him terribly but am comforted that he is continuing his artistry in his “new office.” Rest in peace.

Musicians, friends and family will gather for a musical tribute at a memorial service given by his niece, Laura Hoffman, herself a pianist/composer/author, at St. Malachy’s Church, 239 West 49th Street, on May 1 at 2 p.m. Al would have been 91 on this date. For more info, call (732) 818-0840.

–Jack Reilly

Gene Orloff, we’ll miss you

This is a tribute to my father, Gene Orloff, who died last year. He lived with me and my husband Kosta for the last year and a half of his life. It was the biggest privilege and pleasure to have him with us. He had the most unbelievable sense of humor…one of a kind. He was adored by all of us. My favorite memory of my father is in my teens. He and I would go into the city on Friday nights. We’d have dinner at our favorite restaurant, and then he’d take me to his Friday night gig – whatever studio he was recording at – to hear him record a jingle or album. I was so proud to be his daughter.

–Marcy Orloff Prastos

I have watched some of the best violinists in the world as they listen to Gene Orloff’s playing of “The Scandinavian Suite,” a piece I wrote for him in 1958. Silence comes quickly to everyone who is listening, and the reaction of the violinists goes something like this: first, jaws drop; and then, very intense listening follows. They don’t expect what they’re hearing from a guy who was considered the concertmaster of the commercial pop world for around 40 years, and they are not aware of the difficulty of that feat considering the variety of styles of music.

The story goes like this. I was working with Lena Horne – the great Lennie Hayton was married to her at the time – in a show called “Jamaica.” Lennie did an album of the tunes from the show and Gene was the concertmaster. On a Harold Arlen tune, Gene played a wonderful ending violin solo so beautifully that the orchestra almost gasped. Lennie came over to me and said, “We’ve just come back from Sweden. We fell in love with the country, and I can tell you we also fell in love with Gene Orloff’s playing. Write something for him about Sweden; I’ll conduct and record it.”

I wrote every day for about seven months, as much as I could between gigs. On three snowy evenings in April 1958, Gene Orloff recorded “The Scandinavian Suite” and gave me the greatest musical moments of my life. The happiest part of it all is that now there is a recording of this great violinist for the world to hear. I’m so proud to have accomplished this 52 years ago.

Gene, sleep warm. We hear you – one of the most beautiful sounds ever.

–Gene DiNovi

Don’t work in Israel

would like to ask my fellow musicians to kindly consider that if you accept work in Israel this year, you will in effect be crossing a picket line. There is a global movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions. Please do not work in Israel until Israel ends the siege of Gaza, ends its 42-year occupation, allows all Palestinian refugees to return, and becomes a true democracy, the nation of all its rightful citizens. Boycott, divestment and sanctions worked to end apartheid in South Africa, and with your cooperation, will work to end apartheid in Israel/Palestine. I’ve written a song and produced a video on the subject, which may be viewed for free at this link:

–Rich Siegel