There are no words to describe the evolving crisis that all of us are experiencing right now. The pain and confusion are possibly at the highest level that many of us have ever felt, and I don’t have to list all the many ways our lives are changed for the moment. I think the most useful approach is to focus on the positive things that we can do for each other as a union and as fellow musicians. I also want us to stay focused on the big picture and have hope for the future.
First, be advised that the Local 802 building is closed until further notice, in compliance with Gov. Cuomo’s stay-at-home order that went into effect on March 22. However, your business reps continue to be available to you remotely during Local 802’s business hours of Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., to answer any contract questions. Find the staff directory at www.local802afm.org/leadership.
We are constantly updating the Local 802 coronavirus action page, which is at www.bitly.com/local-802-coronavirus. There you’ll find the most up-to-date information on:
- Applying for help through the Local 802 Musicians’ Emergency Relief Fund
- Applying for unemployment benefits through New York state
- Maintaining union health care through the Local 802 Shortfall Health Funds (for rostered members of certain orchestras)
- Our demands and petitions for relief from our elected leaders, including my own statements to the media
- A growing compilation of emergency relief and coronavirus resources. (See even more at www.Local802afm.org/resource-center)
If you’re a member who works on Broadway, check the “COVID-19 Broadway Updates” button in the member portal at info.local802afm.org for the most recent bargaining unit updates.
As bad as this situation is, remember that everyone is in the same boat. We all want the coronavirus to be eradicated, to get back to work, and to get kids back in school. As a society, we have enough people power to demand relief from our elected officials, and they realize that. We must use this collective power with one voice to call on every level of government to support. See www.bitly.com/local-802-coronavirus and www.facebook.com/Local802AFM for the latest petitions and actions you can take.
THE BIG PICTURE
I’d like to focus on the big picture for a moment. As painful as our situation is for our jobs, please remember experts have said that more than two million Americans are literally at risk of dying if we don’t contain the coronavirus. Another report said that New York doesn’t own enough ventilators if thousands of people were to be admitted to area hospitals. We’re being asked to think not just about our own health, but also about the most vulnerable in society, including older people: our parents, grandparents and elders. It is now clear that younger people are vulnerable too. Our job is to “flatten the curve,” to limit the exponential growth of the virus — and the stakes are literally life or death.
Here’s another thing to think about. Many musicians live on the margin to begin with, but there’s always someone who’s in a worse situation. As anxious as we are right now, let’s also try to keep in mind the things that we can be grateful for in this moment. One thing that I am grateful for is the outpouring of support from our own community for the Local 802 Musicians’ Emergency Relief Fund. Please donate at www.Local802erf.org. Since the 802 office is closed until further notice, we strongly encourage donating online. If you can’t donate, you can still help spread the word by sharing our posts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
I would also like to thank the many workers who are on the front lines and who are exposing themselves so that society can continue. I’m thinking not just of health care workers but also those who work for the post office and delivery companies and those who work in grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, public transportation, warehouses and other places deemed essential services.
We know in reality that this crisis won’t last forever. Scientists are working on treatments and early vaccines right now. As I write these words, new coronavirus cases in certain hotspots around the world are already decreasing. There will be a time when we’ll be able to look back on this. The question will be, can we learn from this experience so that we’re better prepared as a society (or as a union) next time? What can we do better?
I want to encourage all of us to keep up our mental, physical, musical, and spiritual practices. Please remember to reach out to each other especially to those musicians who you know are more isolated. On social media, there are hundreds of opportunities to connect with fellow musicians. (See page 8 for one site developed by Local 802 member Steve Behnke.) There are ways to give and take lessons and classes via platforms like Skype and Zoom. There are places to share financial tips, life hacks and even job opportunities.
Local 802 will continue to be your ally during this crisis. Although our building is now closed due to the stay-at-home order and will remain closed for the foreseeable future, we are open for the limited business we can process remotely and are working around the clock to be the best advocate possible under these circumstances. You can always reach me personally at (212) 245-4802, ext. 100 or use our website (www.Local802afm.org) or Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/Local802AFM) to reach us quickly.
Please hang in there, stay focused on what is really important, hug your loved ones, and we will get through this together. Most of all stay hopeful! Having hope gives us all the courage to survive any hardship — and musicians are survivors.
FOCUSING ON THE FUTURE
Even as the coronavirus crisis consumes our lives, there will be light at the end of the tunnel and Local 802 is continuing to work on current projects so that when the crisis passes, we are strategically ahead of the curve. To that end, I encourage you read the other articles in this issue of Allegro, including an important look at what classical committees can do (page 5), a preview of negotiations with the New School on behalf of part-time jazz faculty (page 20), a celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month with some very welcome news that Local 802 member Reggie Workman has won the esteemed title of Jazz Master from the National Endowment for the Arts (page 31), tax tips for musicians (page 36), an inspiring article by Don Greene about how musicians can choose to cope during this crisis (page 14), special coverage about Earth Day activism from our community (pages 18 and 19), some great news that the NYU Broadway Percussion Summit is open for registration (page 26), and more.