Standing up for musicians

President's report

Volume 123, No. 8September, 2023

Sara Cutler

In my first report as president of Local 802, I’d like to introduce myself to those of you who don’t know me. I was not elected to serve in this role; I was appointed by the Executive Board to finish out the current term, from August 1, 2023 to Dec. 31, 2024, after Tino Gagliardi was elected AFM president. The board’s rationale was my many years’ worth of experience in both the local and the business and I promise to work hard to validate the board’s (and your) faith in me.

I have been an AFM member since 1973 (in New Haven) and joined Local 802 in 1977, working as a freelance harpist. In my early NYC years, I subbed on Broadway, at the Met, with many freelance orchestras, and was active in the downtown new music scene. I watched many of my early chamber groups go union and learned early on about the benefits of working under an 802 contract. I worked steadily and ultimately won tenured positions with the NYC Ballet Orchestra and the American Symphony and was also a member of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. I’m grateful for the success I achieved, knowing that many of us are talented and capable, but not all of us get to do the job we love.

Sometime around 2000, I decided it was time to give something back to the community that had supported me so well for so long. I joined the orchestra committees of City Ballet and the American Symphony and eventually became chair of both. In 2007, I led a negotiation that produced the richest contract in the history of the City Ballet Orchestra, bringing the orchestra onto the employer’s “Cadillac” health plan. In 2009, I ran for Trial Board, serving one year before being tapped to fill a vacancy on the Executive Board, where I served until 2019 and again from 2022 to August 1 of this year.

In 2017, I created and launched an initiative called the Emerging Artists Project which was on its way to achieving its goal (of connecting with musicians of all stripes who had never before engaged with the union) when I left office.

In 2023, I spearheaded plans for a renovation of our building to make it more efficient and useful to our members. That re-build is in the final planning stages and we hope to break ground just after the new year.

Now that you’ve got my resume, I’d like to take a moment to thank President Tino Gagliardi, now president of the AFM, for his many years of excellent service to Local 802. His breadth of knowledge, broad experience negotiating contracts and deep familiarity with all areas of the music business will be greatly missed. His are big shoes for me to fill.

A few words about my agenda for the next 18 months at Local 802: I see my presidential role as one of long-range planning and implementation of forward-looking projects. Our building renovation is on track and will transform our 48th Street home into a forward-looking, modern facility that is ecologically conscious and that projects a revitalized image of the power of Local 802. I will continue to oversee this project.

I will also prioritize education programs. We intend to launch member training sessions for committees, leadership programs for members interested in shepherding 802 when those of there now are gone, seminars for conservatory students and, hopefully, partnering with music schools to offer free music ed curricula for children from under-served communities. As the business changes and membership declines, we are crucial to the creation of a new membership; a membership that is diverse, educated and understands the essential role of the union in protecting individual musicians in the workplace.

We need to adapt as our business shifts to other platforms. I will prioritize campaigns such as the Fair Share for Streaming campaign led by the AFM. New media must come under contract as they appear and Local 802 must engage with lawmakers, other elected officials, the press, and the AFM to make this happen.

These priorities, combined with the management of the staff and business of 802, will take a great deal of time. While I will try to be available to individuals when needed, I urge everyone to make use of our hard-working and talented staff who stand ready to help you put out the fires you encounter on the job. Start at to reach us.

Finally, I will be relying heavily throughout the next 18 months on Local 802’s stalwart vice presidents, Karen Fisher and Harvey Mars, as well as on the most engaged and intelligent Executive Board I’ve had the pleasure of serving with in all my years at 802.

So, here’s to achieving some real, and really big, things! Buckle your seat belts. It’s going to be an exciting ride.


As Allegro went to press, Local 802 had just participated in the National Day of Solidarity to support actors and writers on strike for a fair contract. All three Local 802 officers attended, and music was provided by Colin Williams and the New York Philharmonic Brass Quintet. Below is my speech from the event: