As usual, there has been a lot of activity at Local 802 since my last report. First of all, I’m pleased to report that a majority of our endorsed candidates for City Council won their races in the NYC municipal primary on Sept. 12. It’s vital that we have allies on the local level who support artists and who support all working New Yorkers. Now it’s time to make sure you’re registered to vote in the Nov. 7 general election. The most important thing on the ballot will be the Constitutional Convention, which by now you know that the entire NYC labor movement opposes. Reject the ConCon and vote “no” on Prop 1! We’ll be sending out plenty of information alerts prior to the election, so stay tuned.
Secondly, I want to acknowledge the devastation wrought by the recent hurricanes. I’m sure that many musicians lost instruments and equipment, not to mention their homes and livelihood. The AFM has set up a Hurricane Relief Fund and I encourage everyone to donate what they can. The link is at www.afm.org on the front page. Money donated to this fund will specifically help AFM musicians and their families who were impacted by the storms.
Another wrenching event that happened since I last wrote was President Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. We denounce this decision and we oppose all policies and rhetoric of exclusion, cruelty and hate. Our cultural diversity is our nation’s greatest strength, the source of our identity and the lifeblood of our communities. Artists and musicians across this city hold compassion, inclusion and equity as fundamental values that guide our work, our passion and our art, and we stand with the Dreamers who have made our neighborhoods home and who represent the very best our country has to offer. We will continue to challenge Congress to protect those who came here as children and who, like generations before them, have made our communities unique, strong, creative and vibrant. It was a cruel irony that President Trump rescinded DACA right as National Hispanic Heritage Month began. The commemoration runs from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 and it celebrates the contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. See www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov for more.
As Allegro goes to press, it seems possible that the Democrats were able to persuade President Trump to salvage DACA and prevent almost one million young adults from being deported. But Trump was flip-flopping back and forth on this so much, it was giving observers whiplash. Time will tell. It seems that the responsibility could be on Congress now.
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
- The future of digital rights has to do with metadata. Get informed on with our cover story by Local 802 member Maria Schneider.
- We are pleased to feature an interview with Local 802 member Pedro Diaz, one of the top English horn players in the world and a member of the MET Opera Orchestra.
- Tom Olcott offers a powerful message of fear vs. hope and the state of the classical field in his column.
- Diversity in orchestras, stage fright, and the future of classical music? The ICSOM conference is not afraid to tackle the big issues. See a report by ICSOM president Paul Austin.
- Have you ever wondered what it takes to produce a musical from scratch? Local 802 member Dan Manjovi did just that when he wrote a musical for the New York Musical Theatre Festival, which was produced under a union contact. See the full story here.
- The Times Square “Out of the Pit” concert series is over now, but applications will be accepted next year. This is a paid gig for Broadway musicians. Read the highlights.
AVATAR AND BERKLEE
It looked like the NYC recording scene was going to lose a crucial venue when Avatar studios put itself up for sale in 2015. Avatar is one of the largest remaining recording studios in New York that can accommodate a full orchestra or live Broadway cast album recording. A deal has now emerged that will save the studio. The Berklee College of Music will lease the building, using a combination of private investment and $6 million in public money. It is our understanding that Berklee will use the building for classes and will also continue to run the recording studio for commercial use. We have long been advocating for the preservation of commercial recording space in New York City and are glad that Avatar – which will now be called Power Station at BerkleeNYC – is being preserved. Sadly, this deal and ownership transfer have been far from ideal. Prior to Berklee’s takeover, the assistant recording engineers of Avatar had chosen Local 802 as their collective bargaining agent. Berklee has refused to recognize Local 802, leaving the engineers in limbo. Berklee’s refusal to recognize these individuals has put a serious damper on any satisfaction we might otherwise feel knowing that the studio still has a future in NYC. We are currently in tri-partite negotiations with the city and Berklee to resolve this matter. To Berklee management, we say: there’s still time to do the right thing. Respect the assistant recording engineers and respect their choice to unionize.
In September, it came to our attention that an organization called the Chrysalis Orchestra was holding auditions in New York City. They were asking all musicians to sign a release allowing the orchestra to film the auditions and were seeking permission to use those films in any way they saw fit. This is not an acceptable practice and we advised anyone auditioning for this or any orchestra to refrain from signing any such release. Additionally, this practice is prohibited by the AFM bylaws, which state that no AFM member shall be asked to create any type of recorded product unless the employer has entered into an appropriate written agreement with the AFM. It’s hard to believe that it’s gotten to the point where musicians can be exploited like this in the audition process. It’s more and more critical that musicians protect themselves when it comes to their recorded product. Anytime you’re playing music and you see someone trying to capture you on audio or video, stop playing and find out what’s going on. As always, please call us if you want to know your rights when it comes to being recorded.
If you or any of your musician friends haven’t joined Local 802 yet, now is the time. We are waiving our initiation fee for new members who join between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31. To take advantage of this offer, call our Membership Department at (212) 245-4802. Please spread the word.
It’s worth noting that being a member of Local 802 comes with certain perks. Here are a few of them:
- You can rent out our practice rooms for as little as $10 per hour. To make a reservation, call Maureen at (212) 245-4802, ext. 111.
- If you want access to a bank with free ATM’s all over the city, you can join the Actors Federal Credit Union. For more info, see www.actorsfcu.com.
- If you are in financial need due to health, family, financial or career difficulties, you can apply for a grant from the Local 802 Emergency Relief Fund. Please contact the Musicians’ Assistance Program (now located at the Actors Fund) at (212) 221-7300, ext. 119 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also utilize any of the services of the Actors Fund, including free counseling, classes and more.
- Did you know that the Music Performance Trust Fund gives grants to musicians to help pay for certain types of gigs? (Gigs must be free and open to the public, and other rules apply.) For more information, please contact Marisa Friedman at (212) 245-4802, ext. 130.
- Local 802’s monthly networking group next meets on Wednesday, Oct. 18 from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. here at Local 802. Refreshments will be served. To RSVP, send an e-mail to Patch Schwadron at email@example.com.
REMEMBERING MIKE HODGE
Lastly, we mourn the passing of Mike Hodge, an accomplished actor, stalwart unionist and New York president of SAG-AFTRA, who died on Sept. 9 at the age of 70. Mike had a long career as a Broadway, TV, film and commercial actor, and he was a great supporter of Local 802. Mike was first elected president in 2009 and continued in that role until his death. He was instrumental in jumpstarting the effort that ultimately led to the merging of SAG and AFTRA in 2012. Mike was a strong and effective leader and will be missed. For more on his life, see www.sagaftra.org, where the union has posted a tribute on the front page.