The Joy of Teaching Just Got Better

Volume 114, No. 6June, 2014

Miguel Santana

Local 802 is now an approved vendor with the New York City public school system and is authorized to negotiate contracts

It was a cold day in January when I received a call from Local 802 member Ayodele Maakheru. He was in the midst of re-negotiating a contract with an arts organization to work as a music teaching artist in a New York City public school. But the organization was demanding a 30 percent pay cut. This was unacceptable and it prompted Mr. Maakheru to take action.

Generally when people think of music in the New York City public school system, they think of full-time music teachers who are covered by a union contract, such as teachers who lead band and orchestra programs. But there is another system of music education that exists. When school principals have money in their budgets for extra arts programs, they can hire musicians to conduct short-term workshops as teaching artists. These musicians are usually hired through third-party arts organizations. The problem is that when budgets get squeezed, arts organizations often cut the wages of the musicians they send out. And to make matters worse, such organizations don’t offer union benefits.

So instead of settling for a pay cut, Mr. Maakheru had a thought: what if Local 802 was authorized as an entity to supply music to schools? He did the research and found out that what needed to happen was for Local 802 to be deemed an approved vendor with the New York City Department of Education. After some great collaborative legwork, we pulled this off. This means that Local 802 is now authorized to negotiate contracts with school principals who are looking to hire teaching artists.

Consequently, Local 802 was able to negotiate a contract on behalf of Mr. Maakheru that included a wage increase plus benefits. Currently we can negotiate these kinds of contracts on a case-by-case basis. So if you are a musician who works in the schools as a teaching artist, call my desk at (212) 245-4802, ext. 146.


If you are a teaching artist who has a pre-existing relationship with a principal and an expiring contract that you would like Local 802 to negotiate, please contact Miguel Santana at (212) 245-4802, ext. 146.

If you are a musician looking to become a teaching artist and you need professional development, you can enroll for an orientation with the Center for Arts Education. Start at Click on “Professional Development,” then “Teaching Artists,” then scroll down and look for “Teaching Artist Institute.”

You can also contact the Actors Fund Work Program. (Despite its name, the Actors Fund offers programs to all entertainers, not just actors.) Start at Click on “Services and Programs,” then “Sideline Work and New Careers,” then “The Actors Fund Work Program.”