The Musicians’ Voice

Volume 112, No. 3March, 2012

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. Letters must be no more than 300 words.

Blaming the victim? Philadelphia musicians’ chair lays out what’s at stake

I would like to address Allegro’s recent article and letter about the Philadelphia Orchestra. Although we read with interest the article by Harvey Mars, which was an accurate and helpful view of negotiating in the context of bankruptcy, Michael Comins’ subsequent letter was an exercise in blaming the victim.

Unfortunately, the balance of power between unions and management is not what it was 40 years ago, and for an orchestra these days to stage a prolonged strike with incredible courage and solidarity – the Detroit Symphony comes to mind – is no guarantee of success.

The Philadelphia Orchestra Association board filed for Chapter 11 reorganization without having to prove the $140 million endowment was truly restricted. The case between the AFM-EPF and the POA on that point continues. The court approved their choice of lead bankruptcy attorney, who continues to earn $750 an hour, even though he is a partner in a law firm where the managing partner is a prominent member of our board. According to Peter Dobrin of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Association has spent upwards of $8.2 million on the bankruptcy to date, with more yet to come. Local 77 bore without complaint the unusually high expenses of hiring three lawyers, a pension actuary, an accountant and a P.R. specialist to provide the expertise needed to support us during the negotiations and bankruptcy.

To say that we ratified this atrocious contract is not accurate. By the time we were faced with a vote on opening night, the situation was largely out of our control. Had we voted no, the alternative could well have been a court-imposed settlement, which could have been far worse than what we are living with now.

To imagine that but for a little courage and foresight we could have avoided this whole situation is wishful thinking. Instead of attacking each other and our union leadership, we had all best turn our attention to the powerful forces which are arrayed in this country against us.

–John Koen
The writer is chair of the Philadelphia Orchestra Members’ Committee

Thanks for ‘Silence’ contract

As the musical director in the Off Broadway show “Silence,” I read in the president’s report about our new contract. We are incredibly grateful for Local 802’s help in negotiating our contract for the transfer from a limited engagement to a full run. It was an incredibly fair negotiation process, and it was really wonderful to have president Tino
Gagliardi and theatre rep Marisa Friedman on our side going in. Thanks so much!

–Brian Nash

I was extremely happy that Local 802 assisted in us winning a contract for “Silence.” It was great to have Tino and Marisa on our side. We are all very grateful to the union. Thank you!

–Nate Patten

Enjoyed Dicterow interview

Great job with the interview with Glenn Dicterow in the last issue. The questions were intelligent, logical and reflected an insight into the shared interests of both orchestra players and concertgoers everywhere. The subjects Karen Fisher raised allowed a welcome opportunity for Mr. Dicterow to reflect on the myriad duties associated with being concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic. Congratulations.

–Glen Daum

On music teaching

I was very impressed with Brian Doherty’s article “Return to Roots” in the February issue. The enormous breadth of experience Mr. Doherty has as both an educator and professional musician has provided him with a unique and refreshing perspective of teaching philosophy and teaching approaches. His use of the guitar for music classes is an excellent “hands on” approach which not only allows kids to connect with music immediately and in a gratifying manner, but quickly develops their musical skills while keeping them interested and encouraged, a very important requirement for any type of education. I particularly appreciated Mr. Doherty’s respectful acknowledgment that his contemporary approach with the guitar is not meant to supersede the teaching of conventional instruments, but rather to augment the traditional approaches, helping to open the doors of music to as many children as possible.

–Al Renino

As a fellow NYC schoolteacher, I truly loved this piece! Brian openly admits how hard it is to be a teacher, but also makes it very obvious how much he truly loves what he does. New York City needs more teachers like this!

–Jenny Coggio

I loved this piece! It is really nice to see someone who went into a school to find their calling – a public school in the South Bronx of all places – instead of leaving a school to follow an easier or more lucrative path. This guy admits it’s tough but has true passion for it. The kids at that school are extremely lucky to have a teacher like that along with an administrative staff who support such an important music program. A “feel good”story about NYC public schools…wonderful to see!

–Grace Massinello

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

It’s tax time. As a CPA specializing in musicians and performing artists, and an advertiser in Allegro, I have some information to share.

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. 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:

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

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

  • 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