The Musicians’ Voice

Volume CVIII, No. 7/8July, 2008

The Musicians’ Voice is an open forum for discussion about the state of union affairs. The letters published here do not necessarily express the views of Local 802. Letters must be 300 words or less. Send them to Allegro, c/o Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036, or e-mail Mikael Elsila, the editor, at


To the Editor:

This is a follow-up comment to last month’s Allegro, which featured the question, “Should musicians play for free?”

I live and play in the Catskills and I am amazed at how music students at a local state university are being used to flesh out an otherwise professional orchestra here. These students earn credit — but not pay — for performing. And they are not required to join our AFM local.

Other schools in the area have formed community orchestras that do not compete with our professional orchestra. That is a good idea, and students can rightfully perform in those kinds of ensembles. Community orchestras — where everybody is a volunteer — are a great way to learn.

But when students are playing in a professional orchestra, they should get paid like their peers — and they should also join the union.

I know for a fact that this professional orchestra I’m talking about is made up of music teachers and even some officers of our AFM local. Why aren’t they insisting that the students in this orchestra get paid? By using these students as free labor, they are teaching these students that “professional” really means “make students play for free — if you can get away with it.” It’s also bad for the union because these students could be dues-paying members.

The students have been so conditioned to play for free that they are actually happy to be in this ensemble. They don’t know that they deserve more.

I know that Local 802 would never permit this if this orchestra was in their jurisdiction.

I have a lot more to say about this but my space here is limited. Interested musicians can e-mail me at

Stephanie Zito

Click for larger image.
Wayne Wright.
Photo by Bill Palminteri.


To the Editor:

Wayne Wright’s passing leaves me with the most pronounced feeling of loss I’ve ever known. We met in the Ninth Army Band at Ladd Air Force Base in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1956. In 1961 I moved to New York City. Shortly thereafter Wayne showed up. It was great to be back in the company of such a good friend. In 1963 Wayne became the guitarist for “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” He introduced me to the drummer, Jimmy Crawford, and I became Jimmy’s sub. Wayne and I had a lot of fun digging into the music.

In 1970 I went on the road with a show which led me to reside in California. None of my many trips to NYC could be complete without getting together with Wayne. The 60’s hanging out spots were gone, but Wayne knew where “the guys” were currently hanging and it would be like old times.

Not too many years ago I was in New York in December. Wayne took me to a Christmas gig with him. I sat in with the band and we had one last opportunity to make music together. My most recent visit to New York included a Yankees game at Yankee Stadium before it was torn down. I called Wayne from the stadium and we talked about the time we had set up our instruments there on second base with Sammy Kaye’s band to play for a Yankees Old Timers’ Day.

Wayne was a funny guy. His constant reminder “ya gotta allow for shrinkage” is actually a valuable lesson in living which I’ve always recognized as such. 

E-mail communication became my lifeline with Wayne. For these many years Wayne’s friendship has comforted me. I don’t possess the fortitude to remove his name from my mailing list.

Frank Amoss

The writer also prepared a longer version of these reminiscences that he will send out on request. E-mail him at

Click for larger image.
Paul Dunkel conducting. Photo by Chris Lee.


To The Editor:

On May 3rd, I conducted my last concert with the Westchester Philharmonic. It was a bittersweet day for me, filled with memories of great music and wonderful relationships.

The orchestra was founded 25 years ago by a group of citizens who wanted a professional union orchestra with professional management. The musicians themselves were active in all aspects of fundraising and gave generously of their time to play benefits. The orchestra even donated their salaries for the inaugural concert, as did pianist Garrick Ohlsson, the soloist. So did I, and for a few years after that as well. Given the history of the orchestra, it was a good investment, despite current sentiment about free gigs. (I’m not that hot about them either, but I’ve done my share over 45 years.) 

There’s no question that musicians here represent the highest quality of performing artists anywhere in the world. (Sorry, London and L.A.!) There is also no doubt that musicians have learned — often the hard way — that they are the best advocates of their “business.” So it is with the deepest gratitude that I thank the generous Local 802 artists who have worked with me in helping make the Westchester Philharmonic financially viable and artistically successful.

I’ve worked both sides of the baton. I’ve been a union member since 1963. I come from a union family; my father and brother helped found the great Local 829 of the United Scenic Artists. I understand the musician’s life and the sacrifice of long hours for pay that is not commensurate with the talent and acquired skills. 

To musicians of the Westchester Philharmonic and to all musicians everywhere, I salute your efforts that enrich our lives every day. Your value to our society should never be minimized. 

Paul Lustig Dunkel