The Musicians’ Voice

Volume 112, No. 7/8July, 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.

Donations from Local 802’s political action fund are ‘absolutely appropriate’

I heard about the proposal to donate from the union’s political action fund to three Democratic candidates in the NYC mayoral primaries. I feel that it’s absolutely appropriate for Local 802 to do this (although I personally feel that Christine Quinn deserves more support than the other candidates). There are always a few members who grouse about Local 802’s political involvement because, I suspect, they have conservative political views and Local 802 never (I think) supports Republicans.

Though the two parties are less distinguishable from one another than I would like in many ways, Democrats historically have been (and still are) on the side of organized labor. In my opinion, we’re talking pretty significant cognitive dissonance for anyone for whom being in a union is important and has been beneficial who also doesn’t support Democrats.

But it seems that people in the arts tend to be more politically liberal than most, so I’m confident we’re speaking with a fairly unified voice in our support for these Democratic candidates.

–John Arbo

I totally support the idea of Local 802’s political action fund making these contributions. In this era of unlimited political donations from corporations and obscenely wealthy individuals, we have to do what we can as a collective group fighting for our interests.

–Evan Johnson

I am in full support of the donations to all three primary candidates, as well as to the AFM political action fund. My feeling is that I support all candidates equally in their right to run for office. Then the voters get to choose. Those who choose not to vote have no right to complain.

–Sandy Coffin

Bad experience with United

I recently had a horrible experience with United Airlines that I’d like to share with other musicians.

I am a frequent flyer with over 1 million United miles and Premier Gold status. I’ve already flown almost 24 segments this year, with either my banjo, guitar or both. I am usually in the first or second priority group to board.

On a recent trip, a United gate attendant informed me that I couldn’t take my tenor banjo on board because the flight was going to be full.

I explained that I always board with the instrument, that it is a fragile, vintage instrument and that if it was broken the airline would be responsible.

The extremely rude agent said it was my choice whether to board or not. I decided I would take a stand and opted not to board without my instrument.

I took a flight the next day. I showed the supervisor the new FAA legislation that will make it mandatory for airlines to carry the instrument in the cabin if there is space available. I told him I was astounded that they would abuse their loyal passengers.

He stated that he would try to find space in the first class closet. In fact, they ended up giving me a first class upgrade. When I made my connection in Houston, there were absolutely no problems.

While this story appears to have a happy ending, it was incredibly stressful and expensive, and I almost missed my gig. I intend to cash in all my miles and drop United for a musician-friendly airline.

Moral of the story: despite our best efforts, some airlines – in my opinion – still don’t treat musicians with respect.

There’s much more to my story, but I’m out of space. If you’re interested, e-mail me at

–Bob Denton

Remembering Bob Swan

Thank you, Bob Swan! As a young trumpeter just out of Juilliard, I needed a job. At a time when, as a female, I wasn’t even invited to audition for an orchestra position in New York (even though I had been the first trumpeter in the Juilliard Orchestra), Bob was willing to give me a chance at Radio City. For five fantastic years I was part of the Radio City Music Hall family.

Bob was not only my boss, but also became a very good friend.

It meant a great deal to know that I had his support and blessing when I had opportunities to travel around the world on various solo engagements. I always had a home base in the orchestra.

In 1971, with a heavy heart and some trepidation, I left my wonderful colleagues to start a solo career in Europe.

My security was in the assurance that I could always return home to Radio City.

(That was also the reason that I have maintained my treasured union membership, even though I was no longer active in New York.)

Bob touched the lives of many young musicians, including my fellow Juilliard graduates Lew Soloff and Ron Romm. He gave us the opportunity and encouragement to learn and grow into our future musical careers.

–Carole Dawn Reinhart

[Editor’s note: Allegro printed Bob Swan’s obituary in our May issue.]