The Musicians’ Voice

Volume 113, No. 3March, 2013

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.

Donald Byrd

Donald Byrd

We remember Donald Byrd

My thoughts on Donald Byrd (1932-2013) go back 55 years when I was a 14-year-old trumpeter studying with Donald in the Bronx, where we both lived. Our birthdays were the same (Dec. 9) – only 11 years apart. At one lesson that I was not prepared for, he reminded me there were 11 years between us and one day when we would be up for the same gig, he was going to use those 11 years to make sure he got the gig and I didn’t. This was the greatest motivation he instilled in me to practice!

Another memory: when I didn’t have the money ($5) for a lesson, he told me to come anyway as I needed the lessons more than he needed the money.

He taught me how to become a better musician and how to understand the complex music business. He made me understand how to be a better human being. I was taught how to be a better thinker and educator, and encouraged to seek higher educational degrees.

Donald Byrd’s achievements were many. He earned a number of higher degrees and motivated many young students he came in contact with to seek higher education. He flew and owned a small airplane, lived in some great dwellings in various cities of the world and was always making his brain work to attack new challenges. He was a thinker and motivator.

Mr. Byrd will be remembered for his wonderful performances with the likes of Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Art Blakey, and on the many recordings he made as a leader.

I remember the many times over these 55 years of the fun, laughs, performances and education I had with Donald right up to a few years ago when illness started to set in.

Donald Byrd will very much be missed by the many musicians, students and audience members his touched with his compositions, bands, recordings, lessons and even his great African American art collection.

Jimmy Owens

A tribute to Anne Walker

On the 15th anniversary of the creation of the Anne Walker Scholarship Fund (and 17 years after Anne Walker’s tragic death), I am writing to share some of my recollections of this wonderful woman.

I remember that, throughout my early years in Local 802, the standard advice to new members looking for information was often simply this: “Talk to Anne Walker.”

In the early 1960s, the local had about 35,000 members. There were three radio/television staff orchestras, hundreds of record and jingle dates every week and thousands of musicians making a living doing club dates. There was so much going on at the union – and so much that members needed to know in navigating the music business – that the availability of this friendly, knowledgeable and authoritative link between the union and its musicians was an enormous benefit to members.

She was a veritable repository of contract information, work rules, scales and history. As the secretary to the Local 802 Secretary (now called Recording Vice President), she worked in the nerve center of the union, and was always available to members needing guidance and to employers looking for information (and, sometimes, even rulings).

Her indispensability became more evident to me after the 1982 reform electoral victory, when newly-elected president John Glasel expressed his intention to retain Anne Walker’s services. Some fellow officers objected, fearing that she had been too close to former administration officials. But, paraphrased, Glasel’s response was simply “I don’t care who she was close to – we can’t run this union without her!”

I can still hear the emotion in Bill Moriarity’s voice when he called me 17 years ago to say that Anne had been struck by a car and killed. He added,
“I don’t know how we will get along without her.” We all had the same concern.

Jack Gale

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

In memory of Rosa Parks

Thanks for your article on Rosa Parks in the February issue of Allegro. When Rosa refused to give her bus seat to a white person in 1955, I was a member of the Air University Air Force Band at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. My wife and I had an apartment not too far from Martin Luther King’s church downtown. My wife worked at a department store called Montgomery Fair. It turns out that Rosa Parks worked in the same store as a seamstress, although she and my wife never met. During the long bus boycott that followed Rosa’s action, we eventually had to use the bus since we sold our car in anticipation of me being transferred to the Far East Air Forces band in Tokyo in early 1956 What a time in history!

Rod Ruth

Barry Finclair

Barry Finclair

My friend Barry

In the summer of 1961, I attended Ivan Galamian’s music school in the Adirondack Mountains, the Meadowmount School of Music. At that time there were only 106 of us. It became immediately apparent that Barry Finclair was one of the most talented 16-year-old violinists attending. He already had tremendous command of the instrument and wonderful style. I will never forget his Bruch “Scottish Fantasy” that summer with its searing white heat and gorgeous tone.

We became friends, although I was three years younger than he. In a few years Barry went his way and I mine. We were not to reconnect for many years.

In the mid 1970s we were both fortunate to have gotten busy in the recording business and worked together every day. Our friendship was rekindled as we hung out in between sessions and had many late night dinners. In 1978 Barry asked me to perform with L’Ensemble. That began a new chapter in our relationship that lasted many years. We performed countless chamber music concerts on violin and viola. Barry was more than an outstanding violinist: he was a superb musician and thinker who had tremendous passion for all things artistic. Those years performing with him were some of the most memorable of my life.

But even more than that was the personal bond we shared. There was nothing that we did not discuss and Barry was always keen to share his opinions and be generous with giving of his time to projects he knew were important to me. I will miss him greatly.

My heart goes out to Ida and Cristina and I send them my love.

Ricky Sortomme