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 Allegro@Local802afm.org or write to Allegro, Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036. Letters must be no more than 300 words.
I was very happy to receive Bob Haley’s letter regarding my column that mentioned the Koch brothers (see story here). Bob and I have known each other – and performed together – for many years. I take his point that the music community should welcome the Koch brothers’ efforts to renovate the New York State Theater (now the David H. Koch Theatre). I do appreciate their effort to improve the theater.
My point was that this kind of philanthropy does not address the investment needed to fill those venues with performers who can have reasonable expectations of a living wage. The Koch brothers will foot the bill for venue restoration (along with naming rights), but have shown that their largesse does not extend to actual support of the artists who might inhabit those venues. In fact, the Koch brothers’ larger national political agenda seeks to undermine worker rights on a national scale. I find it very difficult to assume that the Kochs’ support of local artistic entities extends to the actual workers who inhabit those institutions. Orchestra musicians, stagehands, ushers, security guards and food service workers cannot really think that the Koch brothers are their friends. Bob Haley is correct in lauding the Kochs’ commitment to restoring the State Theater, but the Kochs are not helping him – as a worker or as a musician – very much in the larger picture. Big money does not necessarily equal a big benefit to workers. With respect, I urge that we all look at every side of the discussion.
Responding to Bob Haley’s letter in the February 2014 issue of Allegro (see story above), I don’t know why Tom Olcott dislikes the Koch brothers, but I know why I do. Indeed it has to do with their right-wing, serve-the-rich politics (and I hope no one calls them “conservative,” because their politics call for wrecking the environment, not conserving it). No amount of money they spend on Lincoln Center or the Metropolitan Museum of Art can make up for the harm they have done and are doing to the ordinary working person, and above all, to the future of our planet.
What is the point of a beautified concert hall if the air and the water that we all drink is steadily debased? The Koch brothers are busy funneling millions of dollars into campaigns that seek to prevent important environmental and social programs from becoming law. They help the campaigns that call for major cuts in nutrition, education, and health care programs needed by working families. At the moment they are funding an intensive lobbying effort to gut the clean air guidelines for power plant emissions set to go into effect this summer.
Most incredibly, rather than support an increase in the federal minimum wage, they want to end the concept of minimum wage altogether, and create a situation where workers in high-unemployment areas could work for $3 or $4 an hour. Is any union member supposed to be grateful to them? Carnegie was hardly an angel in his day, and did bodily harm to working people who stood in his way. But in proportion, he served far more people than he injured (scores of libraries all over the country), and in any case he was not in a position to do harm on the scale of the Koch brothers, whose political aims reach all over a vastly more populous country than in Carnegie’s time.
Give me healthy land, climate, air and water any time over an “improved” theatre. I avert my eyes when I see the name David Koch Theater where once the New York State Theater advertised itself.
A TRIBUTE TO RICHARD HAYMAN
He was known to many people as a successful arranger and conductor wearing a tux, yet Richard Hayman’s off-stage identity was that of a family man and an avid golfer in his senior years whose usual attire was boots and a cowboy hat.
My first assignment at Wedo’s Music Writing Service in 1981 was copying parts from a Richard Hayman score. I sensed immediately the pride and craftsmanship contained in every note of his many scores, especially his handwritten ones, which indicated his love of arranging and orchestrating. His sense of structure was also magnificent. The Boston Pops often assigned him the task of arranging large medleys, and his introductions and transitional phrases were in themselves works of art.
Richard was also creative in dealing with unexpected obstacles. In later life, when his vision was compromised, he had his orchestral score paper enlarged so he could continue to work and also to make it easier for the copyist and the conductor to read.
On a trip I made to Boston some years ago, I stopped by to see the librarians of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. After introducing me to Maestro John Williams, they took me on a tour of their library. They pointed out the huge number of enormous cabinets containing Richard’s arrangements. The magnitude of his output was astounding.
His scores continue to have a profound influence on many other successful arrangers. On a personal note, he gave myself and Rosanne Soifer the premiere performances of our “Chanukah Suite,” when he was the conductor of the St. Louis Pops.
We thank you, Richard, and we will miss you.
Walter Usiatynski’s article in the January issue of Allegro (“Broadway Gets Two New Web Sites”) contained the sentence: “Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Wynton Marsalis. No, these stars have never played in a Broadway pit.”
But Wynton Marsalis did indeed play in a Broadway pit orchestra. During the run of “Sweeney Todd” (1979-81), while still a student at Juilliard, he substituted regularly for our first trumpet player Wilmer Wise, and all of us connected with the show take pride in his subsequent rise to eminence.
Broadway Committee Chair Walter Usiatynski replies: I want to thank Jonathan Tunick for his correction of my article about Broadway musicians. However, this is one time that I don’t mind being corrected since it proves my point: some of the best musicians in the world play on Broadway!