The Musicians’ Voice

Volume 114, No. 12December, 2014

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.


In the November Allegro, Tom Olcott appropriately highlighted the importance of orchestra boards in fundraising. He also, correctly in my opinion, expressed some reservations about the importance of a close relationship between the board chairperson and the orchestra CEO. While fundraising is an important board function, it is not its only function. Equally vital is its oversight of the management of the orchestra, including the CEO. Although there are certainly benefits to a good working relationship between the board chair and CEO, the board’s oversight function may be compromised by too close a relationship. Having worked as a personnel manager for 30 years for many different NYC orchestras, I have observed many different CEOs and boards. Some board members have taken the oversight function more seriously than others. Sadly, I have seen some board members who have not been sufficiently curious about the finances and cash flow of the organizations they are charged with overseeing, essentially taking at face value what management chooses to show them. This is a dangerous practice given that some managements may not be sufficiently candid in the information presented to boards.

I would like to offer one final observation about the board and fundraising. While it is true that board members may be uniquely positioned to have contact with potentially large contributors, individual contributions are only one aspect of fundraising. Some boards and CEOs place all of their hopes in that basket, ignoring the availability of other sources of funds, notably grants from the government, foundations and corporations. Tapping those sources requires hard work and the skills of a knowledgeable development professional. Delegating the job to a staff member lacking experience in the area makes no more sense than asking that staff member to be librarian or principal oboe. Orchestra managements that attempt to save a salary by not engaging a development officer are being penny-wise and pound-foolish. A skillful development officer can raise far more money than he or she is paid.

Jon Taylor


As someone who has known Vincent Penzarella for close to 50 years, and played with him on many occasions back in the day with the New York Philharmonic, I enjoyed reading his interview in the November issue of Allegro. I am glad to see he’s still kicking around. Besides being a great trumpet player and musician, as Vince alluded to when describing Johnny Ware, Vince was also a mensch. Like Johnny Ware, he stood up for what he believed in and was fearless when doing so: a trait you don’t see much these days.

Zachary Shnek


In the November issue of Allegro, I immediately noticed the article by Andrew Schulman explaining how he credited music with saving his life when he was comatose. I first met Andrew years ago when he played guitar at the same restaurant where I played piano. I read his article and felt a connection; however, it was not only because I knew him but because music saved my life, too!

In 1983, I was on my way home from a piano gig in Boston when I was struck by a car. I was thrown 25 feet. I landed on my head and was rushed to the Beth Israel Hospital in Brookline, where they performed two brain surgeries. I was in a coma for nine days. Everyone thought I was not going to make it. My family played me Stevie Wonder recordings while I was in the coma since he was my idol. I believe that his music helped awaken me. I am so grateful to be alive and I have met Stevie several times to thank him for his gift.

Music runs deep. Music is a language that brings joy, love, and all good things.

I am grateful to be a musician/composer while also spreading the joy of music by selling pianos at Steinway & Sons.

Thank you again for sharing Andrew’s story.

Betsy Hirsch


My sincerest thanks for awarding me the Anne Walker Scholarship. In paying for my college education, every dollar counts. This money will go a long way toward paying for my last year of undergraduate studies. I am honored to have been selected.

Josh Arbo