The Musicians’ Voice

Volume 116, No. 6June, 2016

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.

Kurt Masur (1927-2015). Photo: Frans Jansen

Kurt Masur (1927-2015). Photo: Frans Jansen


In December 1996, I was invited to play at a Christmas party for the members of the New York Philharmonic and their families. As I was setting up, the first person to arrive and introduce himself to me was the maestro himself, Kurt Masur. I expressed to him how happy I was to meet him and that my repertoire for the party included Brazilian arrangements of Bach, Brahms, Dvorak and Beethoven.

At the mention of Beethoven, his face lit up and asked, “Beethoven?”

“Yes,” I said, “I have a bossa nova version of the Allegretto from the Seventh Symphony.”

“Show me,” he said.

I picked up my guitar and played it for him. Before I could perceive any reaction from him, he immediately asked for my card. After an hour of playing behind the usual noisy commotion of a party, there was a sudden silence as the maestro picked up the microphone to deliver a short, heart-felt speech. Suddenly, to my surprise, he introduced me as a talented young musician who enjoys making arrangements of the classics. Then he invited them to listen to my bossa version of Beethoven. There followed some muffled laughter.

I promptly played a shortened version, so as not to impose too much on their mandatory silence. Afterward, there was polite applause. I then continued playing other arrangements.

Having Maestro Masur, sitting at the front table listening to all of my arrangements so attentively, allowed me to play undeterred by the rising party noise level. In addition, during my break, the maestro kindly gave me his full attention to my personal exultations of classical music and Beethoven. Mr. Masur’s kindness and respect are memories I will cherish forever. He gave me acknowledgement and approval for my jazzing up the classics. I have always had to explain or justify my arrangements to the conservative classical musicians I’ve encountered over the years. Having the blessing of a man of this stature saying, “Go young man, it is not heresy to ‘Brazilianize’ Beethoven,” is like having a benediction from the Pope himself. Thank you, maestro, for the blessing.

– Tiberio Nascimento


would like to express my deep gratitude to all who participated in the new contract negotiations between Local 802 and the New School. What was created is an expression of respect, caring and consciousness for the higher good…and the tone was quite lovely, as well. Wishing a great abundance of purpose with our new road map and beautiful contributions from all.

– Janet Lawson