The Musicians’ Voice

Volume 116, No. 10October, 2016


Aaron Rosand


I recently had the pleasure of hearing longtime Local 802 member and violinist Aaron Rosand perform for a packed hall at the Summit Music Festival at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY. At the age of 89, Rosand played from memory Mozart’s Adagio for Violin and Orchestra in E major (K. 261) and the incredibly difficult Devil’s Trill sonata by Tartini, arranged by Fritz Kreisler. He told the audience a marvelous story about how it was Kreisler himself who gave him this rare music decades ago.

As Aaron Rosand’s magic bow touched the strings of his violin, little did it matter that it was not his famed Guarnerius, which had been his faithful partner for so many years.  It’s all about the player, after all, and the instrument itself is but a lovely distraction.  Rosand’s characteristic economy of motion was constantly at play. His phrasing was gorgeous and his inimitable sound was recognizable from the first second.

I could go on and on about the great aspects of Rosand’s playing and magnificent bow distribution, a left hand which impeccably negotiates double stopping and buttery shifts and beautiful bow changes.  This is how he really differs from today’s hotshot players, as fine as they are.

Tears came to my eyes. Rosand’s playing is a reminder that life is finite.  His music conjures up a beautiful aroma, which music played in just the right manner can bring. It reminds me of my very own great father, Oscar Shumsky.

Rosand played with soul and feeling. There was nothing extraneous. No gyrations for the public and no fancy dress. He played from his heart, the music stripped of phony antics. You could feel the striving to live and bring beauty. Truly, Aaron Rosand is a messenger from the Golden Age of string playing.

–Eric Shumsky


I was bemused by Harvey Mars’ article on J.C. Petrillo in Allegro’s July/August edition. After reading my old cohort Jay Berliner’s reply in the September issue, I’d like to add my own personal experience regarding Petrillo and AFM/TV network staff negotiations.

Petrillo’s actions in striking broadcasters during the 1940s resulted in Congress passing the Lea Act in 1946 – upheld by the Supreme Court in 1947 – forbidding the AFM to strike against the networks. Of course, this “featherbedding prohibition” weakened the AFM’s ability to bargain with the networks immeasurably.

In the mid-1960s, while subbing on some TV shows, I was “invited” by two contractors to take part in the negotiations as an observer. Negotiations were held at the old AFM headquarters  on Lexington Ave. with then-president Hal Davis presiding. Although on emeritus status, Petrillo attended, sitting and snoozing at the far end of the bargaining table. Ironically, it was during those negotiations while he sat there snoozing that major network staff orchestras in NY, LA and Chicago were cut from 65 to 25 musicians thanks to Petrillo’s Lea Act. The Lea Act was repealed in 1980, long after musician staff quotas were abolished.

–Michael Comins
The writer is the founding secretary of the RMA International
as well as an original member and vice president of RMA-NY,
and the treasurer of the Members Party.

Jay Berliner probably expected some degree of outrage by the readers of his article “Another Take on James Petrillo” in the September Allegro, but he may have misjudged his audience. Jay disclosed that in one year alone, past AFM President Petrillo withheld over $2 million from the recording musicians who earned it, and then distributed it to 179,000 other members as an “unemployment benefit.” But I wonder how many Allegro readers saw the injustice in this?  Sadly, in this age of occupy movements and screams of income inequality, Petrillo’s actions might even be viewed favorably by some. Interestingly, this very issue of Allegro also contained a Bernie Sanders fan letter and a picture of Hillary Clinton on the front page. If James Petrillo were alive today, he would probably fit in quite well.

–Bob Haley