The Musicians’ Voice

Volume C, No. 10October, 2000


To the editor:

Last year I was elected to the Board of Governors of the New York chapter of the Recording Academy. In the time that I have spent as a governor it has become clear that the jazz community should have a greater presence in this organization.

There is only one way to accomplish this – musicians need to join. Why?

First, qualified members (appearing on a total. of six tracks on any number of commercially released discs) can enter said product and vote on the GRAMMY Awards. Remember, the GRAMMY Awards voting is an election, and your vote counts.

Second, the New York chapter presents events that are great for networking and for hearing about important issues that affect your music and how you make your living.

Third, there are some real money-saving benefits that are available to members, such as discounts on CDs, movie and theatre tickets, and other discounts that are worth much more than the annual membership dues.

Fourth, the Recording Academy fights for everyone in the music community on important issues such as “work for hire” (the rights of artists to control their master recordings), the internet and much more. The more members we represent, the more power we have.

Fifth, the Recording Academy is concerned with the needs of music people in the past, today and in the future with its two foundations. The GRAMMY Foundation works to put music education back in the schools and to support archiving and preservation efforts. MusiCares® provides prompt emergency relief to music people in need.

You can and should be a part of this outstanding organization by and for music people for only $65 a year ($20 additional initiation fee for the first year.) If you join by the end of September, you can vote in the 2001 GRAMMY Awards process. To get an application form, contact the New York Chapter at (212) 245-5440 or

You can make a difference. Don’t leave it up to somebody else.

–Ron Carter


To the editor:

I have been a hotel pianist for years in New York City. I have somehow managed to keep my job despite the comings and goings of every new food and beverage director who thinks muzak is more cost effective than live music. I’ve slipped through the budget cuts and the internal scandals. I’ve even made it through bankruptcies. But I never got time off on a holiday, nor did I ever receive holiday pay. Musicians are always away from their families on holidays, but there are no provisions in the agreement for holiday pay. Why?

On Sept. 5 I spoke with Richard Schilio, Senior Business Rep for single engagements and hotels, about the holiday pay issue. He told me that the topic was never brought up by the members during the last collective bargaining negotiations, therefore 802 members will not have any chance of holiday pay until the present contract expires three years from now. We must as members go to these meetings and bring up important issues like holiday pay, funeral leave compensation, etc. If we don’t, we will always be left out in the cold! However, I would hope whomever is representing 802 members at these ever-so-important negotiations will sometimes initiate issues on their own, and not always blame the members for not showing up.

Another issue I am concerned about is the fact that some hotels don’t allow their pianists to have tip jars. Why is that – and what can the union do to intervene and have a dialogue with the hotel? Musicians lose a fortune if there is no suggestion of a gratuity by the use of a respectable brandy snifter and the pianist usually gets a “thank you” or a hand shake from the customer on departing. But no tip.

I’ve been thinking about moving my family to New Mexico because I am tired of the rat race in New York. However, after calling the musician’s union in Santa Fe, they told me there were no real union opportunities for musicians there, nor did they have a health plan for full-time musicians. The union should start a segment for helping the musician secure leads for employment during relocations. Sort of a nationwide referral and help department to aid musicians moving to new cities.

–Richard Atkins

President Moriarity replies:

The latest hotel contract negotiations took place within the last year. Local 802 was represented by a committee of rank-and-file hotel musicians who held discussions with members working in the field, created proposals and participated in bargaining at the negotiating table. While Local 802 legal counsel Leonard Leibowitz and myself served as chief spokespersons, these members also offered ideas and arguments during discussions with management. This has been our consistent negotiating policy.

Among this committee’s principal, self-assumed tasks have been gaining the involvement of as many hotel musicians as possible. I can assure this writer that he will be contacted for the next negotiations.


To the editor:

It made me proud to be a member of Local 802 to read in the July/August issue of Allegro about our union’s support of the SAG/AFTRA strike and the strike by workers at the Museum of Modern Art. I respect the many musicians who honored the MoMA workers’ picket line, though it meant turning down paying work. They are, as bassist George Rush said, “looking at the bigger picture.” That big picture is nothing less than justice for working men and women. They should get the respectful salaries, health care and job security all people deserve.

“True artists don’t cross picket lines!” wrote David Bogner, in relation to the MoMA strike, and I agree. I learned from Aesthetic Realism, the education founded by Eli Siegel, America’s foremost poet and critic, that art is the greatest justice. “The purpose of art,” Eli Siegel has explained, “is to give an object everything that is coming to it.” In the journal The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism Ellen Reiss wrote: “Every good painting, poem, musical work came because an artist felt something deserved a fulness of justice.” Therefore, she explained, “[every] good work of art…opposes the way of seeing of a boss who is trying to pay a worker as little as possible.”

As a pianist, I have seen this is true. A musician is trying to be fair to the notes he is playing, to the intentions of the composer, to his instrument, and to the audience. The true artist doesn’t see these objects and people as existing to work for him, to make him comfortable and important, while giving as little as he can. Yet that is the way MoMA management and ad agency executives – and employers all over the country – see the men and women they employ.

Miss Reiss continued: “Justice, Mr. Siegel has said passionately and shown logically, is inseparable: if you don’t give a damn for justice to people, you cannot be for the justice to objects and reality which art represents. So the idea of crossing a picket line to enter a museum is ludicrous, and…an insult to art[.]” The men and women on strike, and all the people who are honoring their picket lines are standing for justice and art, and I respect them very much.

I am grateful to be learning from Aesthetic Realism what the art purpose is and how to have it in my whole life, enabling me to be a prouder, happier and more integrated person with every year. The justice America needs will begin when people everywhere – including our elected officials – are asking and answering this question, first asked by Eli Siegel: “What does a person deserve by being alive?” The study of art and ethics takes place at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City, in classes, public seminars, dramatic and musical presentations and individual consultations. For more information, call (212) 777-4490, or visit the website at

–Alan Shapiro