The Musicians’ Voice

Volume CIV, No. 3March, 2004

The Musicians’ Voice is an open forum for discussion about the state of union affairs. The views expressed here do not express the views of Local 802. Please keep all letters to 300 words and send them to Allegro, c/o Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036, or e-mail Mikael Elsila, the editor, at


To the Editor:

I want to compliment Paul Molloy on his great article in February’s Allegro (“Working as a Broadway Sub: A Survival Guide”). I’ve been subbing on Broadway for a few years now in a number of shows, but, when I first moved to New York in 1994, I had no idea how to go about breaking into the Broadway scene. Since I am a pianist/conductor who works almost exclusively in theatre, this was rather daunting. Luckily for me, I managed to find my way without stepping on any major landmines.

It’s great to see such a helpful article for new musicians finally appearing in a prominent position in the 802 publication. If you ever want to interview “newer” subs (my first subbing experience was in 1997 on “The King and I”), I’d be happy to give my perspective.

Either way, great article!

–Michael Patrick Walker

To the Editor:

I enjoyed Paul Molloy’s article in February’s Allegro about subbing on Broadway. Over the years I’ve been asked many of the questions he answered in his piece. I’ve taken the liberty of posting his article (with credit to him), on the International Clarinet Bulletin Board, at (click on “clarinet,” then “BBoard,” then “Clarinet BBoard”). I’m sure it will elicit some response from around the country. You might want to check it out from time to time, if you’re interested.

Thanks again for your insight.

–John J. Moses

To the Editor:

I just wanted to tell Paul Molloy what a great article that was in February’s Allegro.

Thanks for the information; I’m glad someone has devoted a series to this subject, as I’m trying to network more into this area.

Great work!

–Mark Erenstoft

To the Editor:

I enjoyed Paul Molloy’s article on Broadway subs. In the late 1970’s and early 80’s, I had wonderful opportunities to play with many Broadway guys and ladies on Wednesday afternoons, between shows. A rehearsal big band was put together by Jay Brower and was a great diversion for me. My instrument is bass trombone and I subbed on a few bands in town at the time. An opportunity came my way to sub a show — I guess I didn’t embarrass too much! Since I always had a day gig downtown, I only could watch on occasion. Unfortunately, I couldn’t let it go further. What a shame! Always being part time, I was a threat to no one and probably could have worked a bit.

Paul’s article reminded of many satisfying moments with a wonderful bunch of people. Keep them coming!

–Bruce English


To the Editor:

On Feb. 10, the New York Times wrote an article headlined “Music Retailer Seeks Bankruptcy Protection” about Tower Records filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The article points out that specialty retailers of music and video in the country and the few remaining family-run dynasties are disappearing in an industry increasingly dominated by mass merchants like Wal-Mart.

Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of the Strategic Resource Group, a consulting firm that has worked with retailers and record companies, says in the article that “most consumers will move to a much narrower band of music — what they hear of the top 25 songs that are programmed in vicious rotation by the FM radio stations or top 20 almost preselected MTV songs.”

Similarly, the article quotes Michael Dreese, chief executive of Newbury Comics, an independent chain of 25 record stores in the Boston area. Dreese says, “If Home Depot has only 12 power drills to offer a carpenter, that’s probably not desirable. But if the society loses 10,000 artistic voices, that’s a disaster. Because music is the most accessible way that society communicates with itself.”

Soon, all music will be solely produced by five major record labels and distributed by five major retailers. Plus they are pursuing an aggressive legal strategy to shut down all of the peer-to-peer networks that they cannot control in order to cement their monopoly.

Then, the Times’ article concludes, most live music will disappear because nobody has any access to the public anymore.

Funny, the entire focus is on Kazaa, lawsuits and “illegal downloading” while the conduits for expanding music inexorably disappear.

Will musicians across America stand still while the axe falls?

–Michael Drapkin