The Musicians’ Voice

Volume CIII, No. 3March, 2003


To the Editor:

I am a pianist and keyboardist and have been a Local 802 member for over 30 years. Recently I attended a performance of Beauty and the Beast on Broadway as I am good buddies with the actor who has been portraying the Beast for the past four years. We were old college buddies. He told me if I was interested in a pit job to contact the conductor, Michael Kosarin. Mr. Kosarin then told me to contact the contractor, John Miller.

But I have been trying to contact Mr. Miller for over five years and have never received even an impolite “thanks but no thanks” from him. I have tried e-mail, phone calls and regular mail to no avail. I am told he uses the same seven people over and over and over again.

There is something wrong with this system. I believe that other 802 musicians should have a crack at playing in a Broadway pit other than close friends of John Miller. For example, maybe 802 should bring a rule to the next collective bargaining agreement that there should be a lottery for musicians who want to play in Broadway pits. At least the lottery would allow them to audition for the contractor. This is a reasonable suggestion when all the rest of us are literally out in the cold in regards to the Broadway pit scene.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

–Richard Atkins

President Moriarity responds:

Local 802 has never played a part in the engaging of musicians for Broadway shows; all musicians are employed by the theatre owners or the producers through a contractor.

To change this system would require the Broadway contract to be modified. Proposals for contract modification are created here, as in all fields covered by Local 802, by the musicians doing the work – the bargaining unit. No proposal such as that outlined in Mr. Atkins’ letter has been brought forward or discussed during the year and a half we have been preparing for these negotiations. The status quo, therefore, will remain for at least this next contract period.

Implied in the letter, however, is that the Broadway bargaining unit is made up of a relatively unchanging, static group of musicians. This is not the case. It has been our observation here in the union’s Theatre Department that, since the last negotiation in 1998, personnel on Broadway may have changed by as much as 50 percent. Entry into this field is most often accomplished not directly through the contractors but by means of the substitution process, through musicians playing the same instrument.