The Musicians’ Voice

Volume CVI, No. 11November, 2006

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. Letters must be 300 words or less. 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’m writing to bring up a taboo subject, with hopes of opening up a dialogue.

During my 25 years as a professional pianist, I have hired countless numbers of men to do live shows, club dates and studio recordings. What I’ve noticed — and I am not alone — is that there is absolutely no reciprocation.

I am a very good musician. Yet I have not had one referral from a male musician — ever.

I have also observed a tendency among most male musicians that it’s O.K. to “bail.” In other words, if they get a higher paying gig or one that will impress their buddies, they think nothing of dropping the original gig they committed to, often without providing a sub or enough notice to rectify the situation.

The profile of musicians who exhibit these behaviors is predictable: white heterosexual male, usually over 40, entitled, arrogant.

Whenever I have asked these men to refer me, their excuse is: “Those situations don’t come up.” That’s ridiculous.

My referrals come from women, people of color, gays and lesbians.

In addition, I’ve worked with numerous producers and referred hundreds of clients to them. However, with the exception of Mark Godwin, producers have never sent me a gig, a voice student or anything resembling a music job.

Many women have quit the music business — and the union — because they are sick of dealing with the “boys’ club.”

A union only works if there are equal employment opportunities for everyone. When musicians do not honor their word or respect fellow union members, this undermines any semblance of equality.

Perhaps a monitoring system should be used to ensure fair hiring practices for all union members. If our union doesn’t represent everyone, it will have lost its heart and soul.

–Franni Burke


To the Editor:

We musicians need an affordable place to live, to play without bothering neighbors, to rehearse and to perform. We know this — we live it. It is becoming increasingly difficult for musicians to afford to live in New York City. The two buildings that have been available for artists no longer provide: Westbeth has a 15-year waiting list and the waiting list for Manhattan Plaza is closed.

I was told about the mayor’s idea called the “Bloomberg Initiative.” I looked it up on the Internet. It expresses Mayor Bloomberg’s recognition of the problem all artists have trying to stay in the city because of the increasing cost of housing. He wants the city to build and subsidize housing for artists.

One building — an abandoned public school in East Harlem — has been renovated and opened up for painters. It occurred to me that the city could provide a building for musicians.

I sent a letter to the mayor urging him to consider a building for musicians, sponsored and subsidized by the city. This building would include soundproof living units, rehearsal spaces and a performance space.

I am asking all members of Local 802 to get on board. I will send you a copy of my letter if you e-mail me at You can then cut and paste it and mail it to the mayor, or, if you wish, write your own letter. Mayor Bloomberg’s address is simply the Mayor’s Office, City Hall, New York, NY 10007. Or you can e-mail your letter to the mayor at this Web site:

–Connie Crothers


To the Editor:

I circulated the call for a boycott of Delta airlines. Among touring musicians, this action has drawn the most support of any initiative the union has ever done. I received dozens of responses — all positive — from a range of working musicians well beyond those currently working under union contracts. Whatever the benefits of the new security measures, the fact is that they’ve been making our working lives next to impossible, and in many cases — including my own — costing us thousands of dollars in missed gigs and destroyed instruments.

On a recent tour in which I participated, our percussionist had her $400 computer interface seized — not at the usual X-ray security point, but as she was boarding the plane — for no other reason than that the airline personnel didn’t like the way it looked. She was told she could either give up the interface, or else lose the flight and buy a new ticket for several thousand dollars (we were in Paris).

The union should go even further in addressing this problem by proposing legislation mandating full and automatic compensation for musicians who suffer economic loss due to security measures: instruments and equipment damaged, destroyed, seized or delayed so that musicians must buy or rent new ones. (I’ve witnessed or experienced all the above in the past 18 months.)

If security benefits everyone — all passengers, the airlines themselves, and the general public — then why should musicians be the ones to bear an disproportionate part of security’s cost? The cost should be borne by society as a whole, and musicians should be compensated.

In the meantime: boycott Delta. They richly deserve it.

–Marc Ribot