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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
RE: “OLD BOYS’ CLUB?”
To the Editor:
I’m writing in response to Franni Burke’s letter in the November Allegro. She discussed typically white heterosexual men tending not to book or refer women, and these men bailing on gigs.
I booked or referred 26 musicians in the past year, five of whom are women. None of these women ever reciprocated by referring me for a gig that I know of. Should I be outraged?
Is it the case that white heterosexual men overall don’t refer women? Is that, in fact, most women’s experience? If true, it’s a sad mindset that the union should speak to. But I take exception to gross generalizations about men, just as I would about women or ethnic groups.
To The Editor:
I’m writing about Franni Burke’s letter in the November Allegro. Unfortunately I can echo her thoughts almost word for word. It’s sad to hear not much has changed since 1973 when I first became a member of Local 802.
It seemed then (and now) that if you were a club date musician or music director, the main thing most (male ) contractors were interested in was if you could sing and were easy on the eyes. The fact that you knew the tunes, could handle your own instrument and amp, and owned and drove your own car seemed to be secondary.
Consequently, apart from one or two notable exceptions throughout the years — both around New York and in Nashville (where I lived for a bit during the mid-70’s) — I have gotten no work referrals from my male contemporaries.
Also, consequently, most of my live work seems to come via other women, senior citizens groups, professional dance studios, and the like. Not high end, certainly, and mostly not even on the Local 802 single engagement radar screen. But in those kinds of gigs, non-issues such as appearance, age, and what I call “chick singer status” (especially in the club date end of the music business) are nonexistent.
What to do? I don’t think anyone can force hiring. But I do think that qualified women members of 802 who have either been turned down for gigs, or never gotten called by (male) contractors, club date leaders and producers need to start asking for rather detailed reasons WHY from them, with the understanding that if a persistent and blatant pattern of sex discrimination is apparent, that OUR union will respond accordingly.