The Musicians’ Voice

Volume CVII, No. 2February, 2007

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 don’t intend to debate the points raised by Joel LeFevre’s article in last month’s Allegro or the accuracy of his assertions. It is the very publishing of his essay I wish to discuss. Mr. LeFevre has the right to free speech but not the right to use a labor union publication to espouse personal opinions of such an extremist and radical nature, under the guise of either reporting or op-ed journalism.

By the last seven paragraphs of his essay he had sunk into a deep hole of hate, slanderous accusations and demagoguery, all of which have absolutely no place appearing on the pages of Allegro.

Mr. LeFevre states that we have to “learn to fight smart, or fascism may well be the future form of government.” This is outrageous. By using the word “fascism,” Mr. LeFevre reveals himself not to be a kinder, gentler person interested in debating and effecting change, but an individual filled with anger and rancor. Can one even imagine the maelstrom that would result if a conservative Republican stated that “communism” would be the eventuality if the recently elected Congress was allowed to stay in office?

He further states “The 1950’s were a great time for paranoia and the flowering of racism. It’s not a return trip I look forward to.” Again outrageous. Citing McCarthyism and racism in this fashion is so divisive that it does exactly what he accuses the other side of doing: “Selling fear is the political coin of the realm.”

I will not agree to have my hard- earned work tax dollars go to the dissemination of flagrantly biased commentary. I hope the leadership of Local 802 will convince Mr. LeFevre of the error of his ways and that an apology to our entire union is published forthwith.

–Richard Sortomme


To the Editor:

Recording Committee members Weiss and Schaffner obtained an advance copy of my letter in the January Allegro pointing out the shortcomings of the one-page 802 Video Games Agreement and responded by “dismissing my opinions out of hand as unconstructive criticism.” Provisions such as rest and meal breaks, timely session payment and use restrictions hardly constitute a “phonebook.” Having to ask the control booth for permission to go to the restroom in the middle of a long session is not something most musicians would accept. During the subsequent committee meeting, on Dec. 14, 2006, Schaffner claimed there is no rest period in the AFM jingle agreement. I suggest he read the first paragraph on page 14 of that agreement.

That I agreed to the original 802 proposal because it was somewhat better than a competing San Francisco proposal shown to the committee is an undeniable fact. That a more complete proposal from the RMA that committee member Roger Blanc had in his possession and that Schaffner knew of without sharing it with other committee members including 802 Recording Department staff is also fact. As a national RMA board member, Blanc has the dubious distinction of signing on to both contradictory agreements.

Should we continue down the path of local commercial (non-symphonic/opera) media agreements replacing national agreements, AFM cities like Denver, Omaha, Kansas City, etc. that all have decent symphony orchestras and commercial players will pass even lower scales because it costs less to live there. The only gainers here will be management, who can pit one group of musicians against the other while continuing to do nonunion sessions, and the AFM officials who would love to see the player conferences go away.

–Michael Comins
The writer is a member of the Local 802 Recording Committee
and is a founding member of the RMA and CAC.


To the Editor:

In 1956, I left New York to play trumpet with the Kansas City Philharmonic. I arrived at my new home and walked right into my roommates’ jam session. I got to sit right in!

By the time it got late, I had gotten to know a few of the brothers over beers, and as we were putting our horns away, I said, “How ‘bout we go out somewhere nearby and grab some coffee and something to eat?”

They looked at me and at each other mysteriously.

Out of a charming indulgent smile came a counter-proposal, “Look, why don’t you come downtown with us? We can drive down to our neighborhood.”

“Sure”, I said, and soon I found myself in the part of town where Kansas City jazz style — and later Charlie Parker — had become part of our nation’s music heritage.

Later I learned that we had no choice but to travel all the way down to the African-American section of town if we wanted to dine together, because my friends could not be served in the rest of Kansas City.

I soon learned to my greater amazement that there were two AFM locals as well as two Kansas Cities: one white and one black. The two were totally separate, but there were a few borderline areas where I could try to enjoy a cup of coffee with black friends — sometimes under the threat of violence.

The white Kansas City local had pathetically “protected” itself against mixing with the black local, which meant that we were unable to enjoy the good humor, charming graciousness and natural fellowship of our colleagues. (Also, I always felt the musicians in the black local were better company, knew how to have more fun, and of course taught me creative rhythm.)

–Hank Nowak