The Musicians’ Voice

Volume CVIII, No. 1January, 2008

The Musicians’ Voice is an open forum for discussion about the state of union affairs. The letters published here do not necessarily 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:

Why am I still receiving e-mails from the Members Party and the Concerned Musicians Party of Local 802? I’m not affiliated with either, I don’t think I know anyone who is, and, most importantly, I don’t receive any e-mails from either party that demonstrate any difference in actual substance or policy anymore.

Why do these parties still exist? It’s a waste of money, time and energy.

We can’t continue as a union with a two-party system that only exists to allow each party to complain about the existence of the other.

Our government can’t accomplish anything because of this very reason. At least Democrats and Republicans, when they’re not bemoaning each other’s existence, will occasionally debate hot topic issues like healthcare, abortion and foreign policy.

The most recent argument between the Members Party and the Concerned Musicians Party was about which party supports Local 1 more. Come on, this is ridiculous.

I call upon both parties just to dissolve.

I appreciate that the existence of both parties helped organize a healthy debate in the last 802 election. But the debate is over, the election is over, and both parties are left with (apparently) no substantive differences. So what’s the point?

It seems to me that they’re just arguing for the sake of arguing now. An “Us” versus “Them” mentality has taken over.

So Concerned Musicians, stop gloating about your win.

Members Party, stop whining about your loss.

And both parties: for the sake of our union, just dissolve.

We’re all in the same exact fight. Let’s fight our common enemies together, not fight about whether we should go into battle with swords or spears.

A “Concerned Member” of Local 802,
–Jason Loffredo


[Editor’s note: Allegro received the following two letters in response to Norbert Goldberg’s letter in the December issue of Allegro. Goldberg himself was responding to an article from the November issue entitled “Hear My Voice,” by singer-songwriter Sandy O.]

To the Editor:

I appreciated the November article “Hear My Voice,” which actually showed Palestinians as human beings, and was disturbed by Norbert Goldberg’s letter of response in the December issue.

I am also Jewish and also worked in Israel.

I had a piano gig at the Plaza Hotel in Tiberias, a town where, after its Arab residents were deported in 1948, over 500 homes were demolished to ensure that they would not return. While working there I did not know this.

Quoting Goldberg’s letter: “The author’s sympathies for the Palestinians are understandable, but they do not warrant the half-truths and prejudices presented.”

However, Goldberg fails to present even one example to prove his assertion of inaccuracies.

Generously, he allows for the author’s sympathy for the Palestinians.

Here’s why I share that author’s sympathy.

From the 1890’s, Zionism sought to rid Palestine of its native Arab population and make it into a Jewish state, which it largely accomplished in 1948.

In 1967, Israel conquered the balance of the land resulting in an ongoing brutal occupation. Goldberg’s racist letter throws around “terrorist,” “aggression,” “indoctrination,” and “propaganda,” assuming we’ll agree with these stereotypes. But who’s the terrorist? A man without a country or army, living in poverty and humiliation under military occupation, strapping a bomb to his body? Or is it this occupier with enormous military might, shooting up residential neighborhoods from helicopter gunships, demolishing homes on top of their residents, practicing widespread torture and extrajudicial executions?

Goldberg doubts the motives of the author he criticizes. I don’t doubt Goldberg’s motives. While the world is becoming aware of the truth, while Jewish-Israeli revisionist historians write in support of the Arab narrative using IDF documents as proof, Goldberg clings to his mythology, his dream of Zionist innocence, and he wants us to do same. I refuse.

–Rich Siegel

To the Editor :

Norbert Goldberg’s letter suggests that Sandy O’s “propaganda” does not belong in Allegro. He decries Palestinian “terrorist attacks” and justifies Israel’s “security” measures by claiming that they have reduced these attacks. But the problem is Israel’s illegal military occupation, not the struggle against it. Has Mr. Goldberg ever crossed into the Occupied Territories to see the carnage inflicted by Israel’s military, and illegal, gun-wielding settlers? Or Gaza, where Israel cuts off food and other necessities, and cripples everything from commerce to academia, to force out its democratically elected government?

Mr. Goldberg wonders when Palestinian aspirations for peace “will be translated into positive political initiatives…” But the reality is that Israel has sabotaged every peace initiative, while reducing Palestine to a series of Bantustans. As Israeli IDF Chief of Staff Raphael Eitan bragged, “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged roaches in a bottle” (New York Times, April 17, 1983). Israel’s house demolitions, land confiscations, and other abuses continue unabated, the peace “failures” giving it time to seize yet more “Biblical” land. The theft is so audacious that Jews-only West Bank land has been on sale at fairs in New Jersey and London, contrary to U.S. and U.K. anti-discrimination laws.

Indeed the Israel-Palestine conflict is hardly “complicated,” as Mr. Goldberg contends, but remarkably simple: Israel must end its brutal occupation, agree to a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and address the right of return. When Israel was founded, 750,000 Palestinians were removed from their land, then watched from the camps as their history was rewritten, their villages erased from the map. That cannot be undone, but Israel must now return to its 1967 boundaries and respect international law.

–Nancy Elan (London) and Thomas Suarez (New York)


To the Editor:

Percussionist George Gaber, who was my dear friend, died on Nov. 21. I will never forget this story about him.

In 1956, Dimitri Tiomkin conducted a Cinerama film recording session at Carnegie Hall with a 100-piece orchestra. The film was called “Giant,” and the first scene to be recorded only used 10 percussionists.

I walked in with George Gaber. We stopped at the entrance to the stage, where we saw:

  • Phil Krauss moving his vibes to a playing position;
  • Morris Goldenberg setting up a snare drum;
  • Harry Breuer pushing a marimba to the center;
  • Brad Spinney setting up three tom toms;
  • Marty Grupp pushing a large gong toward the snare drum;
  • Doug Allen putting castanets and a tambourine on the table;
  • Freddy Albright placing orchestra bells on a stand;
  • Buster Bailey placing hand cymbals on a table.

Then there was Saul Goodman. He was placing his timpani sticks on the stand for Timpani 1. He didn’t even need to see the part for Timpani 2. As the timpanist for the New York Philharmonic, he was accustomed to first chair.

When Brad Spinney saw George Gaber standing at the door, he stopped setting up his tom toms. He said, loudly, “Mr. Timpani is here!” Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked up.

George stood at the door, looking at Saul.

Saul didn’t hear Brad but saw everyone looking at the door behind him. He finally saw George standing there.

Saul quickly took his sticks off the Timpani 1 part and moved them to Timpani 2.

It was a large tribute, witnessed by many percussionists, to a musical genius who should always be remembered.

–Howard Hirsch