The Musicians’ Voice

Volume CVIII, No. 4April, 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:

The Landolfi administration’s response to my March Allegro letter not unexpectedly contained misdirection, obfuscation, hyperbole and half-truths.

Further, while I am limited to 300 words, the administration seems allowed to write reams.

802’s superfluous diatribe about the need for a national health plan and its negative effect on contract negotiations is misdirection, since the union’s chance of achieving this is non-existent. 

802 conveniently omits stating that Philharmonic substitutes’ wage parity with regulars depends on a fifth year of the contract that is far from a certainty. Should this not materialize, the subs will not regain parity.

802 blithely gives away not only what Philharmonic subs always had, but endangers a parity that took Met associate musicians 40 years to achieve.

In further obfuscation, 802 omits stating that only we and Local 47 have health plans separate from our ICSOM orchestras, thereby making it unlikely for subs in other cities to receive any contractual health coverage.

The concealment by Supervisor (and Executive Board member) Schaffner of an RMA video games proposal that lead to my affirmative vote on the NY proposal is documented in my Allegro 2/07 letter to the editor.

In further deception, NY’s proposal went to the AFM without being approved by 802’s Executive Board.

Regarding Broadway and Off Broadway recording agreements: While I was a supporter of 802’s two previous administrations, I did not condone those agreements still being written despite strong opposition from the musicians they affect. 

In the matter of 802’s “desire” for constructive criticism, here’s an achievable agenda: Let 802 turn away from posturing about unattainable national goals, reverse its course in becoming a rubber-stamp outpost of the AFM, and seek alliances with other locals where full-time musical employment exists in attempting to change the AFM’s abysmal anti-professional musician structure.

Michael Comins

Local 802 replies:

Mr. Comins offers no evidence that Local 802 is in fact a rubber stamp for the AFM or fails to seek alliances with other locals before he demands that it stop doing so. This is a little like asking, “When did you stop beating your wife?”

The reply to his last letter outlined how 802 opposed the Federation in regard to a dues raise. The local also offered resolutions at the last AFM convention that would have increased democracy in our union — including one-person, one-vote — which were not supported by the AFM.

As far as outreach to other entities is concerned, we are meeting with the new leadership of the LA-RMA to increase understanding of recording issues unique to each location.

A constructive relationship with the AFM is in the best interest of this local; that does not constitute a rubber stamp.

The opposition both to the compromises reached in the Philharmonic negotiations and to any support for national healthcare is equally illogical.

Mr. Comins is entitled to his opinion, but if he intends to offer constructive criticism, he should outline an alternative that will allow musicians who depend on the 802 health plan access to healthcare. That is blatantly missing from his commentary.

Furthermore, the insistence that we not support national healthcare because it is “unattainable” would, if adopted by all unions and citizen advocacy groups, become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

We can be part of the problem or part of the solution. This administration chooses to be part of the solution and to build alliances that will serve us, not only in the fight for national healthcare, but in other battles that concern us.

This is not posturing as Mr. Comins opines; it is part of the hard work that social improvement requires and has been part of Local 802’s mission for many years.

Predictably, Mr. Comins did not take issue with it until now.


To the Editor:

I’m writing an article to commemorate and help remember the years that members of the jazz community came together through Pastor Gensel’s Jazz Ministry of St. Peter’s Church to celebrate the music and the life of Lester Young. The Jazz Ministry has announced that it is “moving forward” and will no longer be honoring Pres every year, so I would like to document some of our memories to keep in the treasure chest, for all to share. I would love any of your favorite “memory snapshots” that you might like to share. I would quote them at the end of the article and include your name, with your permission of course. 

They can be short, like:

  • “Leonard Gaskin’s solo bass tribute to Pres on Lover Man. (1994)” — Eve Zanni
  • “My group was onstage. Dick Katz kept comping the intro as late-arriving Bubba Brooks came onstage. Billy Smith walked towards him and time seemed to slow down as they embraced in front of a packed audience. I found out later that they had grown up across the street from one another in North Carolina and hadn’t seen each again until this night. (1999)” — Eve Zanni 

Please e-mail me at or write me at Apt. #G-227, 463 West Street, New York, NY 10014.

Thanks! Peace, love and blessings to all.

Eve Zanni


To the Editor:

In the March issue of Allegro on this page, Rich Siegel’s panderings to Arab regimes would ensure Israel’s destruction.

  • Why should Israel accept a hostile state of Palestine, whose Hamas leadership is sworn to destroy Israel?
  • Six million Jewish deaths during the Holocaust convinced two-thirds of the U.N. to vote in favor of creating Israel in 1947.
  • Anti-Semitism is rampant in most Islamic societies, propagated by their leaders. Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, responding to terrorist attacks in the kingdom in May 2004, said, “Zionism is behind these terrorist attacks.” And former Malaysian Prime Minister Mohamed Mahathir, addressing the Organization of Islamic Conference in 2003, said, “Jews rule the world by proxy.” Imagine a U.S. president saying that about African-Americans, Latinos, or any ethnic group: impeachment proceedings would soon follow!
  • Arab media routinely convey the most virulent anti-Semitic propaganda such as the “Protocols of Zion,” a Czarist forgery, which is a best seller in the Muslim world, according to a front-page New York Times article on Oct. 26, 2006.
  • Palestinian and other Arab schoolchildren are taught the same hatred, which includes the most extreme example of child abuse: mothers and fathers urging them to become homicide bombers. For instance, see “Islamic Culture for the 11th Grade,” issued by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education and approved by the Jordanian Ministry of Education, or the Hamas Web site for children, I can provide more sources for those who are interested.
  • Finally, there are three standards of behavior: one for the U.S. and our allies, one for the Arab and Muslim world, and one for Israel. Needless to say, the U.N. always admonishes the U.S. and especially Israel, when any defensive action is used against an adversary who has sworn to destroy you.

Joel Zelnik


To the Editor:

How shocked and saddened I was to read of the passing of Jerry Ashby. It’s unfortunate that it takes a passing of an important person to recognize how valuable he was to society.

Jerry Ashby was very special. He survived in a world in which race still prevails absolutely. Where are the other Jerry Ashbys in symphony orchestras? The numbers are minimal, which hurts me deeply.

In September 1958, I was the first black female hired to play with the New York Philharmonic. Since then, black musicians have struggled to become members of orchestras. Many have been discouraged, seeing how difficult and unfriendly it is. They have gone on to other areas of the profession. To me that goes against the principles of democracy, in which all people supposedly have the opportunity to pursue whatever career they feel bonded to.

I can remember how happy we were when Jerry Ashby broke through and became a member of the Philharmonic. I was one of the founders of the organization Symphony of the New World, which was formed to give black musicians the opportunity to learn about and get experience in symphonic music. Up until that time, black musicians who wished to play in a symphony were told they could not, because they “had no experience.”

This is history that young musicians today know very little of. They should be aware of how significant it was for Jerry Ashby to be in the New York Philharmonic.

His loss almost seems like a loss for our efforts of 50 years ago. There are still less than 1 percent of black musicians all totaled in every orchestra — not only in the U.S. but in the world. This is not a statistic to be proud of. 

Elayne Jones