The Musician’s Voice

Volume CVIII, No. 5May, 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:

Local 802 violinist George Wozniak passed away on Feb. 11. George’s mother was from Latvia — still in the same house at age 91 — and his father was from Poland. They met and married in Canada and had classical music playing constantly on the radio. George was already asking for a violin when he was in kindergarten. We know he loved a good pun; his sense of humor was legendary. He also enjoyed culinary adventures, traveling, woodworking and photography. The music community was like family for George; he insisted on coming to work even while very ill so he could be with everyone.

As many friends and colleagues have contacted me I would like to share their thoughts:

  • “A nice guy… So sad! George was so much fun!”
  • “We all grappled with the desire to help George, support his ability to function, always with the hopes that he could somehow find his way to a healthier life. He was always trying, if not struggling…. We all could see that and I greatly admired him for this.”
  • “He will be missed…”
  • “I know George was always trying to do the right thing but somehow his generosity and good intentions could not get him past his health issues.”
  • “I liked George so very much. George had a good heart.”
  • “He had a tough time of it. Thankfully, he has peace.”
  • “It’s very sad news about George. I’ve known him for many years. His death comes as such a shock to me.” 
  • “George had such a gorgeous, rich tone.”
  • “Such a good guy. A great listener. Very good fiddle player and good stand partner.”
  • “George was a wonderful, ebullient teacher: one of those people who invested tremendous warmth and enthusiasm and energy in his lessons.”

Daryl Goldberg


To the Editor:

As a New Yorker and member of 802, I am very proud of our brothers and sisters in the New York Philharmonic on the occasion of their historic 2008 Asian tour that took them to Pyongyang, capital of North Korea. Counting a number of the orchestra’s members among my friends and close colleagues, and having studied with three of its bassists, made the experience of watching and listening to the broadcast of their extraordinary performance quite moving.

The humanitarian and diplomatic gesture their visit to North Korea represents could only have been made by such a world-leading cultural organization from New York City with practically every national, ethnic and racial group represented among its resident population. Only music, the most sublime of the arts, played by a great orchestra, could transcend the fear, mistrust and ignorance that separates and ostracizes North Korea from the world community.

The Philharmonic has a proud tradition of such bold, breakthrough missions as witnessed by their visits to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Then, under Leonard Bernstein, and now, under Lorin Maazel, the orchestra distinguishes itself by its top-notch musicianship and collected worldliness. The musicians of the Philharmonic, as well as the three other Lincoln Center orchestras, now more than ever, embody the democratic core of Local 802. They represent the pinnacle of a long process of struggle by musicians to be respected and recognized as worthy of the decent salaries and benefits that we deserve. 

All the Lincoln Center orchestras, with their powerful rank-and-file committee systems, are a beacon of hope to all of us in the labor movement, and now, once again, with their extraordinary trip to Pyongyang, the Philharmonic gives the world a reason to hope.

John A. Babich


When Allegro published a story called “Hear My Voice,” about a music mission to the West Bank, we did not anticipate the number of letters that we would receive — from all points on the spectrum. At this point, we feel that we have printed a broad representation of views. We’re also afraid that readers may be getting fatigued by this exchange. In the March issue on this page, we printed a policy that we thought would slow the tide, but the letters have kept coming. Therefore, with the publication of the following two letters, we are closing this topic. To read previous letters in this exchange, check out the “Musicians’ Voice” column in the December, January, February, March and April issues.

To the Editor:

In 1950, Jordan illegally seized, occupied and annexed the West Bank. Where was the vital cry for self-determination of the Palestinian people of the West Bank then, who had never previously been under Jordanian rule? Who protested that forcible seizure and annexation? Who ever called it “Jordanian-occupied land”? Indeed, who ever protested Egypt’s horrific treatment of its Palestinian population? And who complained after the first Gulf War, when Kuwait expelled 600,000 fellow Arabs of Palestinian origin?

Yassir Arafat founded the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1964. Its aim, according to its own manifesto, was “the liquidation of Israel.” This was three years before Israel defensively captured the areas in question during the Six Day War. Within days of the ending of that war, the Israeli government offered to withdraw from most of the West Bank. The Arab answer from the Khartoum summit was “no peace; no negotiations; no recognition.” At Camp David, then Prime Minister Barak offered then Chairman Arafat 95 percent of the West Bank, all of Gaza and major portions of East Jerusalem.

Arafat not only rejected the proposal, but responded with further acts of terrorism and uprisings. Is it any wonder that the distinguished — and dovish — Israeli statesman Abba Eban famously said that “the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”?

As recently as 2005, Israel ceded autonomy of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority. And yet the rocket attacks from Gaza against Israeli civilian targets continue.

With the exception of Egypt and Jordan, no other Arab country — or nationality — has yet to recognize Israel’s fundamental right even to exist. Until they do — and really mean it — no amount of land will result in peace.

I hope we can all get back to music making at this point.

Raphael Klayman

To the Editor:

Having just returned from occupied Palestine, we witnessed Israel’s daily humiliation of men, women and children, and the ongoing expropriation of Palestinian land.

We saw massive, illegal colonies spreading daily; monstrous cement walls splitting old communities in two; checkpoints and an apartheid system of I.D. cards turning neighborhoods into prisons; and playgrounds destroyed to build highways on which only Jews may travel. 

In Hebron we saw fanatical, rifle-toting settlers living in commandeered Palestinian houses, who throw garbage, feces, and rocks at the houses’ rightful owners below. Occupation soldiers watch from rooftops.

Hamas is expected to “recognize” the Israel that has turned Gaza into a concentration camp, yet Israel will neither recognize Palestine nor state its own claimed borders. Which Israel should Hamas recognize? 1948? 1967? 2015? Hamas has offered peace in exchange for Israel’s adherence to international law; Israel has yet to comply with Resolution 194 (1948), upon which U.N. membership was contingent. 

Invoking the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, and racist stereotypes of Arabs in defense of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine (to use Israeli historian Ilan Pappe’s phrase) is a betrayal of the memory of the millions who perished under the Nazis.

Israel’s “peace offers” have consisted of non-contiguous strips of Bantustans dissected by Israeli roads with Palestine lacking sovereignty over its borders, aquifers, and air space. The image of Israel as victim-nation fighting unruly hordes is a colossal ruse; it is the world’s fourth largest military attacking a people without an army.

Israel is America’s grand colonial adventure in a post-colonial world. While preaching freedom and democracy, we spend $3 billion annually to finance crimes that weaken us strategically, economically and politically, laying bare our hypocrisy to the rest of the world.

Israel has long refused to allow U.N. observers in Palestine. We saw why they refuse.

Suggested resource: 

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