The Musicians’ Voice

Volume CIX, No. 3March, 2009

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

Click for larger image.
Click for larger image.
Click for larger image.
Local 802 members Yo Yo Ma, Anthony McGill and Itzhak Pearlman  performed at Barack Obama’s inauguration.


To the Editor:

The inauguration of President Obama was a thrilling and inspiring occasion, not least because of the musical performances. For me it was marred, though, by the subsequent revelation that the performance (by AFM members) of John Williams’ “Air and Simple Gifts” was in fact a pantomime performed to a recording. What I had taken to be interaction and spontaneity among the quartet turned out to have been merely good acting. With all the effort we as a union expend to keep recordings out of “live” performance, it’s hard not to feel a little betrayed.

–Henry Aronson

To The Editor:

Four prominent classical musicians, three of whom are members of Local 802, were featured as a central part of Barack Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20. The world watched at 12 noon as classical music ushered in a new era for our country and for the world. 

A few days later, the February edition of Allegro came out, and these artists were nowhere to be seen amongst the photos of famous pop and rock musicians who performed that day. With all due respect to the musicians pictured, none of them are members of Local 802, and the media has covered them exhaustively. 

Allegro is our paper. Here was a golden opportunity to applaud not only the fact that this president seems to recognize the significance of classical music, but for us to express some delight and pride in three of our own. Allegro should honor Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and Anthony McGill, three artists who deserve our respect and, at the very least, a spotlight in our own newspaper. 

–Karen Fisher 

ALLEGRO RESPONDS: Karen is right, but the problem was that Allegro was going to press the morning after the inauguration. At that moment, there were no photos available of the performance that were both high resolution and public domain. We could have paid big bucks to buy a photo from the wire services or we could have used stock photos of the musicians. Instead, we used public domain photos from the “We Are One” concert, which occurred two days prior to the inauguration.


To the Editor:

I’m very happy with the outcome of the St. Luke’s negotiations, and very proud of the efforts on the part of the committee, the representatives from 802, and the St. Luke’s management, who undoubtedly had the most difficult role in the process.

The 802 team, headed by Jay Blumenthal and Harvey Mars, admirably supported our goals and provided expertise in achieving them, and the St. Luke’s management team demonstrated their fantastic commitment to our musicians in this time of trial and need.

We initiated the process before the emergence of news of our nation’s disastrous problems, and we all had to work our way through a minefield of financial horror stories, but we emerged with a package that (I hope and believe) deals with the realities in a manner that goes a long way toward protecting our musicians from the worst possibilities we face.

I’d also like to express my appreciation for our newly expanded committee. We enlarged the participation of our tenured orchestra members and included (for the first time) the untenured orchestra members. The new committee members brought a lot of great ideas to the process and represented their colleagues admirably. I was very impressed by, and appreciative of, their participation in the process.

I especially want to express my appreciation of our management’s commitment to the musicians at a time when many are using the current situation to make life easier for themselves. Their supportive attitude, candor and honesty will long be remembered by the St. Luke’s musicians.

–Joe Anderer


To the Editor:

I read Gregory Dlugos’s recent letter to Allegro with great interest, some disappointment and a small measure of resentment. As one who has been critical of our union on occasion, I do not agree that those of us who have expressed reservations about administration policies or actions have in any way been “incendiary,” or have put forth “personal agendas” as Mr. Dlugos suggests. Rather, I hear an increasing number of musicians who refuse to remain silent while this administration conveniently reinterprets bylaws, disregards longstanding past practices, tramples upon the rights of individual members, discounts the opinions of rank and file committees, politicizes legitimate policy disagreements and misrepresents issues that are of great importance to our members.

The only agenda I support is a commitment to honest, democratic union representation. As circumstances have warranted, I have been publicly supportive or critical of the policies of Presidents Arons, Glasel (in whose administration I served as a board member), Moriarity, Lennon and Landolfi. Our union is best served when all members freely express their opinions and get involved.

We all value the harmony and good will that Mr. Dlugos yearns for. Elections are hard fought. Winners should have the opportunity to enact policies that they promoted during the campaign. That is the American way. But when elected officials stray from honest, good faith representation, it is the obligation of the governed to protest and right the ship. To sit idly by while injustices are perpetrated is naive, irresponsible or complicit.

We all agree that our union must move forward and address the substantive issues that confront our beleaguered industry. But to turn a deaf ear to the erosion of the democratic ideals that many have fought so hard for is destructive of those ends.

–Bruce Bonvissuto