The Musicians’ Voice

Volume CX, No. 3March, 2010

The Musicians’ Voice is an open forum for discussion about the state of union affairs. The letters here do not necessarily express the views of Local 802. E-mail letters to or write to Allegro, Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036.

Seven tips for women musicians

This is a reply to the question about whether female musicians get respect.

As they say, respect is not given, it’s earned. After all, respect is directly proportional to reputation, and also is an outgrowth of power and position. Generally, after people work with me, I have no trouble gaining respect as a musician and person. The problem for women often seems to be how to get that opportunity in the first place! Unfortunately, “professional musician” is not usually the first thing that a person thinks when meeting a woman.

Since we all need to build up respect to get ahead, here are some well-worn suggestions for earning respect with additional tips for women:

  1. Respect others.
  2. Dress professionally. This area can be a minefield for women. You can’t dress like a man or you’ll be too masculine or invisible. Too womanly and you’re open to objectification, prejudice or worse.
  3. Don’t talk too much. But if you talk too little, no one will know what you’ve done! Naturally, never lie or exaggerate.
  4. Smiling? Not too much, or as a woman you could be seen as being a people-pleaser or not serious.
  5. Be confident and humble.
  6. Be polite, but not “overly” so you’re not perceived as subservient.
  7. Develop your memory for names.

–Susan LaFever
The writer is French hornist in the Zinkali ensemble
and third horn in the Greater Bridgeport Symphony.

Thanks, Mary!

I am writing to express my sincere appreciation for the job that Mary Landolfi did during her recent tenure as president of Local 802. Now that the rancor of the recent election has subsided, and the vitriol of the campaign has faded, I would like to bring your attention to two achievements that I feel will prove to be the legacy of the Landolfi administration as well as a long-lasting benefit to the members of this local.

The first, would have to be the fact that this union still has a health benefits plan. Again, putting aside all rhetoric, this union’s health benefits plan would have run out of money in the summer of 2007 and collapsed. Hundreds of members would have lost their benefits, resulting in a frantic search to self-insure in an affordable health plan – or, even worse, to forego coverage like millions of Americans. If you still have insurance coverage under the Local 802 health plan, thank Mary Landolfi and the sacrifices made through wage diversions by your fellow union members.

Secondly, the union’s computer system, 25 years old and about to be unsupported by software makers, also had about six months to go before it too collapsed. Local 802 would have been saddled with a completely nonfunctional computer system. It was Mary Landolfi who took the initiative to hire the outside consultants necessary to ensure Local 802’s computer system would work for the next 25 years.

Thank you Mary for all the hard work you put in over the past three years, and thank you for leaving us a better and stronger union.

–Roy Williams

Remembering Gene Orloff

It surprised me to see how little attention was given in the obituary column in the January Allegro to one of the most important contractors of musicians in the era of commercial music where New York reigned supreme.

It was the time from the 1950’s through the 80’s when most of the television production, studio recording and jingles emanated from New York. Most of the legendary singers and entertainers recorded exclusively in New York.

Listed in Torrie Zito’s obituary were names such as Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, Quincy Jones and a host of others who recorded during that period. The contractor for musicians was invariably Eugene (Gene) Orloff. I know this for a fact and participated in many of those events as his stand partner.

Gene was a fine violinist and highly respected in the commercial music world for engaging the best musicians, and there were some great ones during those years. He was a behind the scene figure who put together the great bands that helped the noted artists to become successful.

With the passing of Gene Orloff and Torrie Zito the golden era of commercial music-making on a grand scale has become a distant memory, but their contribution deserves equal praise.

–Aaron Rosand

Allegro Editor Mikael Elsila replies: Thanks to Mr. Rosand for remembering Gene Orloff, who passed away at the age of 87 after being a member of Local 802 for 71 years (since he was 16!). Mr. Orloff actually died last year – on March 23, 2009 – but, for unknown reasons, his death was not reported to Allegro until recently. We will run a full obituary for Mr. Orloff as soon as we have enough biographical information. As we went to press, we had just made contact with Mr. Orloff’s daughter Marcy.

Save jazz now!

Jazz is on the very brink of extinction. Commercialism has made jazz all but disappear from the public view on radio, TV and in the press.

Small clubs, organizations, the Internet, and regional festivals are trying to keep jazz alive. Those who have always had a devotion to this musical form are getting older and slowly disappearing from audiences. If we are to keep this treasure alive with our youth (who are rarely exposed to America’s very own music), a massive effort must be made in which everyone interested in our cultural life should be involved.

Since the 1940’s, I have been a fan, a performer, and a jazz club owner. Now retired, I have been a founder and active in the renowned Sedona Jazz on the Rocks Festival since I arrived in Arizona 27 years ago. Over the years our festival has become internationally known and has developed a wonderful and successful list of youth oriented, educational programs designated as Jazz for the Next Generation. Other jazz organizations, as well, have been accomplishing similar activities, but the funding is rapidly evaporating.

This is not just a matter of entertainment. This is a matter of a coveted, original American art form being neglected and erased from sound and view.

I am contacting a vast network of jazz supporters to see if some kind of a campaign can be mounted to prevent the loss of this valuable heritage. If we are to make this happen, we need people to drive it. Who can you suggest to help us support this initiative?

All through recorded history, whole civilizations have been measured by their arts and culture. Thank you so much for reading this and let me know your reaction. Let’s keep swingin’!

–Marion Herrman
The author can be reached at
or P.O. Box 589, Sedona, AZ 86339, or (928) 282-6420.

Bob Ayers, we’ll miss you

Though it is hard on many levels to describe a dear departed friend, I find myself returning to one word to describe Bob Ayers: honesty.

Many years ago I agreed to take a job in the pit of a Broadway show. I had only one condition; that the instruments I had to use were to be rented from Ayer’s. After a lengthy battle on the phone with the contractor who wanted to rent the instruments from another company, I won out. I went down to Ayer’s to pick out the instruments and by the time I had arrived, Bob was on the phone with that same contractor. All that I got to hear Bob say was, “I do not do kickbacks,” and then Bob hung up. That single remark made my chest swell. There was a man of honesty, integrity and scruples.

Bob and his entire family always treated me and my family with the utmost care and respect. As a young man, my son Abott worked at Ayers’ Percussion Studio and helped to build the rehearsal room that I used hundreds of times over the years.

Bob was a fine timpanist and had an excellent appreciation of all types of music. He was for musicians and music first. Bob would help many percussionists in choosing the proper instruments and give encouragement as well. It was music first, then business. In his rental company, Bob conducted his affairs on the highest level, never shortchanging anyone.

I loved Bob for that and many other wonderful things he did. There is no question in my mind that up in heaven Bob is providing the instruments for that great orchestra and he is playing the timpani.

Bob, my dear friend, I will forever miss you.

–Ian Finkel

In the early 1980’s, I was introduced to Bob Ayers by my percussion teacher (and member of Local 802), the late Richard Koff. Over our introductory dinner, Bob offered me a job maintaining and repairing the instruments for his Percussion rental business, Ayers Percussion.

Bob brought a wealth of knowledge about performing and educating to the business. He had been a member of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the American Symphony Orchestra. In fact, I believe he worked with virtually every orchestra in town at one time or another. Bob was the percussionist on numerous Broadway shows, including Pacific Overtures, Nine, Sunday in the Park With George, Grind, and Into the Woods. Over the years, while performing and running the rental shop, he also worked on contract negotiations for several orchestras in New Jersey.

Bob put as much energy into just plain living as he did into his profession. He graciously introduced me to other players and helped me build a career as a performer and inventor. But he was not all about the business; working for Bob was also playing with Bob. A typical weekend trip to deliver instruments for the New York Pops in Boston ended up with us scoring tickets to Fenway and enjoying a Red Sox game from just behind third base! He helped me get my start and received me into his home as well – I spent many nights in New Jersey and was welcomed by his family, Doreen, Glen, and Stuart.

Bob will be missed by all who met him. He was a generous and gentle man.

–Deane Prouty

Kudos to Allegro

That was a fine article in last month’s Allegro on Ralph Ellison’s record collection. Ellison’s book “Living With Music” is something I often turn to, and it was fascinating to find out more about his collection. I knew him slightly; he was very much into music. The whole issue of Allegro was first class; I don’t remember another union newspaper that’s as useful and a pleasure to read as much as this one.

–Nat Hentoff
The writer is the world-renowned jazz and music critic.