The Musicians’ Voice

Volume CX, No. 6June, 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.

Comparing contracts

Thanks to the skilled laborers of Local 32BJ, the public areas in my building are maintained and repaired, packages accepted, and the building secured.

For this, these modestly paid employees received increases of 10 percent in wages and more than 20 percent each in pension and health benefits over the next four years after threatening to strike.

I supported Local 32BJ in their fight for better working conditions, as I hope they would stand with other unions facing the same battles.

The news that a settlement was reached brought relief that these hard workers received increases which would help them catch up with the crippling rising cost of living.

My disappointment came from comparing this settlement to our current Broadway contract, in which we ended up – after a one-year media benefit extension, and modest increases in health benefits – with a paltry 3.5 percent wage increase over four years.

(Our previous president made it clear if we didn’t take it, we could have ended up with something worse!)

To pay for Local 32BJ’s increases, the cost of living will be passed on to us residents who strive, as do the porters and doormen, to make ends meet.

Will our current average yearly increase in the Broadway contract of less than 1 percent cover our steadily increasing bills? There isn’t even any cost of living increase built into the contract!

Local 32BJ workers clock very hard and long hours and were compensated with yearly salary increases (more than twice that of our most recent contract). So should we.

A decent wage increase is not a luxury, it is an absolute imperative.

I trust the current administration, who will be negotiating the next Broadway contract, will fight hard for – at least – comparable increases.

–Wayne Goodman

Remembering Joseph Cuviello

I would like to remember my father, Joseph Cuviello, who passed away on May 2 at the age of 103.

My father loved his music and it was wonderful that he was able to return to it after he retired from teaching.

After retiring in 1973, he played for almost 30 years until his last concert in 2000. Actually, he did one more gig after that. He was the soloist at my niece’s wedding in 2004. He was proud to be a member of Local 802 and he always wanted to continue to hold his card even though he was no longer playing.

He had a long life that was filled with many accomplishments.

Born in Greenwich Village, the family relocated to West New York, New Jersey in 1913. As a youth, he worked various jobs to earn money to pay for private violin lessons.

By the time he entered NYU, he was an accomplished musician, now concentrating on viola.

In the 1930’s, he played in several orchestras, and taught music in the public schools. Called to active duty in 1940, he served with the Army in Newfoundland, at home in the U.S., in England, and in Europe with the Third Army. He was separated in 1946 and retired from the reserves in 1962. His music was put on hold because of the war and later by his duties as chair of the History Department at Memorial High School.

After retirement, he returned to his love of music. He joined Local 802, was a violist with the Senior Concert Orchestra, and was deeply involved with the Senior Musicians Association. I would like to thank Local 802 for giving him this opportunity. He was appreciative to be a member of a group with such prestigious status. It gave him great enjoyment for which I thank you so much.

–Jim Cuviello

Herbert Baumel, we’ll miss you

In April of this year, I lost my oldest, dearest friend, Herbert Baumel. Ours was an 80-year friendship that started when we were 10, studying violin with Beth Lackey. We played our way to Curtis. The best memory I have of Herbie was when he was asked to play the newly-commissioned violin concerto by Samuel Barber. The concerto, deemed too difficult to play, was holding up Barber’s commission pending its “playability.” Herbie’s fast, dexterous fingers and strong, controlled bow arm showed the concerto could be played. “Sam wants it even faster,” he told me, and he worked it up to Sam’s satisfaction, solidifying the piece in the forefront of modern violin repertoire.

Herbie’s rich, melodious tone graced White House inaugural galas for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He sonorous tones accompanied performers Dame Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev, music icons Edith Piaf, and Arthur Rubenstein and Tallulah Bankhead.

My son experienced Herbie as a wonderful teacher and to this day my son, though not a violinist, has a good position and plays in tune. Herbie excelled at arranging diverse musical genres: classical, pop, country and jazz. He arranged pieces for the two of us, including rags by Scott Joplin, for a program called “Fiddlers Two.” He was awarded a Fulbright grant twice and studied with famed violinist Nathan Milstein in Rome. I remember when he brought a prized Tecchler violin (1712), which I believe he used for solos for “Fiddler on the Roof.”

The last time I saw Herbie was last fall in Memorial Sloan Kettering, where he was battling cancerous brain tumors. I asked him if he recognized me and he said “Sure I do – you’re Benny Altman!” It was a wonderful visit, recounting our rich, full lives as musicians. I will miss him dearly.

–Benjamin Altman
Judge Altman, 91, lives in Manhattan and presides in courts in Manhattan, Bronx and Queens. He can be reached at (212) 874-4399

On Israel

I am dismayed by the fact that Allegro continues to publish Mr. Siegel’s anti-Israel ramblings and continues to provide a platform for a member whose agenda promotes a radical and hostile political viewpoint.

I contend that this publication should not be the forum for these types of diatribes since they do not represent union affairs in any direct way.

Mr. Siegel’s attempts to make his point using union terminology (“picket line,” “boycott”) should not fool anyone as to his true motives.

I’ve already engaged in a political discussion with Mr. Siegel using Allegro as the venue and thought (appropriately so) that it was a practice that was to be discouraged if not totally discontinued by this publication.

I suggest that if Mr. Siegel doesn’t want to work in Israel that’s his business, but he should let me and my fellow members make up their own minds as to where we choose to work.

Israel has a vibrant music scene, has produced many stellar musicians and remains a place which welcomes and appreciates music of every type.

I totally reject the comparison to South Africa and the purported apartheid, which has no factual basis.

Additionally, Mr. Siegel and all the members should be aware that it is United States official policy under the antiboycott laws to “discourage, and in some circumstances, prohibit U.S. companies from furthering or supporting the boycott of Israel sponsored by the Arab League, and certain Moslem countries.”

–Norbert Goldberg

Local 802 President Tino Gagliardi replies: Rich Siegel’s letter, which we published in our April issue, generated some passionate replies. The Allegro Editorial Board met on April 28 and decided that we would print one representative rebuttal letter, which we have done above. We also decided to cut off debate on this topic. Finally, we have a request to our readers. We have a very long and proud tradition of printing in Allegro almost every letter – if not every single letter – we receive. We do not want to start picking and choosing which letters to print, although that is certainly our right if we choose to do so. We ask that you please think of your fellow members when you submit a letter. Use common sense and keep the topic relevant. As usual, give us your feedback at