The Musicians’ Voice

Volume 111, No. 3March, 2011

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. Letters must be no more than 300 words.

Thank you from musicians in Detroit on strike

On behalf of all of the musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, we send our heartfelt thanks for your generous gift of support. We are so appreciative, and as this struggle continues into the new year, your gift reminds us that we are not forgotten and truly not in this alone. Please continue to visit our Web site for constant updates: www.Detroit And we encourage you to post comments on the many blogs circulating on the Web. Your support means the world to us! Best wishes for a wonderful season of music making in 2011!

Sharon Sparrow and the musicians
of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

The strength of the union

As a longtime member of the orchestra of the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players, I have been witness to the organization’s progression from a shaky $25 per service gig in the 1980’s (if I recall correctly – it may well have been less) to one with a negotiated union contract which I have never taken for granted. I recently was reminded of the value of this contract, the orchestra members’ committee and the union. The management violated terms of this contract which required NYGASP to employ its contracted musicians for all performances within runout distance when, last summer, NYGASP performed in eastern Pennsylvania with an unpaid pit orchestra, imported from overseas. I was not even aware that this had happened at the time and I doubt that many of the other members of the orchestra were either. In spite of this, the orchestra committee and 802 vigorously pursued this case, as a result, the contracted orchestra members have received checks from the NYGASP management, partially making up for the lost engagement.

During the 40 years since I joined the union, I’ve done my share of complaining about its priorities and activities, so I feel compelled to also speak out when I feel that it has done something right. Thanks to the NYGASP committee and to 802 for having their eyes and ears open and for acting effectively when this blatant contract violation occurred. Given my experiences working both under and outside of AFM’s jurisdiction (as a student and professionally on tour outside the country), I have no illusions about how much worse the exploitation of professional musicians would be without the strength of the union behind them.

Peter Hirsch

Making history

Thanks to Gabriel Banat for his essay “Making History” in the February issue of Allegro since in it a major error in John Canarina’s book on the New York Philharmonic was corrected. As a participant in the tour of Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands which the players undertook on their own initiative during the ten-week long strike in the fall of 1973, I would like to confirm that it was Gabriel Banat who initiated and managed the tour in its entirety.

L. William Kuyper
The writer played French horn in the
New York Philharmonic from 1969 to 2007.

I have enjoyed reading John Canarina’s excellent book on the New York Philharmonic. I am quite proud of our orchestra, and of my small part in 40 years of its history, which I continue now as Young Composers Advocate.

I also enjoyed reading Mr. Canarina’s account of a most singular experience in the history of the Philharmonic: the “Strike Tour” of 1973 to Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands. I was on the negotiating committee of that year, and the stories I could tell you about the tour!

But my main point of writing is to say that a serious omission has occurred in Mr. Canarina’s retelling of the tale.

While I do not wish to take away anything from my friend John Schaeffer, who helped out ably during the tour, as did many of us, the driving force and the leadership of that whole event we owe to Gabriel Banat, violinist in the orchestra, who masterminded the concept, the negotiations, and the overall logistics of it from A to Z. I cannot express what an inspiration he was to us during that time. No one would have believed it possible to arrange such a task under extremely adverse conditions. To say he helped us instill a new sense of pride and ownership of our great institution is an understatement. In the following years, it would not be wrong to suggest that the new sense of partnership between the New York Philharmonic and its management and administration may partly have been a result of Mr Banat’s leadership, and our willingness to take on and appreciate the role of managing an arts institution as well as performing for it.

I don’t think that that spirit has ever truly left the orchestra to this day.

Jon Deak
The writer joined the New York Philharmonic
in 1969 and was its associate principal bassist
for many years. He now represents the Philharmonic
as its young composer advocate.

I was a member of the Orchestra Committee when the musicians of the New York Philharmonic undertook a tour of Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands. It was an unprecedented event during a ten-week strike in the fall of 1973. In his book “The New York Philharmonic: From Bernstein to Maazel,” the author, John Canarina wrote that “most of the arrangements and logistics of the tour” were handled by John Schaeffer, who was then assistant personnel manager of the New York Philharmonic. This is factually incorrect, for it was Gabriel Banat who actually initiated and managed the tour from the very beginning to the very end. Mr. Banat, a violinist with the orchestra, also obtained from Isaac Stem the venue of Carnegie Hall for our benefit concert which initiated the tour. The purpose of this letter is to correct the misrepresentation of the actual events. Accolades should be directed to Gabriel Banat who had the connections, vision and fortitude that made this extraordinary occurrence in the history of the New York Philharmonic such a success.

Gino Sambuco
The writer played violin in the New York
Philharmonic from 1967 to 2003.

E: “The New York Philharmonic, from Bernstein to Maazel,” by John Canarina, (Amadeus Press, 2010). As a participant in the tour of Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands the players undertook on their own initiative during the ten week long strike in the fall of 1973, I wish to take exception to a major error in the single paragraph the author devotes to this unique event in the 173-year history of the orchestra. His claim that it was John Schaeffer, assistant personnel manager of the Philharmonic (and as such connected with the management) who did “most of the arrangements and logistics of the tour,” is untrue. It was Gabriel Banat, a violinist in the orchestra, elected chairman of our performance committee for the duration of the strike, who conceived and carried out the tour in its entirety. He was also responsible for obtaining from Isaac Stem the use of Carnegie Hall for our benefit concert before the tour on Oct. 29. As he stated on our return from Spain, our purpose in taking ourselves on tour was to prove that it is we, the musicians of the orchestra, who are The New York Philharmonic.

Orin O’Brien
The writer has played bass with the
New York Philharmonic since 1966

As a participant in the tour of Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands which we the players undertook on our own initiative during the ten week long strike in the fall of 1973, I wish to help set the record straight in regard to a major omission in the Canarina book, namely, the singular, inspired role and contribution of Gaby Banat in regard to this tour. To be accurate and fair, it should be noted in Philharmonic records, that it was Gaby Banat, violinist with the orchestra, who needs to be given credit and proper recognition for his vision and important historical role in being the creator, initiator and prime manager of this tour. This most unusual venture in the history of major orchestras left us with memories of great pride and recognition in regard to the strike period, and we have Mr. Banat to thank for that.

Stephen Freeman
The writer played bass clarinet in the
New York Philharmonic from 1960 to 2007

At the time of the strike (1973) I served on the concert committee with Gaby (Gabriel Banat). One day he came to the committee meeting telling us that his friend in Spain, who was a concert manager, offered to take the orchestra on a tour to Spain and the Canary Islands. The committee accepted it enthusiastically and gave Gaby its wholehearted support. His next task was to convince the orchestra members that this was the way to go in order to put pressure on management. The orchestra at large accepted it, and we ended up going on a great concert tour, which would not have happened without Gaby. The management wrote letters to our spouses urging them to dissuade us from going but that ploy was without success. I want to add that this tour was a source of great pride and a highlight of my 37-year tenure as a member of the New York Philharmonic.

Matitiahu Braun
The writer played violin in the New York
Philharmonic from 1969 to 2006.

For the people

I was just looking through an old issue of Allegro (May 2010) and read the article “For the People” by Sue Terry about how the federal government supported musicians through the WPA during the Great Depression. I would love to see and be part of a federal program for musicians. I spent almost 10 years traveling and studying percussion in Cuba and I am very inspired by their Casas de Cultura (cultural houses). The most famous one, La Casa de La Trova in Santiago de Cuba, employs professional music groups to perform all day long. A very small fee is charged at the door and the place is always filled with local residents and tourists. They also have a patio and bar area for the evening and a store selling CD’s and instruments. (The music system in Venezuela – called El Sistema – is another example of a federal program that is having a huge impact.) I think the Cuban model is a great concept that could be used to employ many musicians of many different genres of music. How about one in each neighborhood or borough, reflecting its cultural make-up? It would also create a space for amateur local musicians to study, rehearse and perform in various genres. It could even be expanded to include other disciplines. Members who are interested in talking about such a concept can e-mail me at

Andrea Pryor

Conroy WarrenMusic from the heart

Thanks to Allegro and Ann Wilmer for a job well done in sharing my story with the Allegro audience in the January 2011 issue “Music From the Heart.” I hope that the article will be helpful and will enlighten others of the needed and important service that musicians have been providing for many years to nursing homes and other facilities. I also hope that this story will help to create additional opportunities and venues for musicians to perform and work. Feel free to call on me again. I will be happy to assist you and Local 802 in any music-related project or events.

Conroy Warren