The Musicians’ Voice

Volume 111, No. 9September, 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.

Airline horror story has happy ending

This is a further chapter in the story of Delta Airlines’ relations with musicians. I recently flew from Kansas City to New York City after teaching at the Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp. At the check-in counter, an agent began to question me about flying with my viola and electric viola. She “encouraged” me to check one or both. I assured her that when cabled together, both instruments comfortably fit the overhead compartment of a small plane, and that I had never had any trouble before.

While I was being hassled about my instruments, another agent was busy mistagging my bag. My agent turned pale when she realized my bag had been sent down the loading conveyor with another passenger’s claim check. She explained the issue, briefly disappeared, and returned, telling me the problem was solved.

Guess what? It wasn’t. My luggage made two round trips to Ghana and spent the next week in limbo; nobody seemed able to locate the bag or return it to me. After days of frustration (which included being told that the Kansas City agent was only trying to “protect” my instruments), I decided to take action: I e-mailed the AFM and copied four high-level Delta executives.

Within hours, Delta apologized and took steps to provide adequate service and compensation. I received my luggage undamaged a few days later, was granted $875 in travel vouchers, and was reimbursed for all out-of-pocket incidental expenses incurred during the delay. While I would rather not have experienced this ordeal, I was satisfied with the end result of Delta’s efforts to make things right.

Thank you for standing up for the rights of flying musicians. The union’s constant vigilance and advocacy makes a huge difference and helps members resolve problems when they arise.

Dr. David Wallace

Hello from Vic Carlton

I’ve been a member of Local 802 since 1941 and will turn 92 on Oct. 22. I’ve played sax and clarinet and sang lead vocals with big bands, all under the name Vic Carlton. I’m also a veteran. I enjoy reading Allegro and keeping track of what’s going on. I now live in Miami and still keep up with playing a few good solos. I would love to hear from friends who remember me. Write me at Vic Carlton, 1201 NE 191st Street, Apt. 105, Bldg. G., North Miami Beach, FL 33179 or call me at (305) 944-9759.

Victor Kaplan (Vic Carlton)

50 years ago this month

This month marks 50 years since AFM President Herman Kenin wrote a letter (dated Sept. 5, 1961) to Musicians’ Guild of America President Cecil Read guaranteeing Guild members the right to return to the AFM without penalty. Kenin further pledged that future AFM National Media bargaining positions would contain proposals for royalties, leading to the creation of the Sound Recording Special Payments Fund and the Film Musicians’ Secondary Markets Fund. He also reaffirmed the affected musicians’ right to ratify those agreements.

Additionally, Kenin promised to establish the Recording Musicians’ Advisory Committee of Los Angeles with rights to submit proposals for and to attend media contract negotiations. This became a forerunner for the creation of the Recording Musicians’ Association and for the establishment of the AFM’s other Player Conferences – ICSOM, OCSM, ROPA and TMA.

Kenin was first elected at the 1958 AFM convention by delegates who had grown tired of the internal strife caused by the divisive policies of James Petrillo. In 1959, he negotiated for reuse and elimination of MPTF contributions in the jingles agreement, and established the AFM Pension Fund. Kenin’s actions in 1959 and 1961 profoundly affected every musician working under today’s local and national collective bargaining agreements.

Michael Comins
The writer is a founding member of the RMA-NY and the founding secretary of RMA International.

Unity from coast to coast

In the spring, I was contracted to hire eight musicians for a three-day film session in Boston for the upcoming feature film “Ted.” The original call stated that the production company was only going to pay a straight scale based on SAG rates with no benefits. Through the help of Bob Pawlo in Local 802’s Recording Department, AFM Local 9-535 (Boston) President Pat Hollenbeck, and Matt Allen on the West Coast, we received all future benefits of reuse, pension and health benefits. Without their assistance, this job would have been another instance where the musicians would have been underpaid and would have been left out of future income on this film. It was a team effort on all parties to make this job exactly what it should have been.

A quick thanks to Local 802 percussionist, Dave Shank, who made this job possible.

Ed Shea

Pennywhistle’s rise to fame

read with interest the article in the June issue of Allegro about pennywhistles and recorders. Bill Ochs writes that the pennywhistle became popular in the 1980’s and not because of Tommy Makem’s appearance on Ed Sullivan in the 1960’s. Well, maybe I had something to do with that. In 1985, I recorded a pennywhistle solo on the track “You Can Call Me Al,” from Paul Simon’s album “Graceland.” The album went double platinum. I think it was one of the longest instrumental solos on any pop song, aside from the fact that it was on the pennywhistle. (By the way, it was a high F whistle.) As a result of this, I got a call from James Horner to go to L.A. to play on a movie score he wrote. The main instrument for this movie was the pennywhistle in D. The movie was called “Project X” starring Helen Hunt and Mathew Broderick. After that, I played on another movie called “Batteries Not Included,” which became a blockbuster hit. This involved pennywhistle as well. I thought readers might be interested in this info, since it bears out Bill Ochs’s general statements regarding the pennywhistle’s rise to fame in the 1980’s.

Morris Goldberg

An investment in chairs?

My eyes nearly popped out when I just read in the July/August Allegro that the Executive Board has voted, nearly unanimously, to spend $1,169 each for 20 new chairs for the board room.

Am I reading this right? Are we really about to spend more than twenty-three thousand dollars for new chairs for the board?

Please tell me there is a decimal point missing somewhere.

Scott Robinson

Recording Vice President John O’Connor replies: I am sympathetic to Scott’s point of view. If I were looking at this without background, I would probably have the same first reaction. However, there was a consensus among the board that it was time to get new chairs. Our old chairs had lasted more than 20 years but were at the end of their lives. When we began pricing well-crafted, American-made chairs, we quickly got a lesson in the retail market value of such an item – and it was eye-opening. In the end, a majority of my fellow officers and I did indeed vote to purchase 20 new chairs at $1,169 each. And this price, believe it or not, was a bargain. We consider the chairs to be a capital investment, one that will last for decades. In fact, the new chairs have improved the Executive Board room so much that it was like redecorating the entire room. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that this room is where many of our most important negotiations and meetings take place.

This story originally appeared in the September 2011 issue of Allegro, the magazine of the New York City musicians’ union (AFM Local 802). For reprint requests, send an e-mail to editor Mikael Elsila at