As 2017 comes to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on Local 802’s accomplishments and challenges this past year. To begin our look back, let’s remember us at our best. Many of you came together with Local 802 on Jan. 21 in the Women’s March on NYC. Perhaps everyone had different reasons for marching, but there was a sense of common unity that brought us all together. It was the idea that our freedom, our rights, our values and our dignity are all worth marching for and fighting for. It brought out the best in all of us, and I was glad the Local 802 had such a strong contingent. The union movement taught us long ago that the people united can never be defeated, and we can apply that lesson now when our country needs us the most.
On a related note, in 2017 we initiated a conversation about our own gender demographics here at Local 802 in the hopes of starting to strategize how we can achieve a more equal balance between our male and female membership, as well as increase diversity in all ways. As it stands, about 25 percent of our members are women and 75 percent are men. This basic equation has stayed about the same for more than 10 years. We must continue to examine gender and racial disparity in our union and what approaches we might take to achieve better equality. Nothing could be more important as we seek to diversify our union. One of the recommendations we published is that it’s time to revive a Local 802 Women’s Caucus and Diversity Committee.
During 2017, Allegro published tributes to Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Jazz History Month, Earth Day, Pride Month and National Hispanic Heritage Month. Also in 2017, we welcomed Alvester Garnett and Wende Namkung as our newest members of the Executive Board.
In 2017, the world dealt with some serious challenges. In August, neo-Nazis and white supremacists marched on Charlottesville, Virginia. As everyone knows, the chaos resulted in three deaths. Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, released a statement that said, in part: “This racism and bigotry is the worst kind of evil in our world and does not represent the true values of America.” When President Trumka’s statement came out, I endorsed it, and I reaffirmed that Local 802 is part of a larger movement that fights for justice and tolerance. Luckily, I know in my heart that a vast majority of Americans want to live in peace with each other. And I know that the spirit of humanity and community will prevail in this country. Let’s all do our part to add love to the world with our music and our political courage.
In 2017, we also dealt with natural catastrophes, including the hurricanes that hit Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and elsewhere. Many people lost their homes and livelihoods. The AFM’s Hurricane Relief Fund is still active and I encourage everyone to donate what they can. The link is at www.afm.org on the front page. See Local 802 Theatre Rep Marlena Fitzpatrick-Garcia’s update on the situation in Puerto Rico, including photos from her personal mission there. Local 802 members have donated almost $2,000 so far to help the people of Puerto Rico.
In happier news, in 2017 the Times Square Alliance celebrated the opening of new pedestrian plazas in Times Square. These plazas featured live Local 802 musicians (paid under a union contract) performing outdoors and free of charge to the public. Musicians earned a total of $11,000 in wages as part of this program.
In 2017, we announced the development of our new referral site at NewYorkMusicians.com. We’ll be using the site to let our members market themselves to people who want to hire musicians. Every gig booked through this site will be done via a union contract. You can read more about this fantastic new project – including how to apply – in this issue.
In 2017, we are also announcing the debut of our Emerging Artists Project, which will give a $40,000 grant over four years to new ensembles. (Yes, you read that right. Local 802 will be giving out giant grants to musicians!) See Sara Cutler’s story for details.
On the national political level, in 2017 arts advocates succeeded in staving off the Trump administration’s threat to defund the NEA and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting – for the moment. We also opposed Trump’s proposed travel ban and his threat to eliminate the DACA program. Obamacare was saved for now. Locally, we celebrated the defeat of the New York Constitutional Convention as well as the elimination of the NYC Cabaret Law. We also welcomed the establishment of an NYC Office of Nightlife and the unveiling of the NYC Cultural Plan. We cheered our many endorsed candidates who won their races for office.
In 2017, we achieved many new contracts for musicians. The list is too long to mention here, but a few examples are the Off Broadway productions of “Love for Sale,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Beast of the Jungle,” “The View Upstairs” “Girl Behind the Curtain” and “All Aboard.” We also won contracts covering musicians at the York Theatre Company and at the Gateway/Patchogue Theatre. As always, Local 802 has an excellent track record in helping musicians earn the wages and benefits they deserve.
In 2017, we celebrated our members who won a Grammy, including Steve Reich, Ted Nash, Yo-Yo Ma, John Scofield, Bob Dylan and the Broadway musicians who played on the cast album of “The Color Purple.” We also celebrated all Local 802 members who won Tony Awards this year, including Justin Paul, Alex Lacamoire, and the musicians of “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Hello, Dolly.” Finally, let’s give a special shout-out to Local 802 member Joanne Brackeen, who was designated an NEA Jazz Master this year. Congrats!
In 2017, MET Orchestra Musicians used music to engage and support our communities. We documented some of these projects, which included a concert of “Peter and the Wolf” to benefit an innovative group called Our Children’s Trust, a performance at Harlem’s PS 185 to celebrate “Everybody Reads Week,” a show at the Fort Washington branch of the New York Public Library, and performances at two V.A. hospitals.
In 2017, the Broadway Theatre Committee and Broadway musicians continued to update their own web site – www.BroadwayMusicians.com – to give greater visibility to the musicians who power live musical theatre. We said congratulations to newly-elected Broadway Theatre Committee chair Jan Mullen and vice-chair Chris Reza, and we gave our appreciation to outgoing chair Wally Usiatynski. Broadway woodwind player Greg Thymius published a powerful essay in these pages about how musical outreach is all of our jobs, all of the time. Finally, Local 802 launched a Broadway Internal Organizing Initiative, designed to foster better communication between the union and the Broadway community.
In 2017, we interviewed in Allegro many prominent members, including Regina Carter, Pedro Díaz, Marin Alsop, David Wolfert, Jack DeJohnette, Mindy Kaufman, Nina Stern, Ray Chew, Rebecca Young, and Fred Staton (who recently passed away; see Reminiscences). In this issue, see our interview with world-famous pianist and Local 802 member Ahmad Jamal.
In 2017, we said our final goodbyes to Muhal Richard Abrams, John Berry, Rick Northcutt, Rick Centalonza, Barry Levitt, David Spier, Grady Tate, Brian Delma Taylor, John Thorp, Vincent LaSelva, John Abercrombie, Emil Botti, Larry Elgart, Danny Holgate, Cathy Grimaldi, Mike Hodge, Isabelle Daskoff Samuels, Charles Davis, Jeffrey Lerner, Mickey Roker, Patricia Rudoff, Charles Small, Geri Allen, William Brohn, Bob Cunningham, Alvin Fossner, David Frost, Frank Levy, Donald Payne, Dolph Traymon, Jim Czak, Laura Flax, Joanne Amici Richmond, Bob Kindred, Paul Gati, Al Stewart, Rogelio Terán, Larry Abel, Bernard Karl, William Gunther Sprecher, Neil Warner, Eddie Caine, Barbara Carroll, Larry Coryell, Bill Dunmore, Walter Hautzig, Randy Jones, Rudy Lawless, Michael McGovern, Henry Mattathias Pearson, Edward Stroh, and many others
In 2017, we hosted several Jazz Mentors programs, bringing the current total to 12 in this incredible series, with #13 on the way. We also hosted educational clinics produced by the Council for Living Music.
In 2017, I attended the International Orchestra Conference, sponsored by the International Federation of Musicians. The conference was held in Montreal and was the first time an AFM local hosted the conference. The goal was to bring together classical ensembles from around the world to discuss mutual concerns, like how classical ensembles can thrive in today’s world, how orchestras can use digital technology to reach new audiences, and how unions can best protect classical musicians’ interests. In 2017, I also attended meetings of the British Musicians Union, ROPA, TMA, the Canadian Conference of Musicians, and several regional AFM conferences.
In 2017, the Broadway League reported that the most recent season was the highest-grossing in Broadway history, with grosses topping $1 billion. Attendance topped 13 million for the third season in a row, and attendance is up 14.7 percent from four seasons ago. It was also the second-best attended season on record. During the season, 20 musicals opened, which included 13 originals, six revivals and one return engagement.
In 2017, Local 802 gave our support to Broadway casting directors who are trying to form a union with Teamsters Local 817.
In 2017, I was awarded a Broadway Beacon Award by Inside Broadway. These awards are presented annually to leaders who help increase the audience for live theatre and who understand the importance of arts and education in the lives of New York City’s young people.
Also in 2017, I was a recipient of a corporate social responsibility award by City & State New York for my work in the labor sector.
In 2017, Local 802 marked the 50th year that our Emergency Relief Fund has been granting financial assistance to musicians who are down on their luck. To celebrate this auspicious occasion, we are setting a fundraising goal of $150,000. Only through your generosity can we help musicians who are struggling with homelessness, addiction, major health calamities or family crises. Please remember that the Emergency Relief Fund is a nonprofit organization that operates solely with the help of your donations. (The fund is not supported by the Local 802 General Fund.) To make a donation now, go to www.local802erf.org. In the meantime, we continue to present a monthly show called “Jazz in the Afternoon” featuring the best talent of our membership. Donations are accepted at the door. The next show is on Dec. 14 and features the Greg Ruvolo Big Band Collective.
In 2017, our journal Allegro won first place in the country for general excellence in our circulation class, as judged by the International Labor Communications Association. Allegro also won first place in NYC by the Metropolitan NY Labor Communications Council.
In 2017, Local 802 launched its new Instagram feed. Check us out at www.instagram.com/musicians_of_ny and see our series called “Musicians of New York.”
So that’s the year in review. Local 802 accomplished quite a bit for our members. As far as our ongoing challenges, the situation with the AFM pension fund continues to be the most pressing problem on the union’s table. We are doing everything we can to keep members informed. As usual, for the latest updates see www.afm-epf.org
In regard to Local 802’s own finances, I am happy to report that the union continued to remain confidentially stable in 2017. In this issue of Allegro, you can read reports by Financial Vice President Tom Olcott and Cathy Camiolo about the current state of Local 802’s finances.
Lastly, as I finish this review of 2017, I would be remiss if I didn’t honor the memory of my wife Yukiko, who died at the beginning of this year, on Jan. 12, after a long and arduous battle with cancer. I’m grateful for everyone’s support this year as I continue to grieve her loss. Yukiko and I were married for 27 years and I still think about her every day.
Have a safe and happy New Year, and I’ll see you in these pages again in 2018.