I am pleased to be able to begin this report with some good news. The New York City Opera is alive again! After over two years in limbo, the company has new owners. A bankruptcy court has approved the group known as NYCO Renaissance (which includes Roy G. Niederhoffer and Michael Capasso) to take over the reins. NYCO’s first production in its new form – which was Puccini’s “Tosca” – took place in late January at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theatre at Columbus Circle. We will have photos in the next issue of Allegro. I would like to offer my congratulations to the NYCO musicians, who have put up with so much uncertainty over the past two years. The other winners are the people of New York City, who will once again be treated to the sounds of the “people’s opera.” NYCO still owes some back money to the musicians and to the AFM pension fund, among other creditors. We’ll keep you posted on how this plays out. Also, the orchestra will have to ratify its terms with the new NYCO management; we have a term sheet that we’re finalizing now. In the meantime, the company’s musicians are enjoying this moment. “We’re thrilled,” said Gail Kruvand, the NYCO musicians’ committee chair, who was quoted in the New York Times. “We’re looking forward to a long future with New York City Opera.”
Some more good news: we have reached a deal with Lincoln Center for its American Songbook series. For a long time, we’ve had a policy that musicians who perform in what we call our major halls (including Lincoln Center) must be paid in accordance with our standards. Our talks with Lincoln Center took longer than we had expected and, last fall, the Local 802 Executive Board issued a directive that no Local 802 member should play for American Songbook until the situation was resolved. We have now announced that this restriction is officially over and we are pleased that musicians who play in American Songbook will be paid the area standards contained in the Local 802 Club Date Agreement. It gratifies me that the union was able to use its clout and influence to resolve this situation. Please remember that if you’re ever called to play in our major halls and you’re not being paid according to area standards, you should call the union immediately at (212) 245-4802. You can ask for my office and we’ll refer you to the proper department. Here is a list of what we consider our major halls (this list is not exhaustive): Lincoln Center (all venues), Carnegie Hall, Apollo Theatre, Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, Barclays Center, Beacon Theatre, Jones Beach, Nassau Coliseum, Shea Stadium/Citi Field, Tilles Center, The Paramount, Westbury Music Fair, Yankee Stadium, Tribeca Roof Top, Symphony Space, Town Hall, 92nd Street Y, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn College, City Center, Colden Center, Hunter College, Manhattan Center, Merkin Hall and the Plaza Hotel.
In December, I was in Tokyo for a meeting of the International Federation of Musicians, hosted by the Musicians’ Union of Japan. We discussed, among other things, fair payment to musicians when their tracks are streamed on the Internet. Though the attendance was lighter than last year’s meeting in Budapest, there was still a valuable exchange of information. Leading the discussion was our very own International President Ray Hair who described the mechanisms in the United States for the remuneration to musicians for non-interactive digital download, something the other countries currently do not have. Money is distributed to musicians through our collective management organizations: SoundExchange for featured artists and the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Fund for session musicians. Though musicians in the United States do not enjoy a performance right for terrestrial broadcast (AM/FM radio), we do enjoy a right in the digital domain.
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
- February is Black History Month and we’re pleased to present a history of race relations within Local 802 written by our member Randy Sandke. Randy researched old issues of Allegro going back to the 1930s and discovered that Local 802’s attitude and actions back then were progressive and perhaps more enlightened than those of some other musicians’ locals. It’s a fascinating story. We’re also honored to publish original line art drawings from some of the icons of jazz history as drawn by prominent music artist Mort Kuff. Mort also gives us his reminiscences of seeing Duke Ellington perform in person.
- Our member interview this month is with noted bass player, composer and musical director Al Carty, who has played with Alicia Keyes, Queen Latifah and many others.
- As musicians, we put a lot of strain on our bodies. We recently asked our members for their stories about preventing and fixing injuries. The anecdotes that came back were incredible.
- Harvey Mars analyzes how we recently helped defeat a New York state bill that would have stripped artists of their status as employees and taken away important workplace protections. Many unions worked on this project. I issued a joint statement with Kate Shindle, president of Equity; James J. Claffey, president of Local 1 IATSE and Thomas J. O’Donnell, president of Theatrical Teamsters Local 817 thanking Gov. Cuomo for vetoing the bill. Together we said, “On behalf of tens of thousands of workers in our state’s entertainment industry, who make New York’s legendary arts scene come alive, we are grateful to Gov. Cuomo for protecting our state’s performing artists. By vetoing this harmful legislation, Gov. Cuomo has ensured that these talented and hardworking performing artists continue to be considered employees with all the protections that employee status confers. We will continue to work with the governor to ensure that our performing artists receive these protections under state law into the future.” This is another story demonstrating the power of Local 802 and the union community.
- Our media supervisor Steve Danenberg recently reported to me that more and more recordings are taking place in NYC, which is excellent news for all of us. As larger movies want to score here, we need to make sure that large recording venues continue to exist. Up until now, the only venues that could record the largest ensembles were Manhattan Center and Avatar. But now, the DiMenna Center is hosting a new recording company.
- Local 802 member Claire Bryant has contributed a fascinating and touching story about performing music in prison. To contribute a personal essay to Allegro, e-mail Allegro@Local802afm.org.
SOCIAL WORKER CHANGE
I need to let members know that Local 802 will no longer be hosting an in-house social worker and will be ending our in-house Musicians’ Assistance Program. Our previous social worker, Siena Shundi, left in December to start a new family and to resume her private practice career. The Musicians’ Assistance Program had been funded entirely by our Emergency Relief Fund. We need to keep enough money in the ERF to assist musicians in need, and at this time we can’t continue to do this while also paying for an in-house social worker program. Luckily, all services formerly provided by MAP are still available to our members for free by the Actors Fund, which is open to all entertainment professionals, including members of Local 802. The Actors Fund offers counseling – both one-on-one and in groups – as well as information on all kinds of social services, including health insurance, housing, substance abuse, financial counseling, food stamps and more. Call the Actors Fund at (212) 221-7300, ext. 119 or visit ActorsFund.org. I regret that Local 802 can no longer provide these services in house, but this is the best long-term solution for the Emergency Relief Fund. On another note, the monthly MAP column will no longer be a part of Allegro. However, the Actors Fund will contribute occasional columns; see the first installment in this new series.
We lost three notable figures in the arts world recently. First of all, we said goodbye to Alan Gordon, the national executive director of the American Guild of Musical Artists, who died on Jan. 1 at the age of 70. Alan was one of NYC’s strongest voices for labor, the arts and the rights of working artists, and we were honored to have worked with him for many years. On the AGMA web site, the tribute to Alan noted that he was “a strong and dedicated visionary – fearless and unrelenting in protecting the rights of union members” and that he “set the highest standard for effective union representation, and we have all benefitted immensely from his leadership.” We also lost the legendary Kurt Masur (who died on Dec. 19 at the age of 88) and Pierre Boulez (who died on Jan. 5 at the age of 90). Both were former music directors of the New York Philharmonic. We’re still compiling reminiscences from members as Local 802 went to press, and we’ll publish them in the next issue.
INTRODUCING CHRISTOPHER CARROLL
I’m pleased to report that Christopher Carroll is new our new political and public relations director. Christopher succeeds Maya Kremen, who left Local 802 last year. Since graduating from Bard College with a bachelor’s degree in political studies and from the Bard Conservatory of Music with a bachelor’s degree in music performance, Christopher has worked at the United Nations, on political campaigns and for Mayor de Blasio’s administration. Since 2014, he has worked at the New York City Economic Development Corporation, serving as a public affairs associate responsible for developing messaging and external communications for the agency. The son of a professional trumpet player, Christopher’s deep roots in the music community go beyond his study at the Bard Conservatory of Music, and his passion for the arts has been cultivated from a young age. His interest and experience in New York City politics and government, as well as his passion for supporting the arts and musicians in New York City, make him well suited to join the team at Local 802.
UNION NEWS ROUNDUP
Our negotiations with the League for our new Broadway contract begin next month, and we’re currently meeting with our own Theatre Committee to develop proposals and strategies. For more information, call the Theatre Department at (212) 245-4802.
I am assisting the AFM in negotiating the new National Public Television contract, which covers musicians when they play on public TV. On a related note, the AFM – with the help of Local 802 – has reached an agreement covering the musicians working on “Sesame Street.” The agreement provides an acceptable residual arrangement for HBO that is tied to the National Public Television standards, which is the first of its kind for the AFM.
I have also been helping the AFM to negotiate the latest version of the Sound Labor Recording Agreement, which is the AFM’s flagship contract covering musicians who play on albums and recording projects. Because of the breadth and depth of management’s proposals, and the information we need to gather from the record companies in order to even address the proposals, it is going to take a very long time to reach an agreement. I want to thank Steve Danenberg and John Painting in the Local 802 Electronic Media Department for their help in deciphering the huge amount of data that needs to be processed.