Jazz is truly one of America’s gifts to world music. Many Local 802 members are jazz musicians and jazz is a critical part of the history of both Local 802 and New York City. Congress has even declared jazz to be a national treasure. In 2002, the Smithsonian designated the month of April as Jazz Appreciation Month. This issue of Allegro features an interview with saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin, a rising star in jazz as well as an interview with master drummer and educator Bernard “Pretty” Purdie. We also have a report from New Orleans, the cradle of jazz and a very interesting story on jazz pianist and saxophonist Billy Tipton, who was born a woman but passed for most of her professional life as a man. And don’t forget to check out www.JusticeForJazzArtists.org for the latest updates from our own jazz campaign.
GETTING OUR MESSAGE OUT
Executive Board Member Sara Cutler and I recently had the honor and privilege of being interviewed by Errol Louis for the NY1 show “Road to City Hall.” It was a terrific way to get exposure for Local 802 and to get our message of live music out to the public. It is gratifying to know that the local media are paying attention to both our Save Live Music on Broadway campaign and our Justice for Jazz Artists campaign.
As part of the interview, we also brought up the unfortunate use of recorded music to accompany ballet performances at Lincoln Center. Here, both Sara and I were able to talk about the absolute deficiency of ballet when it’s accompanied by recorded music and how our audiences are being cheated by these types of productions.
We also touched on the legislation that Local 802 sponsored in 2005 to offer jazz clubs tax relief on admission fees collected from customers. The idea was that the money that would have gone to the state would now go to the musicians by way of pension contributions on their behalf. Unfortunately the bill contained no mandate and there was no way to enforce the concept. Although the initiative was supposed to be a collaborative one between Local 802 and the clubs, to date no club has agreed to offer pension contributions to musicians.
The interview flew by and there was so much more Sara and I wanted to share with Mr. Louis. Local 802 is truly on the forefront of a multitude of issues that have both local and international importance for AFM musicians. I am hoping that this is merely one step in what will continue to be an ongoing media campaign in order to get our message out, bringing all these issues to the music lovers that are our audiences.
INTERVIEW WITH BILL DE BLASIO
Please read the interview with New York City Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, conducted by my assistant K.C. Boyle. Look for additional interviews with other political leaders and other mayoral candidates in issues to come.
ON THE ROAD
I recently met with Senator Charles Schumer’s chief of staff in Washington, D.C. along with AFM President Ray Hair and AFM lobbyist Hal Ponder. We spoke about tax credits for movie studios. At issue is federal tax credit for motion picture production and how it would benefit all AFM musicians in this country if the federal tax legislation more closely mirrored the tax incentive adopted by the New York State legislature. The good news is that we learned that the federal tax credit includes such post-production activities as music scoring. What is needed is a better way to ensure that movie producers do post-production work here at home. After all, it is our tax dollars that are going to companies. Why should our taxes go to pay musicians in the Czech Republic to do scoring for a film that is intended to be released into the American marketplace? On a related note, Local 802 just joined the New York Post-Production Alliance (see www.PostNewYork.org), which also hopes to increase work for artists through tax credits for employers.
Another trip I recently took was to attend the Western Conference of AFM Locals in Portland. It was an invigorating experience with an excellent presentation by the AFM’s new director of organizing, Paul Frank. Paul has worked at Local 802 and the AFM and we welcome him back to the fold. Organizing is an integral component of the current AFM’s plan for the future and I am looking forward to working personally with Paul for a stronger AFM. On page 8, Recording Vice President John O’Connor, who also attended the conference, reports on some of the AFM’s new initiatives in organizing.
I recently reported to the Executive Board about the concept of Broadway music supervisors working outside the U.S. and putting their work under union contract. Music supervisors who get called to work outside the country should call my office directly at (212) 245-4802 to consult with us about this. It is a complicated issue. For the large part, these are companies that have American counterparts with which we already have agreements. It will take some creative thinking to figure out a way to establish a uniform system for foreign employers to contribute towards musicians’ benefits, especially healthcare. I am confident, however, that we can attain this if the employers are willing to work with the union.
Closer to home, musicians achieved a union contract for a show called “Bunty Berman Presents.” Remember, any time you are called to play musical theatre of any kind (including workshops, readings or full productions), call our Theatre Department at (212) 245-4802. We have a great track record in getting you the wages and benefits you deserve while protecting your identity and your job.
ARTS ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK?
Our friends at Americans for the Arts report that the current budget sequester showdown means cuts of about $7 million each for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, a cut of $12 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and a cut of $22 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
You know, it’s easy to say, “A pox on both your houses,” and blame Congress in general for not coming up with a deal. But it always seems that it’s the Republicans who want to cut, cut, cut – and the arts are often first in line. A recession cannot be ended with budget cuts. Growth can only be achieved through spending and investment.
National Arts Advocacy Day is on April 9. For information on how you can advocate for the arts, contact my assistant K.C. Boyle at Kboyle@Local802afm.org or (212) 245-4802, ext. 176. Also, see www.AmericansForTheArts.org.
Thanks to Local 802 member Stuart Tresser for donating to us a framed photo of the Dave Brubeck Quartet. We plan to hang the picture in our club room. As most of you know, Dave Brubeck passed away last Dec. 5, 2012 at the age of 91. He was a member of AFM Local 6 (San Francisco) and Local 189 (Stockton, Calif.).
Another brilliant pianist, Van Cliburn, was not a member of Local 802, but I’d like to acknowledge his passing on Feb. 27 at the age 78. Van Cliburn won worldwide recognition in 1958 at the age of 23, when he won the first International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow at the height of the Cold War.