‘Why we joined the union’

Volume 117, No. 5May, 2017

Raphael Torn

I joined Local 802 because I’m a strong believer in the power of collective bargaining. The union provides wages and benefits that would not otherwise be available to working people. By being a part of Local 802, I join ranks with some of the most hard-working and skilled musicians on the planet. What an honor to be part of this very elite and talented group! New York City offers unparalleled diversity in performing opportunities and such a vast pool of high-level musicians. I am so grateful and excited to be a part of it. On any given night I might be subbing on a Broadway show, playing a salsa gig, accompanying a dance recital, playing a staged reading of a new show, doing a church gig or playing with a flamenco artist. Only in New York! I just got back from nine months in Shanghai where I played one of the percussion chairs in the Mandarin production of “The Lion King.” Discovering China was incredible, as was introducing Chinese audiences to musical theatre (which is new to most Chinese people). This type of travel and cultural exchange is a dream come true for me. For me, the great and constant challenge is to make a living playing music while retaining the sense of magic that made me choose this path in the first place. Whenever possible. I try to play music that is uplifting and spiritual and that has the potential to inspire people to be their best selves and bring communities together. My principal instrument is percussion.