‘Why we joined the union’

Volume 115, No. 12December, 2015

From left: Julianne B. Merrill, George Brandon, Joseph Soriano, Charleene Closshey

From left: Julianne B. Merrill, George Brandon, Joseph Soriano, Charleene Closshey

I am so excited to be a part of Local 802! Since moving to NYC seven years ago to pursue a career as a pianist/music director, I have grown immensely as an artist and overall musician. I have learned the value of taking gigs outside of my comfort zone, not only to hone new skills, but also to meet and work with amazing new collaborators along the way. I am very excited and am looking forward to meeting many more talented musicians and collaborators at Local 802. I am currently music directing the new “Junie B. Jones” musical, which I got through networking and referrals. I also recently contributed vocal arrangements, orchestrations and recorded tracks to a new musical entitled “The Queen Bees,” which is getting published in the Samuel French catalogue. My main musical goal is to become a pianist and music director for Broadway shows. I love to play, I love to conduct and I love to problem-solve and make art with other creatives. I am definitely looking for any subbing and assisting possibilities so I can learn from the best.

Julianne B. Merrill

I joined Local 802 because of networking, access to musicians and other union resources. I come from a labor union background; both my parents were factory workers in union shops. Our home was often a gathering place for organizers from the Teamsters and Steelworkers and I remember how our family once weathered a strike when I was a child. It became very clear to me how unions had benefited our family. My musical goals are fueled much more by curiosity, a sense of adventure and the need for communication than by economics or a desire for fame. Over the years I played trombone professionally, but now I am concentrating on composing, arranging and leading my own ensembles under the collective name of Blue Unity. My musical goals are to assemble a cadre of excellent jazz and new music performers who can present my musical projects and to obtain opportunities to produce and present my works. My most recent favorite gigs are a concert by my Blue Unity Orchestra at the Alchemical Theatre, conducting and narrating the premiere of “How Elegba Was Born” at the New York Open Center’s Sound and Music Institute, and the premiere of a song for solo bass baritone performed by vocalist Andrew White.

George Brandon

I joined Local 802 after I moved to New York City as a student at Mannes College. From my training with top trumpet players from the MET Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and Broadway, I heard great reviews about the benefits and services that come with being a member of Local 802. Although my ultimate goal is to play orchestral trumpet, I also enjoy organizing and performing in chamber ensembles. From my recent experience as an intern with the Gramercy Brass, I have developed a true love for performing in brass bands. My most favorite recent gig was playing assistant trumpet to Ray Riccomini in the Scheherazade Initiative. I have been fortunate to have Mr. Riccomini as my teacher. What an honor to perform with such a distinguished group of musicians! It is also rewarding to be a part of Local 802 because it is a professional organization where many of my friends are also members.

Joseph Soriano

I had the opportunity to join Local 802 after being hired at “Once,” performing with both the Broadway and national tour companies, understudying the roles of Reza and Ex-Girlfriend. I believe music is a sacred language and a means of expression that should be embraced and maintained, especially in today’s climate where art is easily overlooked. Organizations like Local 802 and the diligent efforts of its members to keep musicians working are refreshing! The acoustic violin is my principal instrument for my roles in “Once.” I also play and compose on piano. Recently, I performed on a Yamaha electric violin for the feature film “An Evergreen Christmas” after working with NYC musician Derek Wieland on the soundtrack’s opening arrangement of “O Holy Night.” To me, music is life; it’s the very essence of being. Without it, the world seems a little darker, less alive. With it, the universe opens to reveal an unending array of color, lightness and potential. A familiar tune can uplift the spirit, taking us to a place of creative wholeness. With music, we can empower ourselves, ultimately shaping our destiny. Idealized realism: that’s what music is to me.

Charleene Closshey