Now is the right time to become an American Federation of Musicians member. From ragtime to rap, from the early phonograph to today's digital recordings, the AFM has been there for its members. And now there are more benefits available to AFM members than ever before, including a multi-million dollar pension fund, excellent contract protection, instrument and travelers insurance, work referral programs and access to licensed booking agents to keep you working.

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The AFM has a proud history of managing change rather than being victimized by it. We find strength in adversity, and when the going gets tough, we get creative - all on your behalf.

Like the industry, the AFM is also changing and evolving, and its policies and programs will move in new directions dictated by its members. As a member, you will determine these directions through your interest and involvement. Your membership card will be your key to participation in governing your union, keeping it responsive to your needs and enabling it to serve you better. To become a member now, visit


Home » Officer Columns » Building Unity – It’s About What We Can Do Together

Building Unity – It’s About What We Can Do Together

  -  AFM International President

I’ll begin my final column (#156 of 156) by congratulating President-elect Tino Gagliardi, Secretary-Treasurer-elect Ken Shirk and the incoming executive committee on their election as your new AFM International Executive Board at the 102nd AFM Convention in Las Vegas. You inspired them to make the decision to run, and they did so because they believe in what our union can be. They believe, as I do, that by working together we can be one grand organization, reaching our potential and building a better union.

Your new leadership team will be busy in the months and years ahead, charting a course for the future, where things are never easy. They will set their priorities and make hard choices. And although hard work and new leadership will bring about new energy to help set a constructive path in a new direction for the Federation, those things alone will not get us where we want to go. Everyone must be involved. Each of us, in our own locals, will have to accept responsibility for positive forward motion, demanding fairness from our employers, demanding our fair share in a new digital age, helping to organize and strengthen our membership, and sharing some measure of sacrifice.

Let’s hope that the 102nd Convention came together to elect leaders who possess the ethics and integrity of honest leadership, who have a strong belief in diverse opinions and a disposition toward openness, who will demonstrate those qualities through their actions, and who can withstand close scrutiny. Such leadership transcends time and circumstance.

Since the founding of the Federation 127 years ago, our leadership has struggled to overcome the forces of internal disunity. When I was elected as your president 13 years ago, I promised to end the fighting within, and I did. I believe the 98th Convention in 2010 and subsequent ones, including the just concluded 102nd Convention, understood the terrible cost of unresolved internal conflict and the fact that conflict itself represents a large reducible cost. Conflict resolution saves more money than can be raised through any finance recommendation or dues increase.

Let’s believe that our new leadership will put the union first. That means protecting the Federation itself, rather than favoring the interests of a smaller part of the union, at the expense of the institution as a whole. Leaders who see the well-being of the union as critically important to their own interests will move the union forward. A unified organization that better able to improve members lives is the result every leader should aim for. It was certainly enough for me.

I believe the 102nd Convention came together to elect leaders that fully embrace the concept of unity. Working alone, individually, or as separate smaller groups, the union cannot succeed. Divided, we are bound to fail. By competing with each other, we undermine our union, our locals, and our members. Every minute of disunity is one minute closer to our destruction. But beneath our differences in instrumentation, style, locality, conference status, country, venue, and station, we are all musicians. Only in unity will we ever find the strength we need.

My decades of service to our cause was never about me. It was always about us. It was about what we could do together. It was to promote unity. It was to reclaim the meaning of unionism and rebuild and restore a sense of common purpose. It was about realizing that few obstacles can withstand the power of our music, or tens of thousands of musicians standing together, calling for fair and just conditions of employment.

That is our purpose, and that is why I sought election in 2010 as International President of the American Federation of Musicians. It wasn’t just to hold the office, but to gather our membership together to build strength in unity. Please support your new leaders and encourage them in this cause. Together, we can see the unlimited potential that has always stretched before us. If we believe that the time is always right to put away our differences and come together to defeat those who profit unjustly from our exploitation, then let’s all go about the important work of building unity within and wherever groups are gathered and music is performed.

Thank you for the gift of a lifetime for electing me to serve. Of the hundreds of friends and colleagues who supported me in this journey, I’d like to recognize and thank Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, International Vice-President Bruce Fife, In-house Counsel Jennifer Garner, Former EMSD Director Pat Varriale, Legislative-Political-Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard, Former Presidents Victor W. Fuentealba and Mark Tully Massagli, Executive Board Member Emeritus Vince Trombetta, President-Elect Tino Gagliardi, Secretary-Treasurer-Elect Ken Shirk, Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus Sam Folio, Former Local 72-147 Ken Krause, Former Local 433 President Randy McCall, and all those who came before us who helped bring us together to build a better union.

And please never forget, in unity there is strength.

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