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.

As an AFM member, you are part of a membership of more than 80,000 musicians. Experience has proven that collective activity on behalf of individuals with similar interests is the most effective way to achieve a goal. The AFM can negotiate agreements and administer contracts, procure valuable benefits and achieve legislative goals. A single musician has no such power.

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 » Executive Board Members » Health and Safety of Musicians is Paramount for Return to Work

Health and Safety of Musicians is Paramount for Return to Work

  -  AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 161-710 (Washington, DC)

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the greatest disruption to the livelihood of performing artists in modern history. As arts organizations plan for a 2020-21 season unlike anything that could have been anticipated, of paramount importance to the AFM is the health and safety of musicians as they prepare for some semblance of a return to work. Though studies are now underway evaluating the spread of the virus via aerosols and air flows, much of the data is preliminary and it will be some time before their completion.

While an understanding of the risks of virus spread in musical performance settings remains incomplete, discussions with employers about performances scheduled for this season have begun in earnest. It is critically important that we engage with employers on this bedrock principle of unionism—workplace safety. The responsibility to negotiate these conditions lies with AFM locals and orchestra committees, but it is an issue which will affect all of us who perform and is therefore deserving of our individual attention and consideration.

AFM Theatre/Touring/Booking Division Director Tino Gagliardi provided a list of questions for pit musicians to consider in the previous issue of the IM, many of which hold up well when translated to other musical settings. The recent International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) and Theatre Musicians Association (TMA) Player Conferences have included in-depth presentations by medical experts on this subject, and I highly recommend those for review. As cautious exploration of the resumption of live performance is being considered, musicians must assess their appetite for the amount of risk involved, and ways to best reduce that risk.

In this time when the pandemic has forced performing arts organizations to throw their playbook out of the window, it is important to recognize that this situation also represents a unique opportunity to completely reimagine how artists will connect with their audiences. To do so will require creativity, vision, innovation, and flexibility as arts organizations seek to maintain a presence in their communities and fulfill their artistic missions while complying with safety standards for both performers and audiences.

It is my hope that these organizations will access their greatest resource, their artists, as they address these challenges because it is those very qualities that I mentioned that I know our musicians possess in abundance.

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