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


President’s Message


Ray Hair – AFM International President

    Player Conferences Are Essential to the Promotion of Internal Member Involvement

    Each August, I have the pleasure of attending the annual meetings of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), the Regional Orchestra Players’ Association (ROPA), the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM), and the Theater Musicians’ Association (TMA). ICSOM, ROPA, OCSM, TMA, together with the Recording Musicians Association (RMA), comprise five intermediate bodies within the AFM known as player conferences.

    Player conferences promote internal member
    involvement by providing forums for musicians from similar workplaces
    throughout the Federation to share their experiences, to identify, articulate,
    and prioritize their needs and discuss and develop plans of action to address
    those needs. The flow of accurate information from the workplace to local and
    Federation officers and staff from rank-and-file committees, through their
    conferences, is vital to our support toward the bargaining of our members’
    collective agreements, as well as efforts to organize additional meaningful
    employment for musicians.

    I find it extremely beneficial to attend player
    conference meetings. It demonstrates that despite differences in
    instrumentation, wage scales and benefits, or the hundreds or thousands of
    miles separating our members by country and venue, we all share the same
    fundamental problems—exploitation by employers and managers who make way more
    from our labor than we do, but who couldn’t do what we do as musicians in a
    million years.

    Player conferences elect their officials by a vote
    of delegates from constituent workplaces. A consistent goal of my
    administration has always been to maintain close working relationships and
    clear and effective lines of communication between the Federation and all
    conferences, including our geographical conferences.

    Player conference leaders perform an important role
    in our union—they channel musicians’ attitudes, experiences, opinions, hopes,
    and desires directly to the union from the workplace, so that, as a team, we
    can organize to bargain and bargain to organize. After my election as your
    president nine years ago, I supported a policy of rotating player conference
    leaders as monthly columnists in the International Musician.

    This month, I am reintroducing AFM’s player
    conference leaders in this column, each with a bit of biographical information.
    They are wonderful people and I enjoy working with them. I’d like to thank them
    for bringing their energy, dedication, and commitment to bear on behalf of
    their talented constituents as we continue to build real unionism and a unity
    of purpose for the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and

    ICSOM Chairperson Meredith Snow, a graduate of the Juilliard School, has been a member of AFM Locals 802 and 47. She began her career as a violist with the Colorado String Quartet, then San Francisco Opera Orchestra, and for the past 30 years has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. She was elected as a delegate to ICSOM in 1991 where she served as a member-at-large to the ICSOM Governing Board until her election as ICSOM chairperson in 2016.

    OCSM President Robert Fraser became secretary-treasurer of AFM Local 247 Victoria, British Columbia, Canada in 1991 early in his career as a trombonist with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra. He continued to serve as an officer of Local 247 until 2002. He became a union activist as a result of his experiences as a local union officer and also, he says, because he was inspired to activism by the leadership of Canadian locals, the player conferences, the Federation leadership and Federation senior staff. Robert represented the Victoria Symphony as a delegate to OCSM from 1999-2003, then served as OSCM secretary from 2003 through 2013, when he was elected as president of OCSM.

    ROPA President John Michael Smith. A bassist in the Minnesota Opera Orchestra, John Michael’s involvement in ROPA began in 2007, serving first as an alternate delegate and later as delegate to ROPA from the Minnesota Opera Orchestra. He began his performing career with the Norfolk (VA) Symphony, has been a member of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, and has performed, recorded, and toured with both the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra. He was elected to the ROPA Executive Board in 2011 and became president in 2016. John Michael also serves as chair of the ROPA Electronic Media Committee and served on the AFM’s negotiating team for the recently concluded Integrated Media Agreement (IMA). He is an active freelancer in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and is a Life Member of Local 30-73

    International President Marc Sazer
    is an active performer both in the recording studios of Hollywood and in
    Southern California concert halls. Marc has performed for innumerable film,
    television, recording, and other media projects, from TV shows like Animaniacs and Pinky & the Brain to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Empire, films from My
    Big Fat Greek Wedding
    to the
    currently-scoring Star Wars Episode IX, to records for Shirley Horn, Frank Sinatra, and
    Randy Newman. He is a current a member of the Pasadena Symphony, and has
    performed with virtually every orchestra in the Los Angeles area. He currently
    serves as first vice president of the LA Chapter of the Recording Musicians
    Association, and international president of RMA. He has been at the forefront
    of campaigning for fair contracts, fair tax credits, and fair employment for
    AFM musicians.

    TMA President Tony D’Amico. A freelance bassist in the New England area, Tony performs regularly with the Boston Pops, Boston Philharmonic, Rhode Island Philharmonic, and Portland (ME) Symphony Orchestra. He also performs with locally produced and touring theatrical musicals when shows are presented in Boston. He is a member of Boston Local 9-535 and Providence Local 198-457, has served on the Executive Board of Boston Local 9-535 since 2001, and has served on that local’s theatre committee for many years. He founded the Boston TMA Chapter in 2006 and was elected as TMA president in 2016.

    Read More

    101st Convention: Real Unionism

    Together We Can!

    One hundred and twenty-three years after our founding Convention in Indianapolis in October 1896, the Federation convened its 101st Convention on June 20 in Las Vegas. With more than a century of advocacy and 101 conventions to its credit, the
    Federation’s enormous accomplishments for professional musicians, economically and politically, were celebrated not just by elected officials and delegates, but by our sister unions, dignitaries, and guests.

    Presiding over the debate on Resolution 8, which was defeated.

    In memorializing these historic anniversaries—and our accomplishments—nothing could have clarified the Federation’s purpose better than the diverse program of superb musical performances presented from the eve of the convention to adjournment. For anyone who might have wondered why on earth there ever was an American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada, just hearing the supreme musicianship of such instrumental luminaries as Blue Lou Marini; Walt Fowler; University of North Texas Jazz Faculty Mike Steinel, Ed Soph, John Adams, Fred Hamilton, Rosana Eckert, and Brian Piper; the touching memorial service accompaniment by members of the Las Vegas Philharmonic Orchestra; and the many other fine performances by Local 369 musicians during the course of our meetings provided a musical explanation, nourishment, and context. The power of our members’ music became the backdrop for the attitudes, the issues, and the discussions that followed.

    As those present would realize—particularly after hearing heartfelt testimonials by Matt Comerford of the Chicago Lyric Opera and Terryl Jares, president of Local 10-208, on the recent Lyric Opera and Chicago Symphony strikes; Local 72-147 bluesman Jim Suhler with Omaha Local 70-558 president Dan Cerveny about the abuse and default experienced in an Omaha nightclub; enthusiastic Boise Philharmonic Orchestra Musicians who demanded and obtained recognition from their management, prompting the re-chartering of AFM’s Boise Local 423; and the powerful narrative and video presentation from Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Negotiating Committee members Dan Sigale and Julie Vinsant who, with the unwavering support of Dallas-Fort Worth Local 72-147 and AFM’s Organizing and Symphonic Services Divisions, withstood a terrible four-month strike, defeating attempts by management to impose unjustified concessions—the power of real unionism can make a difference in musicians’ lives, helping build the unity necessary to inspire millions of musicians worldwide.

    As many of you know, in addition to reviewing various bylaw changes and policy resolutions, convention delegates elect Federation officers for three-year terms effective August 1 of each convention year. I am honored and privileged to have been reelected by acclamation to serve another term, and I am also deeply gratified that delegates chose to reelect by acclamation Vice-President Bruce Fife, Vice-President from Canada Alan Willaert, and Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal. Current executive committee members John Acosta, Tino Gagliardi, Dave Pomeroy, and Tina Morrison were also reelected, along with Local 161-710 President Ed Malaga, a newly elected member of the committee. First and foremost, we are a team, and we will continue to work together to improve the condition of the Federation and the livelihood of musicians everywhere, as we have done over the past nine years.

    The 101st
    Convention was certainly a major celebration, but it was also a time to
    remember what our ancestors were doing when they started their engines in
    Indianapolis 123 years ago—a dangerous time for unions. Our founders were
    activists. They believed that by working together through concerted activity,
    they could save lives. They also knew there would be the hate-preaching, the
    scapegoating, and the divisiveness that comes with the territory. They knew
    that some of our own members would become union busters to pursue their own
    selfish politics of personal enrichment. They knew it would be a fight.

    That is why it
    was important to remember who we are, where we came from, what we did, and how
    we did it over a span of 101 conventions, before and after the advent of
    technology, the invention of records, radio, film, the talkies, television,
    cable, the internet, on-demand streaming, and everything else. What did we do
    in the beginning?

    We didn’t make excuses. We got out of our own way.
    We worked together, we compromised and organized. Our founders were in it to
    build a union that would endure for generations. They knew the way to reach our
    potential and grow a strong union was to agree on a set of unifying principles
    to build union power, and then aim that power toward our employers to promote
    fairness and improve members’ lives. And it’s just as important to know that
    when we abandon the principles that bound us together to begin with, we lose.
    We hurt each other, and we become the very thing that destroys us—where members
    take from each other what they believe they can’t get from the employer.

    Together, we can
    make a difference. Our staff and our team of elected officials have made a
    difference. Local officers and members across the Federation who’ve stood up to
    employers have made a difference. We’ve endured for 123 years because we are
    hopeful and because of our members’ incredible talent.

    As musicians, we
    have power. Through the power of our music, we have the strength to find the
    unity we need to achieve our goals.

    That is why the 101st Convention was a renewal of faith in
    what we can do together, about remembering the great things we did together,
    and what we can be. We can do it all again, because we have to. Our union must
    be about what we can do for each other, not to each other. It’s
    about sticking together and protecting each other, because TOGETHER, WE CAN!
    That’s real unionism. That is our purpose, and that is why we are the American
    Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada. God bless this union.
    Here’s to another 123 years.

    Read More

    AFM Pension Fund: The Retiree Representative and Equitable Factors Panel

    The American
    Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund (Fund) has faced financial
    difficulties since the global 2007-2008 recession. Similar to dozens of other
    pension plans, the Fund is now underfunded and will be unable to pay benefits
    at the level projected in the pre-recession financial market. The Fund’s
    history of financial struggles is available here. The Fund is in the process of
    evaluating various options to reduce a portion of participants’ benefits in
    order to remain financially solvent.

    Read More

    Campaign for Fairness in Streaming Media Begins in Los Angeles

    As this column is being written, the first leadership training and organizing committee development sessions are concluding at Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) in preparation for an IEB-supported, Federation-wide, member-driven campaign to win industry-standard wages, residual payments, and benefits for musicians who perform and record TV and film content made for streaming platforms. The campaign also seeks to establish meaningful new revenue from film and TV streaming that would boost contributions toward our pension fund.

    Read More

    TV, Film Agreements Extended Again; Contract Streaming Fight Begins

    On March 18, after a week of intense negotiations, an agreement was
    reached with major Hollywood film producers and their television film
    counterparts to extend the existing Theatrical and Motion Picture Film
    agreements until November 14, 2019, with a 2% increase in wages. As was agreed
    one year ago, the parties deemed a short-term contract solution as the better
    alternative to the existing deadlock resulting from the producers’ failure to
    adequately address the Federation’s goal of creating residual payments for
    films and content made originally for streaming platforms.

    Read More