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 www.afm.org/join.
August 1, 2023IM -
by Steve Wade, ROPA President and member of Local 400 (Hartford-New Haven, CT)
It’s that most wonderful time of the year: conference season for all of the AFM’s player conferences. By the time you’re reading this article, the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) will have concluded its 40th Conference, held July 25-27 at the Courtland Grand Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. It was preceded by the annual negotiation workshop presented by the AFM Symphonic Services Division (SSD) on Monday, July 24, at the same site.
At the conference, Dr. Michelle Au (D-GA) House 50th District, the first Asian-American elected to the Georgia State Senate, was the keynote speaker, and AFM International President Tino Gagliardi gave his first address as president to a player conference.
Presenters included Jake Berent, director of Communications at the Chicago Federation of Labor; Kent McVay and Dan Ross of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and Rick Basehore, ROPA treasurer, who spoke about the Performing Artists Tax Parity Act (PATPA) and taxes for musicians. Rochelle Skolnick, AFM SSD director, provided basics on the National Labor Relations Board.
Dr. Valerie Trollinger gave the presentation “The Musician as Athlete: Performing Artists and Special Considerations for Medical Evaluation, Diagnosis, and Care.” In addition, we held a job action panel on the success stories at Opera Philadelphia, the Minnesota Opera, and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, which featured the AFM negotiators and ROPA delegates who led the way.
We have come a long way from ROPA’s beginnings at a meeting of representatives from 13 orchestras in Columbus, Ohio, in 1984. With a current roster of 97 orchestras, ROPA now represents around 6,000 players from all over the nation. We have a long history of providing support and resources for our member orchestras.
We honored one of our most important founders at our 40th conference. Nathan Kahn was a key mover in establishing ROPA, and he has spent a lifetime serving the interests of orchestral musicians ever since. This year, we established the Nathan Kahn Award, given to a person or organization in our conference city showing great dedication to the cause of solidarity, diversity, and professionalism among orchestral musicians. Such an award is indeed a fitting tribute to a man who has never stopped caring about the fight for fair wages and working conditions in our industry.
This first award was given jointly to Local 148-462 members Jessica Stinson and Shadwa Mussad. Violinist Jessica Stinson is a graduate of Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. She has been a member of Atlanta Opera Orchestra since 2018, and she performs regularly with the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Her students have participated with Emory Youth Symphony Orchestra, Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestra, Georgia Youth Symphony Orchestra, and GMEA All-State Orchestras, and she has served as a judge for the Georgia MTNA string competition.
Shadwa Mussad graduated from Ohio State University with dual master degrees in violin performance and string pedagogy. She is also a member of Atlanta Ballet and Atlanta Pops orchestras, as well as a member of the West Eastern Divan Orchestra, an orchestra for Arab and Israeli musicians founded by Daniel Barenboim and the late Edward Said. Both of these outstanding young artists perform with the Challenge the Stats Quartet, named for one of Atlanta’s most important community-based music schools, which exists to empower BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) artists and use music as a tool for social justice.
I would be remiss if I didn’t bring attention to a piece of legislation that would benefit a lot of working musicians, the Performing Artists Tax Parity Act. There is an excellent article on it by ROPA Treasurer Rick Basehore in the summer edition of The Leading Tone, ROPA’s newsletter. Here’s a short synopsis by Basehore:
The Performing Artists Tax Parity Act was a bill introduced in the House of Representatives during the 116th Congress, and again in both the House and Senate in the 117th Congress. This sought to reform provisions in Section 62(b) of the tax code (Title 26 of the US Code, aka IRC) in order that the qualified performing artists tax deduction (QPAD) could apply to a larger swath of taxpayers who make their living as performing artists. The bill was originally co-sponsored by Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) in 2019 and 2021, and Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Bill Hagerty (R-TN) in 2021.
Basehore makes the point that the original legislation, passed in the 1980s, was never indexed to inflation, and he goes on to say:
PATPA would change the language … so that taxpayers whose adjusted gross income is less than $100,000 would now qualify. In addition, married couples filing jointly with an AGI of less than $200,000 would also qualify. There is a partial deduction for those taxpayers whose income is within $20,000 above the income limits. These income levels would then also be adjusted to inflation, so that performing artists would not again be phased out of eligibility as incomes rise over time due to inflation. The qualified performing artists deduction, if so reformed, could provide hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars of tax relief to low- and middle-income performing artists on an annual basis from just the IRS.
We on the ROPA Board think that all the “qualified performing artists” working in ROPA orchestras should make some noise about this potentially life changing legislation. Look at it this way: Basehore’s message has gone out to 6,000 musicians in ROPA’s newsletter, and now 10 times that many here in the International Musician. What would happen if all AFM members started advocating for this bill? Remember the well-known aphorism of Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin, who said, “There go my people. I must find out where they are going so I can lead them.”
Public policy changes from the ground up. Great unions like ours are built the same way, and we should embrace that power and use it to do good. To find out more about the PATPA, check out The Leading Tone, or read Basehore’s article on the ROPA website, ropaweb.org. After that, find your leaders and make that noise.