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progress on federal issues

Progress on Our Federal Issues Continues

As noted in the May issue of the International Musician, our strength is multiplied by the fact that the AFM is a member of a number of industry and labor-related coalitions working together to help advocate our cause to a wide variety of people and institutions. As I noted in last month’s IM, going forward I want to keep you updated on the progress of the AFM’s most important issues circulating on Capitol Hill.



On Friday May 15, the House of Representatives passed HR 6800 the HEROES Act of 2020, the fourth piece of COVID-19 legislation designed to 1) make corrections to the CARES Act of 2020, 2) provide much-needed additional funding to state and local governments, 3) provide a second round of stimulus payments, 4) provide 100% COBRA premium payments protecting Americans losing their employer-provided health insurance with COBRA subsidies to maintain their coverage, and 5) provide additional funding for COVID-19 frontline workers, to name a few provisions. As relates to the AFM, the bill also contains vital pension reform language along with an additional $10 million for the National Endowment for the Arts. 

The AFM Legislative Office has heard from members and local officers who are navigating the challenging Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) process. These musicians seek assistance from us to advocate for updating state unemployment insurance (UI) programs that are not fully prepared to recognize W-2 and 1099 divergent income streams that would take into account differences between wage earning contracted employees and self-employed, independent contractors and musicians operating as sole proprietors for benefit purposes. With the deluge of millions of Americans seeking assistance, many of these state systems are overwhelmed and in dire need of federal assistance to update their processing equipment. The HEROES Act accomplishes many of these things.

We continue to work with the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees to include HR 3121, the Performing Artist Tax Parity Act of 2019, into the CARES Act. This would restore above-the-line qualified tax deductions lost in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2019.

We are working with the AFL-CIO Legislative Committee to help include language from HR 6514, the Worker Health Coverage Protection Act, that would expand COBRA coverage and provide a 100% payment to beneficiaries.

President Hair has signed the AFM onto an AFL-CIO letter that would protect a worker’s right to sue his employer for violations of COVID-related health and safety issues on the job. This could apply to any musician who is injured on the job where the employer can be proven negligent. Conservative lawmakers and the White House are insisting that this indemnification language be placed in the next CARES package. We oppose inclusion of this loophole for what could be some potentially reckless employers.

Finally, we are working to include additional financial relief specifically for the entertainment industry, which has lost more than $4 billion since the categorical, across-the-board shutdown of performances, concert halls, festivals, and television and film recording sessions earlier this year. We are also seeking inclusion of 501(c)(5) unions in the “Small Business” provision of the bill so that unions can also apply for COVID relief.


House Congressional Arts Caucus Chair Chellie Pingree

In an April 30 Zoom call with Representative Chellie Pingree (D-MN), co-chair of the House Arts Caucus, arts and entertainment unions outlined our legislative priorities, taking advantage of our firsthand relationship with one of the most influential members of Congress. In addition to a range of entertainment union affiliate concerns, AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal informed Congresswoman Pingree of the need for Congress to advocate a broad range of issues for entertainment unions and specifically AFM members—as outlined above—with the bulk of those issues related to making corrections for creative professionals in the next CARES Act.


The issue surrounding P1 and P2 visas remains on our blotter as we dodge the effects of recent presidential executive orders designed to close US borders and keep certain immigrant workers from entering the United States. Our work with the Performing Arts Visa Working Group is spearheaded for the AFM by Liana White, executive director of the Canadian Federation of Musicians-AFM, and George Fiddler in the AFM Immigration Office.

The AM-FM Act (Ask Musicians For Music)

HR 5219, the AM-FM Act, offered by Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) is our lead copyright bill designed to provide a performance right to recording artists whose creative product is used on AM/FM radio without compensation. The bill requires broadcasters to get permission from artists before their music is played over terrestrial (over the air) radio stations. With deference to small broadcast stations whose budgets do not compete with larger stations, the bill contains a small broadcaster provision establishing smaller fees for smaller stations.

The AFM’s Coordinated Federal Response to COVID-19

As the scourge of the COVID-19 virus rips through the arts and entertainment community with devastating effects, AFM officers, the International Executive Board, and senior staff have coalesced daily, internally as well as with other AFL-CIO affiliate unions and music groups, to help guarantee that working professional musicians’ voices are heard clearly on Capitol Hill, the epicenter of COVID-19 federal policy and decision-making. As legislative work on the virus advances across the Capitol, it remains incumbent on this office to keep AFM members apprised of any new policies and coalition work in place.

FYI, at the direction of President Hair, the Washington office regularly engages the following organizations: AFL-CIO President’s Subcommittee on Pensions and Retirement Security, the AFL-CIO Legislative Committee-COVID-19 Working Group Taskforce, and the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees, which all interact almost daily with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s special coronavirus outreach offices.

The union has several principal goals. First, to effectively engage the federal government at the highest levels to ensure that working musicians are included in all policy decisions. Secondly, to look out for the health and safety of our members on and away from the worksite, preventing unscrupulous employers from taking unnecessary advantage of our hard-won agreements. Third, to provide meaningful guidance and financial resources whenever possible. Fourth, to the extent possible, help keep you on your employers’ payrolls. And last but not least, to help you analyze federal policy and provide the resources necessary to keep you engaged in advocacy so that your legislators will hear directly from you on the issues that most directly impact your lives.

On the first count, President Hair and Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, with help from the AFM Legislative Office, have been engaged with the AFL-CIO Legislative Department as well as with the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees AEMI unions, to help outline specific needs of entertainment unions/professionals to be submitted to the Speaker of the House Representatives and to the US Senate as each chamber formulates specific policies needed to keep working artists whole. These challenges have seen the successful inclusion in the CARES Act of W2 wage earners, musicians working in the gig economy, music contractors, and part-time music/entertainment workers.

Secondly, the AFM has supported the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for artists in the workplace and for first responders by supporting AFL-CIO guidance for workers in other professions who risk their lives daily looking out for the infirm. The AFM has also initiated a system of “social distancing” among staff and officers encouraging all AFM locals to follow federal, state, and local guidelines that help prevent the spread of the disease. Though COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on our industry, our continued engagement with federal officials to help identify financial resources and encourage federal relief for distressed arts organizations and artists is partly our best weapon to help bring safety and some financial relief to our artists. Examples of our advocacy can be found in the document QR codes in the sidebar.

We invite you to visit our COVID-19 Resource Page along with the April 2020 International Musician, which both offer in-depth background information and can be accessed by members on our homepage at AFM.org. In the meantime, we will continue to work Capitol Hill and bring you the latest updates that impact your working life as an artist and creative professional.

Bipartisan Artist Tax Parity Act

President Hair Meets with AFM Legislative Champions in Washington

From March 2-4, AFM President Ray Hair made a trip to the nation’s capital to visit with principal sponsors/legislators who are responsible for introducing legislation specific to this union’s mission. The Bipartisan Artist Tax Parity Act (HR 3121) offered by Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL), would help restore qualified performing artist’s “above the line” tax deductions lost with the passage of the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2019.

We met with Chu, the bill’s principal sponsor, in the Capitol Building and filled her in on our efforts to bring more co-sponsors onto the bill. While on the Hill for those two days, we also spoke with congressmen Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), as well as the staff for representatives George Holding and Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal to shore up their support for the Chu and Nadler legislation. 

Bipartisan Artist Tax Parity Act
AFM International President Ray Hair met with Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) in the Speaker’s Office suite inside the Capitol Building in early March to discuss the Bipartisan Artist Tax Parity Act, which would help restore qualified performing artists’ “above the line” tax deductions lost with the passage of the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2019.

Nadler’s bill, the Ask Musicians for Music (AM FM) Act (HR 5219), provides a performance right for music played on terrestrial AM/FM radio. We also spoke with the chairman about supporting cross-border non-resident immigration O and P visas that are now complicated by new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) rules. These rules are scheduled to increase visa fees relating in part to AFM Canadian members who apply for temporary entry into the US for short-term employment purposes.

At that 8:30 a.m. breakfast meeting, Nadler reiterated his determination to see HR 5219 through this year and urged the AFM and its Music First Coalition partners to work closely with radio broadcasters to complete negotiations that would lead to swift passage. Our meeting with Homeland Security Chair Bennie Thompson to discuss border issues is being rescheduled due to an appointment conflict.

kennedy center

Expanding the Diversity Footprint of the Nation’s Premier Civilian Federal Arts Complex

kennedy center
A view of the REACH Campus with video wall from terrace at dusk. Photo: Richard Barnes

The John F. Kennedy Memorial Center for the Performing Arts (Kennedy Center) is the nation’s sole, premier civilian national cultural center. It is located on the banks of the historic Potomac River in Washington, D.C. and built with federal funds authorized by Congress in 1958. In 1962, President Kennedy stated, “The life of the arts, far from being an interpretation, a distraction, in the life of a nation, is very close to the center of a nation’s purpose, and is a test of the quality of a nation’s civilization.” The center surely reflects those values as Kennedy’s aspirational vision of the arts and, as such, it was named in Kennedy’s honor in 1963.

As the nation’s first national cultural center, the Kennedy Center was created by bipartisan federal legislation known as the National Cultural Center Act. The bill was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who himself was quite enthusiastic about having a world-class cultural center in the heart of Washington, DC that was second to none across the globe.

Designed by renowned American “Modernist” architect Edward Durell Stone, plans for the center’s construction began in 1956 in the halls of congress. This remarkable edifice was completed, and its doors opened, in 1971. Stone was also acclaimed for his design of the Radio City Music Hall, the New York Museum of American Art, as well as the US Embassy in New Delhi, India, to name a few.

Over the years, this internationally recognized, fully unionized facility has been home to the Washington National Symphony Orchestra, the Kennedy Center Orchestra, the Washington Opera, and Jazz at the Kennedy Center (all members of Local 161-710). It has also been a premier touring destination to all of the greatest international companies that have presented tens of thousands of performances mounted on one of four main stages in this remarkable building. All of the world’s most renowned, iconic, diverse, artistic performers from classical to jazz to popular, hip hop to spoken word, Broadway, television, film, along with extravagant foreign productions, have entertained here.

Expanding Its REACH

Americans search daily for signs from the government about meaningful ways it spends our tax dollars. Well, here’s a great example: For the first time in its 50-year existence, the center recently completed its most ambitious construction project with the opening of this 21st century arts center. The newly constructed “REACH” project is a prime illustration of how this federal facility uses its extensive resources to fund the construction of a major $250 million community oriented performing arts facility that caters to its diverse surroundings.

The mission of “The REACH,” which opened its door on May 29, is to generously invest in The Kennedy Center mission to support artistic projects and community engagement. REACH stands for Renew, Experience, Activate, Create, and Honor the legacy of President Kennedy, says Deborah Rutter, president of The Kennedy Center. This multimillion-dollar project, built on five acres with three pavilions, is designed to host community educational workshops, rehearsal spaces, and small ensemble presentations at affordable rates to patrons, students, and smaller local production companies that make important contributions to the city and perform at the highest industry standards.

This addition to the Kennedy Center is a marvelous testament to the center’s commitment to the diverse Washington arts community. Over the years, the center has seen its share of criticism about the lack of investment and programming in the local community. The REACH seems to be a worthy solution. Managed in part by newly appointed Vice President for Social Impact Marc Bamuthi Joseph, The REACH will be guided and advised in part by a 15-member Cultural Caucus comprised of cultural leaders from around the area.

AFM Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) officers, musicians, and local board play a vital role in promoting ongoing labor-management relations and professional performances at the Kennedy Center. Like New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and hundreds of other major performance cities around the country, the importance of maintaining a world-class performance community second to no other in the world is the mission of our local and our musicians. Each gives tirelessly to the goal of maintaining the remarkable status of these Washington, DC, institutions and perpetually holds their own when it comes to the execution of the arts and the quality of life in our nation’s Capital.

The expanded John F. Kennedy Memorial Center for the Performing Arts will forever be a growing part of America’s cultural fabric, opening its doors to younger members of the community and emphasizing “the joy of being together.” Thanks to the magnificent efforts of AFM musicians, the arts will forever flourish in the nation’s capital and around the nation.

butch lewis

Congressional Update: HR 397, the Butch Lewis Act, Passes in the House

After markup in both the House Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Ways and Means Committee, HR 397, the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act of 2019, often referred to as the Butch Lewis Act, was taken up on the floor of the US House of Representatives and overwhelmingly passed by a vote of 264 to 169, with 29 Republicans joining Democrats to advance the bill out of the House chamber.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, recognizing the vital importance of this legislation to millions of union workers, opened up her section of the House Gallery so that organized labor could be on hand during that historic moment to watch passage of this critical bill. AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal and I were joined by Local 161-710 President and newly elected IEB Member Ed Malaga, Local Secretary-Treasurer Marta Bradley, Local Board Member Doug Rosenthal, as well as Baltimore Local 40-543 Secretary-Treasurer Mary Plaine to participate in a “morning coffee” celebration with members of Congress, a pre-vote reception in the US Capitol Building, and the House Gallery for the floor vote. We were joined by members of the Teamsters, Bakery and Confectioners Workers, United Mine Workers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IEBW), and a host of other brothers and sisters who traveled to Washington to be a part of this historic event.

Of note during the Ways and Means Committee markup was an amendment that would mandate changes in both pension fund trustees and financial advisors should a union apply for a 30-year treasury loan. This amendment was similar to Resolution 8 that was offered during the AFM Convention, mandating that one investment expert and one actuarial expert be appointed to the Pension Fund Board of Trustees, which was defeated by convention delegates.

butch lewis
AFM officers in the US Capitol building before House passage of the Butch Lewis Act. Pictured from left: Local 161-710 Secretary Treasurer Marta Bradley, Local 161-710 Board Member Doug Rosenthal, Baltimore Local 40-543 Secretary-Treasurer Mary Plaine, AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, AFM Legislative, Political, and Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard, Local 161-710 President and newly elected IEB Member Ed Malaga.

Another highlight of both the Ways and Means Committee markup and the House floor vote came about when Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) gave testimony about how important this legislation is to her constituents. On both occasions, Rep. Chu pointed out her firsthand discussions with both Gary Lasley, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA), and with Marc Sazer, president of AFM Recording Musicians Association (RMA). During both congressional committee meetings, Rep. Chu talked about the importance of fixing the pension problem for members of the “American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund” as well as for actors “and so many more creative professionals” in her district.

The congresswoman’s comments, along with those of Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and other members of Congress, are an illustration of how intensive lobbying on the part of AFM-EP Fund Co-Chairs Ray Hair and Chris Brockmeyer, along with their respective lobbying teams, made an impact on members of both the Joint Select Committee and the Congress. AFM figured prominently in the Joint Select Committee final report, in both the Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and Ways and Means Committee reports, as well as in the July 24 Congressional Record of the 116th Congress (pages H7331 and H7332).

At this point, it is vitally important for me to note the outstanding teamwork and collaborative contribution of Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) President Edgardo Malaga, Secretary-Treasurer Marta Bradley, Vice President Patty Hurd, and board member Doug Rosenthal, in addition to Baltimore Local 40-543 Secretary-Treasurer Mary Plaine for their committed efforts in motivating Washington DC and Baltimore musicians to participate in this important day of Federation advocacy.

On July 25, HR 397 passed out of the House and was received in the Senate for consideration. Plans are now in motion to make senators aware of the importance of passing this legislation. AFM members are encouraged to write letters of thanks to the 235 House Democrats and 29 House Republicans who voted favorably for HR 397’s passage (www.congress.gov/members). The official vote count can be found online at http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2019/roll505.xml.

You are also encouraged to write your Democratic and Republican senators and encourage them to vote in favor of passage of the bill in its current form. Find your senator here online: www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.

AFM Joins AFL-CIO President’s Working Group on Butch Lewis

With critical work completed in the US House of Representatives, President Hair and the AFM Legislative Office now join forces with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO Executive Board, and the rest of the labor movement affected by multiemployer plan legislation to drill down on our collective strategy relating to Senate passage of the Butch Lewis Act. The President’s Working Group on Retirement Security met in August to lay the groundwork on Senate messaging and key targets in the Capitol. Previous House messaging was reviewed in an effort to identify the more relevant and salient points that would be required to more effectively move our Senate messaging.

I attended the meeting in Washington led by IBEW International Secretary Treasurer Kenneth Cooper and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler at the AFL building on behalf of President Hair who was at that point chairing AFM-EPF meetings in New York. The Working Group will meet regularly throughout the Senate legislative process, covering not only strategy and communications but will also act as an early warning system when a mass effort is imminent or required. Here is where we will be asking for local efforts to contact your elected senators to help drive home the importance of passage. We will be asking for special help from our TEMPO Signature Members.

the butch lewis act

House Ways and Means Committee Marks Up and Reports Out HR 397, The Butch Lewis Act

After the House Education and Labor Committee marked up and passed HR 397 on June 11, the House Committee on Ways and Means took the bill up on Wednesday July 10. By a vote of 25-17, Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and members of the House Ways and Means Committee ushered the Butch Lewis Act out of committee along party lines past all opposition, sending it to the House floor.

Before the July 10 committee mark-up, a labor rally was held on the east side of the Capitol building led by Neal. The AFM worked with Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) President and newly elected IEB Member Ed Malaga, Secretary-Treasurer Marta Bradley, and board member Douglas Rosenthal, as well as with Local 40-543 (Baltimore, MD) Secretary-Treasurer Mary Plaine, to field a group of local AFM members and Executive Board officers to attend both the rally and the mark-up at the behest of AFM President Ray Hair. Members of Local 802 (New York City) were also in attendance as well as Local 257 (Nashville, TN) President and IEB Member Dave Pomeroy, who also made a visit to Senator Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) office.

“They earned their benefits” became the rallying call to members of the committee from Representative William James Pascrell (D-NJ), debunking the opposition’s theory that the failure of more than 120 multi-employer pension plans rests solely with alleged trustee mismanagement. Democrats in turn made it clear that because there was not enough punishment of Wall Street bankers who torpedoed the economy in 2008, serving no jail time, the rest of corporate America felt comfortable to continue fleecing the American people without redress.

A labor rally was held on the east side of the Capitol building on July 10 to urge legislators to support the Butch Lewis Act. AFM members and executive board officers from multiple locals attended both the rally and the legislation mark-up session at the behest of AFM President Ray Hair.

Representative John Lewis (D-GA) noted that Congress has a moral obligation to fix this problem, bearing in mind that it was corporate America’s desire, evidenced by the 2008 market dilemma, to continue to boost their own corporate profits and multi-million-dollar salaries.

During the five-hour mark-up for HR 397, Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA), a member of the committee and co-chair of the House Creative Rights Caucus, noted that the failure of these plans was not the fault of pensioners and plan participants. She shared stories of her constituent Gary Lasley, Secretary-Treasurer of AFM Local 47, supported by testimony from AFM RMA President Marc Sazer, also a member of AFM Local 47. Chu talked about how a failure by Congress to support all working men and women, particularly those in the film and Broadway sectors, during this crisis will leave Sazer, Lasley, and their AFM colleagues unable to take advantage of years of pension contributions/retirement security that they earned and so well deserve. Through her comments and commitment to our great union, Representative Chu distinguished herself as a true champion of all professional musicians.

The full House of Representatives is expected to take the Butch Lewis Act up for a final floor vote in the near future. As of this writing, an exact date has not been set. AFM members have been asked by AFM-EPF Trustees and by President Hair to contact their representatives in the coming weeks and encourage them to co-sponsor HR 397, the Butch Lewis Act, and vote for its passage.

As of this writing, a Senate companion bill has not been introduced.

grammys on the hill

2019 Grammys on the Hill Gathers Musicians and Arts Supporters

In addition to a full day of lobbying on Capitol Hill, the 2019 Grammys on the Hill Awards hosted more than 200 artist/creator advocates and more than 20 members of Congress who pledged their support for the work and fair treatment of artists.

grammys on the hill
Twenty members of Congress join Linda Perry of Local 6 (San Francisco, CA)
on stage at the Grammys on the Hill award dinner.

Grammy award-winning gospel singer Yolanda Adams received the Academy’s Creators Leadership Award for her extensive advocacy work. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stepped in for award winner Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and headlined the legislators. Grammys on the Hill award recipient Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) addressed those gathered during the dinner celebration. He spoke about his crucial work in Congress helping to pass the Music Modernization Act last year, as well as his ongoing work in the House Judiciary on behalf of performer and creator rights.

Also headlining the evening was Grammy Award winner Kristin Chenoweth who paid an endearing homage to Speaker Pelosi. Also on hand for the lobbying day were Mary Mitchell Campbell of Local 802 (New York City), Diane Blagman, Lzzy Hale, Joe Hottinger, Brandon Victor Dixon, and Manny Marroquin, to name a few.

grammys on the hill

As is tradition during the annual Grammys on the Hill Awards, members of Congress gathered on stage to clearly make their presence known and raise their voices in song. Singer-songwriter Linda Perry of Local 6 (San Francisco, CA) led this year’s congressional singalong. She encouraged the 20 members of Congress to gather on stage and take solos. 

Grammys on the Hill is one of several national springtime advocacy gatherings that the AFM is involved in and supports. Artists, many of whom are AFM members, lobby their members of Congress. Our monetary contribution for the special evening event is combined with those of many others to support the Grammy Museum. The museum hosts thousands of visitors each year, promoting music in the schools and encouraging all to join our efforts to bring music, one of America’s most cherished exports, to the rest of the world.

The Recording Academy, led by Neil Portnow, is a dynamic driving force for artist creators. The organization, along with the AFM, is an active member of the musicFIRST Coalition. Last year, the coalition lobbied for passage of the Music Modernization Act. It is currently fighting in Congress for a performance right in terrestrial radio. The AFM congratulates the Recording Academy for its diligent work on behalf of all creators.


Advocacy, Diversity, and Organizing in 2019

2019 Arts Advocacy Day

Once again the AFM joined Americans for the Arts as a national cosponsor of Arts Advocacy Day. This three-day event occurs annually in March. This year, more than 500 advocates from across the country converged on Washington, DC, to lobby elected representatives and senators on issues of importance to the national arts and entertainment community.

The AFM again coordinated our lobbying visits with the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees (DPE) Arts, Entertainment, and Media Industry unions to present a united front on arts and entertainment labor issues that most affect our industries. With AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal serving as a DPE board member, the AFM National Legislative Office, joined by Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) President Ed Malaga and board member Douglas Rosenthal, made seven House visits and seven Senate visits.

Together they lobbied such important issues as pension reform, performance rights, restoration of tax deductions and tax revision, support for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as funding for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting. Our lobbying team included members of SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, Actors Equity, American Guild of Musical Artists, IBEW, and AFGE, to name a few. DPE represents 24 national unions that work together to affect critical public policy issues relating to the arts and entertainment sector.

Las Vegas LIVE

At a KCEP Power 88 Radio social media interview to promote the AFM’s Las Vegas LIVE Event (L to R) are: Director of Special Events Jonathan Meza; City of Las Vegas Senior Cultural Specialist Anastacio Del Real; AFM Local 369 (Las Vegas, NV) Secretary-Treasurer Keith Nelson; AFM Diversity Committee Chair and Local 65-699 (Houston, TX) President Lovie Smith-Wright; AFM Diversity, Legislative and Political Director Alfonso Pollard; KCEP Power 88 Account Executive Carol Frazier; and AFM Local 369 President Jack Gaughan.

Las Vegas LIVE is an AFM Diversity Committee project to showcase the diverse musical talent in Las Vegas, Nevada. The city is considered by many to be the live music capitol of the US. This event is a partnership between AFM Local 369 (Las Vegas, NV), the City of Las Vegas Office of Cultural Affairs, and the AFM Diversity Committee. The free, live public concert portion of the event is sponsored, in part, by the Music Performance Trust Fund.

In addition to being a demonstration of the wide range of instrumentalists who live and work in Las Vegas, the event will provide educational workshops for musicians. Workshops focus on career building tools such as contracts, performance rights, recording techniques, and more. The goal is to create a stronger arts community while promoting live music. Las Vegas LIVE will be an AFM prototype to eventually host similar organizing events in AFM locals across the country.

In partnership with the AFM, the City of Las Vegas Office of Cultural Affairs is providing a recognized performance site and much needed technical assistance. Scheduled for June 22, the event will take place at the Fifth Street School (401 South 4th Street) on the Saturday immediately following the AFM Convention.

We encourage convention delegates, local musicians, and other attendees to visit our website, AFMLasVegasLive.com, for details on attending the event. There, Las Vegas instrumentalists can fill out a performance application. These paid performance slots for bands and individuals are limited to 50 musicians. (You must be a Las Vegas instrumentalist to participate.)

We are pleased to also be sponsored by KCEP Power 88 (see photo on following page), Smithsonian Museum of American History, SoundExchange, AFM Local 47’s Music Fund of Los Angeles, and the Recording Industry Association of America. Stay updated with the International Musician, our AFM Las Vegas LIVE website, the City of Las Vegas Office of Cultural Affairs website, as well as the KCEP website for more information. We hope you will join us for this day of live music.


Happy 100th birthday to Local 161-710 Life Member Irving Andrusia, a stalwart AFM legislative-political advocate. Thanks, Irving!


SphinxConnect: An Epicenter for Artists and Leaders in Diversity

After 20 years of solid growth, SphinxConnect has become the quintessential gathering for black and Latinx musicians. It brings together talented artists, businesses, national funding agencies, and academics to share philosophical and practical strategies that connect talented artist-practitioners of symphonic music. The 22nd annual Sphinx Competition, held prior to SphinxConnect, offers young black and Latinx classical musicians a chance to compete under the guidance of an internationally renowned panel of judges and to perform with established professional musicians in a competition setting.

Over the years, the cooperative effort of these individuals and organizations has generated significant results that will lead to lasting solutions to questions surrounding diversity and inclusion in American orchestras. Most notably, American orchestras have now invested financially in their diversity.

The 2019 Sphinx Symphony Orchestra performing under the direction of Maestro Michael Morgan, performing at SphinxConnect in the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, Detroit, Michigan.

Key to the success of this professional growth is the chance to coordinate high level performance opportunities. Historically, several institutions have emerged as pillars to provide exceptional performance opportunities for musicians of color.

The Sphinx Symphony Orchestra is one of many ensembles that has served this purpose. Historically, organizations like Baltimore Colored Symphony Orchestra founded in 1930 under Music Director William Llewellyn Wilson; the Chicago Sinfonietta founded in 1987 by Maestro Paul Freeman; and the Symphony of the New World of New York (not to be confused with the New World Symphony in Florida) founded in 1965 by Lucille Dixon, Elaine Jones, Harry Smyles, Joe Wilder, Wilmer Wise, and Kermit Moore, under the direction of Maestros Dean Dixon, Everett Lee, and Benjamin Steinberg. This orchestra, of which I was a member from 1972-1975, served as the predecessor to today’s Sphinx Orchestra, which showcases extraordinary talents. The Sphinx Orchestra is currently led by Maestro Michael Morgan, music director of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra and the Gateways Music Festival.

Diversity in Orchestras

I have been involved in orchestra diversity for many years now. I took my first deep dive into the professional world as a player in 1971. I was first immersed in this world of orchestral diversity when I was selected to participate in the Music Assistance Fund (MAF) program, which selected 15 minority players from around the US to be mentored, rehearse, and perform with the New York Philharmonic in 1973. I had previously performed in Washington, DC, as an extra player with the National Symphony Orchestra and as principal timpanist of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and Baltimore Opera Orchestra. The MAF experience, under New York Phil Administrator Dr. Leon Thompson, served as my launching pad to the world of diversity in American orchestras. That experience left me following the ups and downs for 46 years.

I know that diversity can be achieved with the right focus as illustrated by the exceptional work of Aaron and Afa Dworkin and the Sphinx administrative team. “Transforming lives through the power of diversity” has been the organization’s focus for more than 20 years. For those who need a vision, you need not look any farther than the accompanying photo.

The AFM’s Investment

As noted by Sphinx administrators, the AFM has a long history of supporting the organization. More than half of the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra comprises AFM members who work under collective bargaining agreements across the US. This year, the AFM was represented by Symphonic Services Director Rochelle Skolnick, Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) President John Michael Smith, International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) Chair Meredith Snow, ICSOM Delegate Brad Mansell, ROPA Board Member Maya Stone, and me.

Like many professional minority driven projects across the US that offer professional performing opportunities to musicians of color, SphinxConnect is an AFM investment that continues to yield positive results.

The AFM Diversity Committee wants to hear about your experiences. We encourage you to tell us your union diversity stories to possibly share them and inspire others. By joining forces and resources, we can all achieve our shared goal of artistic excellence and recognition. Write to me at apollard@afm.org or to AFM Diversity Committee Chair Lovie Smith-Wright at lsw@afmhouston.com.

music modernization act

Creators Win Big as Music Modernization Act Is Signed Into Law

The AFM and all music creators marked a big win last month as President Trump signed the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (MMA) into law after it was passed and reconciled by US House and Senate. As noted in the International Musician last month, the US Senate made amendments to and passed the MMA by voice vote under “unanimous consent.” On September 25, after Senate consideration, the bill was returned to the House of Representatives to resolve differences. The House agreed to the Senate Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute without objection. Most importantly, throughout the entire legislative process, out of 435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 members of the US Senate, not a single no vote was cast.

The bill was renamed the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act in honor of the US Senate and House of Representatives Judiciary Committee members who ushered the bill through Congress to completion under a procedural passage process known as “Suspension of the Rules,” with unanimous voice votes coming from both chambers. Hatch (R-UT) is himself a recognized composer. For House Judiciary Chair Goodlatte (R-VA) this was one of his final crowning copyright reform-legislative achievements prior to retirement from Congress and as chair.

music modernization act
Iconic gospel singer CeCe Winans celebrates at a gathering following the passage of the Music Modernization Act.

This success is a result of a three-year advocacy effort, drafting, lobbying, and shepherding the bill through the legislative process with the help of Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and other members of Congress; the MusicFIRST Coalition, which includes the AFM; major artists; and rank-and-file musicians. Together we convinced Congress that the music community could indeed surmount significant yet effective copyright-legislative reform plateaus by working together. As a result of this highly unusual legislative victory, the bill was signed into law by President Trump October 11, becoming Public Law No: 115-264. The AFM owes particular thanks to its IEB members: International Vice President and Local 99 (Portland, OR) President Bruce Fife, Local 257 (Nashville, TN) President Dave Pomeroy, and Local 802 (New York City) President Tino Gagliardi for their focused work on critical members of Congress and on the needs of AFM members.

The MMA contains three titles: “The Musical Works Modernization Act” establishes a new collective management organization (CMO) to manage streaming royalties for musical recordings. “The CLASSICS (Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society Protection and Access) Act” creates a performance right for pre-1972 artists whose music is performed on digital and satellite radio platforms. “The AMP (Allocation for Music Producers) Act” increases royalty payments to producers and sound recording engineers receiving direct payments from SoundExchange when recordings are used on satellite radio and online radio services. A congressional overview by Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) indicates that the bill reforms music licensing in four areas:

1) Section 115 Reform ends the bulk Notice of Intention process.

2) The “Willing Buyer/Willing Seller Standard” under Section 115 now requires the court to consider free market conditions when determining rates.

3) The “Wheel Approach” allows ASCAP and BMI, along with music licensees, to go before any judge in the Southern District of New York on a rotating basis for purpose of rate setting disputes.

4) Section 114 (i) Repeal now allows PRO’s and songwriters the ability to present evidence about other facets of the music ecosystem to judges for their consideration, allowing songwriters to obtain fairer rates for the public performance of their musical works.

music modernization act
AFM Legislative-Political Director Alfonso Pollard (right) with singer songwriter and ASCAP Chair/ President Paul Williams of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) at a victory party celebrating passage of the Music Modernization Act.

These major changes to music licensing and copyright law bring legislation in line with the way the modern music business operates.

A well-deserved October 10 victory celebration of this momentous Congressional win was attended by a broad range of advocates, partners, artists, and songwriters at the Winery in Washington, DC. The event was sponsored by the lobbying collective that included the AFM, SoundExchange, the Recording Association of America, the Recording Academy, A2IM, and 30 other music industry advocates.

For all artist creators, congratulations! The bill is now recognized as the “law of the land.”