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Arts and Entertainment

The Shifting Face of Arts and Entertainment Policy and Power in Washington, DC

As I noted in the May International Musician, federal arts and entertainment policy experienced a seismic shift in leadership in Washington, DC, when Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Democratic co-chair of the House Arts Caucus passed away unexpectedly in March. Over the years, Slaughter was a dynamo when it came to public arts policy on Capitol Hill. Time and time again, her leadership of the 161-member bipartisan Congressional Arts Caucus came up with new policy strategies that led, not only to the survival of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), but also National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and public arts education.

She was a friend to the entire arts community, but a very personal friend to us at the AFM. Aside from taking the leadership role in pressing arts and entertainment issues, she worked with the AFM as the sponsor of the 1998 Congressional Sing-Along for the Arts on the west steps of the US Capitol Building.  Sponsored by her office, the office of former Congressman Sidney Yates (D-IL), and the AFM, the event was heralded as one of the strongest shows of support for the NEA. Hosted by Slaughter, it included more than 60 members of the House and Senate. A Congressional band led by Peter Yarrow (a member of Locals 802 and 1000) of Peter Paul and Mary fame included Representatives Collin Peterson (D-MN) (a member of Local 30-73) on guitar and David Obey (D-WI) on harmonica, as well as yours truly on percussion.

In Memorial

Arts and Entertainment

The AFM sponsored the Eastman School Alumni String Quartet to perform at a memorial service for Representative Louise Slaughter. (L to R) are Marcio Botelho, Heidi Remick, Marta Bradley, Claudia Chudacoff, and Joanna Owen.

To express our heartfelt thanks to Slaughter and her family, the AFM sponsored a quartet of Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) members, organized by Local 161-710 Secretary Treasurer Marta Bradley to perform for family and friends in honor of Slaughter’s service. The group, the Eastman School Alumni String Quartet, comprised first-call players with professional roots in Washington, DC. The April 18 memorial event, organized by the office of House Speaker Paul Ryan, took place in Statuary Hall in the US Capitol Building. The memorial service was for members of Congress, guests, and friends who could not make the earlier funeral in New York. They commemorated one of the most beloved, capable, and respected bi-partisan legislators in the history of Congress. Stories of mentorship, friendship, and endearment filled the room along with tributes from Slaughter’s children, Speaker Ryan, and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. The quartet masterfully performed the prelude and postlude in a fitting tribute to their personal congressional hero and Eastman School of Music supporter. Afterwards, thanks poured in from those in attendance; members of the quartet were interviewed by a Rochester, New York, news affiliate.

Pelosi Names Pingree Co-Chair of Congressional Arts Caucus

On the following day, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi named Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) as Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus. Another fierce supporter of the arts, Pingree previously served alongside Slaughter on the House Congressional Arts Caucus in the fight to keep the arts alive in America. The AFM joined members from other arts and entertainment unions in a meeting with Pingree on May 18.

NEA Chair Jane Chu Steps Down

In May, arts and entertainment unions met with new Congressional Arts Caucus Co-Chair Chellie Pingree. (L to R) are Howard Sherman (SDC), Brandon Lorenz (AEA), Paul E. Almeida (DPE), Representative Pingree, Sarah Howes (SAG-AFTRA), Alfonso Pollard (AFM), and Michael Wasser (DPE).

After four intensely successful years as chair of the NEA, Dr. Jane Chu, the dynamic force behind recent NEA growth, served notice that she would be moving on. Chu was an active, hands-on chair who made it a point to visit growing arts organizations in all 50 states, from densely populated cities to remote rural communities. She sought to connect artists and communities to expand the arts and sew a more inclusive cultural fabric of this nation’s most prolific arts institutions. As a musician with advanced degrees in piano pedagogy, business administration, and a PhD in philanthropic studies, Chu envisioned an America where arts organizations and artists expand into more livable communities. She encouraged artists to collaborate with their communities to promote the business and economic value of the arts, which has helped make the industry one of the most financially progressive contributors to the US gross domestic product. Her even-handed relationship with members of Congress made it easy for the majority of legislators to see the value of the arts. This visionary approach, time and time again, led to full funding of the agency, despite attempts by many in government to end the agency.

Chu’s unpretentious style, grace, and artistic talent, underscore the true merit of her appointment. She was the right person to lead the agency at the right time. She leaves the NEA better off than when she inherited it. We are sure this is not the last we’ll see of her. We look forward to our continued work with NEA staff and all the national artists and arts groups committed to maintaining the power of federally supported arts. The AFM wishes Chu a future full of all the best that life and career have to offer.

Full House Passes Music Modernization Act

AFM President Ray Hair (right) with Representative Donald Norcross (D-NJ).

On April 25, shortly after Congress welcomed French President Emmanuel Marcron, following brief votes, the House took up, the Music Modernization Act (HR 5447) offered by Judiciary Committee Chair Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). 

The parties involved, along with committee leadership, successfully and unanimously dispatched the legislation during the legislative process under Suspension of the Rules. This coveted Congressional procedure signifies that there is no objection to the legislation by anyone in that Congressional chamber. Once passed, the bill moved to the Senate for final congressional consideration. The Senate was expected to take up the bill May 15. 

The AFM continues to work with other musicFIRST affiliated organizations and the offices of Goodlatte and Nadler to reach a negotiated settlement with broadcasters on a terrestrial performance right. During his opening comments at the April mark-up, Nadler clearly expressed his commitment to creating a performance right in terrestrial radio, even though it is not included in this bill. In his opening remarks Nadler states: 

Not included in this bill is the creation of a terrestrial performance right, but that is solely a result of timing. Under our direction, the National Association of Broadcasters and the musicFIRST Coalition are engaged in discussions on this issue. We do not want to wait and potentially lose the opportunity to resolve some other timely issues, but we are confident that the parties will continue to negotiate in good faith toward a solution that benefits both sides.

Those negotiations continue. The Music Modernization Act is the first major piece of copyright music licensing legislation moved in Congress in 30 years.

Pension Resolution Requires All Hands On Deck

AFM International President Ray Hair has enlisted the full range of legislative lobbying expertise from the AFM Office of Government Relations. Operating on several fronts, the office has, over the past year, participated in weekly calls by the National Coordinating Committee for the Solvency of Multiemployer Plans and worked with other labor affiliates to forge new ground in the battle to strengthen pending pension legislation.

Joint Select Committee on the Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans AFM
participation timeline:

November 2, 2017—AFM President Ray Hair and Legislative Director Pollard meet with Gideon Bragin, pension advisor to Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), to discuss components of the Butch Lewis Act

November 16, 2017—Bill read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance; AFM-EPF actuaries evaluate Butch Lewis Act (S. 2147) and find that it meets plan criteria

November 16, 2017—I attend Butch Lewis Act roll out

January 30, 2018—Hearings held by Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

March 14, 2018—I attend opening Joint Select Committee on Pensions Organizing Meeting 

April 11, 2018—Local 161-710 President Ed Malaga attends public hearing of the Joint Select Committee; pension fund and AFM lobbyists begin weekly conference calls

May 10, 2018—Hair and I attend six meetings with Joint Select Committee members and staff, and AFL-CIO Legislative Department Pension Staff Lauren Rothfarb to discuss the Butch Lewis and Grow acts and labor positions on each. These meetings outlined the official pension fund position on the progress of Congressional legislative process and updated members of Congress on the status of the AFM-EPF

As the multiemployer pension issue moves forward, Hair has committed to regular visits to Washington, DC, briefing members of Congress, while working with the AFL-CIO to investigate consensus positions on legislation. The committee is expected to complete its work and make a final recommendation/report to Congress by November 30. 

Members of the Joint Select Committee are:

Republican Senators Orrin Hatch (UT), Rob Portman, Lamar Alexander (TN), and Mike Crapo (ID); and Representatives Virginia Foxx (NC), Phil Roe (TN), Vern Buchanan (FL), and David Schweikert (AZ). Democratic Senators Co-Chair Sherrod Brown (OH), Joe Manchin (WV), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), and Tina Smith (MN); and Representatives Bobby Scott (VA), Richard Neal (MA), Debbie Dingell (MI), and Donald Norcross (NJ).

Health Care

Health Care Update: Association Health Plans

This article focuses on health care issues currently being considered by Congress and the Trump Administration.

Affecting Repeal and Replace

For eight years, conservatives in Congress have voted several times on the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), maneuvering through numerous legislative procedural actions that, even today, have not yielded success. Based on a campaign promise to eliminate the ACA, the Trump White House has worked closely with House and Senate leadership to craft new proposals that have resulted in intraparty roadblocks by Republican caucus members.

Democrats held firm to the premise that the ACA need not be repealed or replaced in total. Their belief is that the act should be reworked to help repair many of the adverse provisions that are most harmful to health care consumers.

The latest congressional vote on ACA repeal and replace took place in September, after the August congressional recess. The slim margin in the US Senate left no room for party defections. However, in the final vote, three Republicans voted with Democrats to defeat the bill on the Senate floor.

President Donald Trump says “Obamacare” is dead and gone. However, open enrollment continues as the bill remains in effect until the federal government comes up with a replacement Congress can agree on.

Association Health Plans

Faced with health care defeat in Congress, the White House remains determined to pull out a political victory, focused on keeping the Republican election promise to its constituency. The White House placed the blame for the congressional failure of repeal and replace squarely at the feet of Republican Senate leadership, vowing to push the health care issue until a new proposal is in place.

The most recent health care replacement proposal came October 12 when Trump announced his plan to reintroduce Association Health Plans (AHPs), a system that was proven unsuccessful in the 1980s. A February 2004 GAO Report entitled Private Health Insurance, outlines the negative intricacies that confront AHPs. These include market failures such as insolvency and fraud.

Trump noted that this plan is designed to spur competition in the individual insurance market, while giving small businesses the opportunity to come together in trade groups to form plans across state lines. He plans to affect this plan by having federal agencies, such as the US Treasury, Health and Human Services, and Labor Departments, ease rules wherever possible to make it work. In other words, he will be using the regulatory system to avoid further missteps by Congress.

AHPs have often been referred to as watered down plans that provide limited coverage. The American Academy of Actuaries
-plans-0) makes the case for the importance of consistent rules between plans that compete to enroll the same participants, discussing the adverse effects of the lack of coordination.

Support for this idea comes mostly from within the administration, while outside think tanks, along with some members of Congress, oppose the proposal.

A spokesperson for the nationally recognized Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University states concerns about insolvency and fraud. After Trump’s announcement, the health care industry issued a statement that fell short of an endorsement, noting that the complexity of the issue would need further study. The executive order will take time to implement.

During the week of October 8, Trump kept his promise to cut off cost sharing reduction payments to insurers that help low income Americans reduce their out-of-pocket health insurance costs. The following week, that move was countered by a bi-partisan plan developed by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), which was supported by the president, but then a day later denounced as a bailout to insurance companies.

The AFL-CIO continues to study the AHP issue and has decided not to release a statement until affiliates have had a chance to study the proposal and weigh in. The AFM is taking a similar position, working with the AFL-CIO Health Care Task Force before encouraging locals to take a stand.

Senate Health Care Debate Timeline

As a follow-up to my August 2017 IM column on health care, this details recent actions on Capitol Hill. The House completed its work and passed a repeal and replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health care bill. The 2017 House American Health Care Act (AHC) was then forwarded to the US Senate for consideration. Upon receipt, the Senate determined that it needed to compile its own proposal. Hence, Senate majority members went into closed session to draft a new proposal.

The Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA) was introduced as the vehicle used by Senate leadership to start the repeal and replace process. The following timeline provides a sense of Senate action, along with a glimpse at the procedural difficulty encountered after the seven-year attempt to totally eliminate the ACA. Though this process goes back seven years, we begin in 2017 with the 115th Congress, where a single party controls the House, Senate, and White House.

Health Care Timeline

May 4: House passes its version of health care reform, the American Health Care Act of 2017.

May 24: Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports House bill (American Health Care Act) increases federal deficit by $119 billion; over 10 years 23 million would lose health care.

June 13: President Donald Trump weighs in with Senators at a White House lunch to “make the [House] bill more generous.”

June 22: Senate releases its Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.

June 26: CBO reviews draft Senate bill.

June 27: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delays vote; not enough votes for his Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA).

July 13: Republicans present updated version; moderates say new version will hurt those with pre-existing conditions.

July 15: Procedural vote delayed because of Senator McCain’s surgery.

July 17: Senators Mike Lee and Jerry Moran kill the bill by announcing they would vote against it.

July 25: Senator John McCain votes for a motion to proceed.

July 25: Senator Ted Cruz introduces a health care bill amendment to allow insurers to sell low cost health
insurance; bill is rejected by the Senate.

July 27: McConnell announces plans for his Health Care Freedom Act, or as his colleagues call it, “skinny repeal” bill; will not replace the ACA for two years or have a two-year transition period. It is supported by the White House, but Senators oppose the tactic.

July 28: ACA repeal vote takes place, defeated by all Democrats, and Republicans John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins; bill would leave 16 million more people uninsured than ACA. After the vote, Trump continues to push for a health care resolution, while McConnell insists on moving on to tax reform and the debt ceiling.

July 28: House on August recess while Senate remains in pro forma session with no changes to the Affordable Care Act. (The pro forma session prevents President Trump from making recess appointments.)

For AFM members subject to requirements outlined under ACA, you should know that no additional work on health care has been scheduled. We expect more information after the August recess.

Health Care

Deciphering Health Care

Since the start of the 115th Congress, both the executive and legislative branches of government have been under single party control. The US House of Representatives, under the leadership of Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and the Senate, under the leadership of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), with the backing of the Republican White House, have been fully engaged in repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Once the process began in earnest, principal concerns came from Republicans who believed that the new health care bill should include provisions 1) to provide coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, 2) for those with employer-based health insurance, and 3) for cuts to Planned Parenthood. Democrats flatly rejected the bill saying that, in particular, its Medicaid cutback provisions would hurt too many elderly and poor Americans by eliminating Medicaid expansion eligibility included in the ACA. Democrats also complain the bill may cause unnecessary spikes in premiums for low-income families, older Americans, and those with pre-existing conditions.

The Medicaid Debate

Chief among concerns is the gradual elimination of the ACA Medicaid Expansion Program eligibility written into the new Republican House and Senate Bills. Both the Senate and House bills phase out extra money that the federal government has provided to states under ACA as an incentive to expand eligibility for Medicaid. More importantly, this means that seniors would receive fewer health care benefits under the new Senate and House bills.

What is Medicaid (not to be confused with Medicare)? It is a government funded health care program that provides health insurance to people with disabilities, the elderly, low-income seniors, and families with children and pregnant women. It helps pay medical expenses for those who cannot afford comprehensive medical coverage. Medicaid is financed by both federal and state governments. However, each state manages its own Medicaid program and decides its own rules for participation.   

What is Medicaid Expansion? The federal government website Medicaid.gov defines the program as expanded eligibility coverage under ACA for the poorest Americans. ACA created an opportunity for states to provide Medicaid eligibility, effective January 1, 2014, for individuals under 65 years of age with incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level (FPL). For the first time (under ACA), states could provide Medicaid coverage for low-income adults without children with guaranteed coverage through Medicaid in every state without need for a waiver.

House Deliberations 

After a month of wrangling, the new health care bill was withdrawn from consideration due to moderate and conservative Republicans who threatened not to vote for it until outstanding issues were resolved.

In the House, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score was not released until after the bill passed. The eventual nonpartisan score showed that 15-23 million Americans could lose their health care benefits by 2026, more than if Obamacare remained intact. The new American Healthcare Act (HR 1628) passed the House May 4 by a vote of 217 to 213.

After House passage, the bill moved to the Senate. Senators agreed to disagree with significant elements of the House bill and decided to totally rewrite it. As the House moved expeditiously to put a bill in place, the Senate worked behind closed doors with 13 Republican Senators drafting a revised bill. There was major concern over the bill being drafted without a CBO score analyzing its cost. The Senate decided to delay releasing its bill until all the pieces are in place.

Democratic Senators protested because the bill was not subject to committee hearings or debate on the floor. Now, Republican senators who heard from angry constituents at town hall meetings during their recess are carefully considering their options. Meanwhile, political pundits continue to calculate the impact of possible losses of Republican seats if the bill is signed into law without the support of voters.

The Senate bill was recently released with deep cuts to Medicaid and ending the ACA mandates for purchasing insurance, maternity care provisions, emergency services, and mental health treatment.

Now that the July 4 holiday recess has ended, the Senate is moving toward a full vote in the chamber. As of this writing, four Republican Senators will oppose it: Rand Paul (KY), Ted Cruz (TX), Mike Lee (UT), and Ron Johnson (WI). Cruz has introduced his own amendment that is now under consideration. Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald Trump, and Mitch McConnell are negotiating hard with reluctant Senate members to move the bill forward as opposition voices continue to grow from Members like Susan Collins (R-ME). Further complicating forward progress on the vote is the absence of Senator John McCain who recently had eye surgery and will be away from Washington for approximately two weeks. Failure to hold a vote could mean that no bill would pass this year, leaving the ACA as the “law of the land.”

The White House continues to weigh in with uncommitted Republicans suggesting that Trump would like to see the outstanding issues resolved and have a bill in place and ready for his signature before congress takes its August recess. At this writing, less than three weeks before August 1, few members of Congress have hope that an agreement can be reached in time. Some in leadership are beginning to believe that the best chance they have for passage of the Senate bill is to reach out across the aisle and include Democrats in the negotiations. Trump has now suggested that the Senate consider first repealing the ACA and then replacing it. Not all members of Congress support that solution.

health care

Renewed Focus on Arts, Health Care, and Performance Rights

NEA and CPB Funding

In a May 31 communique, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released an analysis of the White House’s FY 2018 federal budget. Within the Document entitled, Budget of the US Government: A New Foundation for American Greatness, the White House made several recommendations that cut short the ability of the US Government to invest in arts and culture. Under the section “Other Programs and Agencies Eliminated,” they list the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  

The White House’s March 18 budget release was merely an outline of the budget, which allowed AFM members to organize a Save the NEA campaign, an email campaign to Members of Congress expressing AFM members’ discontent over White House budget cuts to the arts. This successful mobilization program allowed AFM members, family, and friends to send approximately 4,301 emails to members of Congress encouraging them to make adjustments in the congressional appropriations process to recognize the intrinsic value of arts funding. In particular, such funding promotes a vibrant economy that, in turn, generates and contributes significant tax dollars designed to reinvest in local communities. For every dollar contributed by the NEA, the agency generates eight dollars to the community’s financial well-being.

Our work continues with the letter writing campaign in support of the tireless efforts of the House Arts Caucus led by Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ), along with the Department for Professional Employees of the AFL-CIO, the Congressional Arts Group, and myriad other individual artists and arts organizations across the country. If you have not written a letter to Congress on this vitally important issue, please visit the AFM website (www.afm.org/2017/02/nea) for information.

Health Care

Republicans are looking to complete the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare. The new legislation, which passed the House May 4 by a vote of 217 to 213 (with 20 Republicans and all Democrats voting against it), is now under consideration in the Senate. The House bill suffered through interparty squabbling as various Republican caucuses disagreed with certain provisions. There were fears that, if passed, the poorly crafted bill could lead to a Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives.

Among principal concerns from Republicans was the belief that the bill should include provisions for coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, as well as those with employer-based health insurance. After a month of wrangling, the bill was yanked from the floor, with both moderates and conservatives threatening not to vote for the bill until these issues were worked out.  

In the House, the Budget Office (CBO) score was not released until after the bill was passed. It showed that more than 23 million Americans could lose their health care benefits by 2026—more people than if Obamacare remained intact.

After House passage, the bill moved to the Senate where Senators agreed to disagree with the content of the bill and decided to totally rewrite it. As the House moved as quickly as it could to put a bill in place, the Senate worked behind closed doors with 13 Republican Senators drafting a revised bill. There was major concern over the bill being drafted without a CBO score analyzing its costs. The Senate decided to delay releasing its bill until all the pieces are in place. Democrats protested because the bill will apparently not be the subject of committee hearings or debate on the floor. Democrats also complain the bill may cause unnecessary spikes in premiums for low-income families, older Americans, and those with pre-existing conditions.

As of this writing, the Senate is looking to release its bill by June 19, aiming for a full vote in the chamber just prior to the July 4th holiday recess. Many senators are hoping for a revised CBO score before they vote for the bill.

Fair Play Fair Pay Act

The AFM’s work toward a legislative solution to a performance right on AM/FM radio continues. H.R. 1836, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, which was introduced by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), is a key piece of legislation being spearheaded by the musicFIRST Coalition. First, the bill levels the playing field by having AM/FM radio stations pay performance royalties for music they air. Secondly, it provides real protection for small, local stations (AM/FM stations with annual revenues below $1 million) to pay just $500 a year. Public, college, and other noncommercial stations would pay only $100 a year. Religious radio, talk radio, and those stations with incidental use of music would not pay royalties. The bill also contains language that provides copyright protections for pre-1972 artists who currently do not receive royalties for their works.

The coalition is currently working with House Judiciary Chair Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI) to bring the parties together. Nadler, Blackburn, and the musicFIRST Coalition continue to build support of cosponsors for the package. Despite broadcaster efforts to stop the bill, and thanks to the work of an ambitious team of legislative representatives, the bill continues to build bipartisan co-sponsorship.

More importantly, through musicFIRST, the AFM is working to help build a comprehensive music package that includes Copyright Office Reform and HR 1914, the PROMOTE Act offered by Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), which would provide the right to copyright owners to prohibit the use of sound recordings by broadcasters, unless permission is granted by the copyright owner.

Martin Luther King

The Extraordinary Musical Influences of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born Michael King, Jr., in Atlanta, Georgia, January 15, 1929. As one of America’s most revered and effective advocates for social justice and racial harmony, he reorganized the civil and human rights movement in the US into a highly inclusive, nonviolent movement that elevated the conscience of a nation.

Dr. King is recognized the world over for his humanitarian work as evidenced by such internationally recognized awards as the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom (presented posthumously in 1997), and the Congressional Gold Medal (awarded posthumously in 2004). His work is characterized by his ability to galvanize support for national struggles aimed at religious freedom, improved housing, the elimination of poverty, worker rights, social and criminal justice reform, and other social movements that may not have succeeded if they stood alone.

In a January 13, 2017 email to AFM members recognizing the meaning behind Dr. King’s work, AFM International President Ray Hair noted, “Dr. King’s words are as relevant today as they were half a century ago. Please remember Dr. King’s commitment to civil and worker rights on Monday and throughout the year as we fight for justice together.”

As the country celebrates his birth and his work to make this nation a better place for all Americans, we look at some musical influences that helped shape his life’s mission.

Martin Luther KingDr. King was born into a home where music played an important role. His mother, Alberta King, was an extremely talented singer/instrumentalist who served as the director of the choir and church organist at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Music was a mainstay. While studying at the Divinity School at Boston University, King met Coretta Scott who was enrolled at the New England Conservatory of Music. Coretta had been recognized as gifted soprano in Lincoln Normal High School’s senior chorus. She also directed a choir at her home church. While in high school, Coretta also played the trumpet and piano, and participated in school musicals. During her senior year in high school, she enrolled in Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Dr. King always recognized the power of music as an “instrument of change.” Aside from his familial influence, which included gospel music of all types, his other major influences included such renowned artists as Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Swan Silvertones, Nina Simone, Miriam Makeba, and other great vocalists.

As time went on, King also began to extol the virtues of jazz and considered the idiom and the delivery of this art form as “triumphant music.” In a piece written in recognition of the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival, King wrote, “God has wrought many things out of oppression. He has endowed his creatures with the capacity to create, and from this capacity has flowed the sweet songs of sorrow and joy that have allowed man to cope with his environment and many different situations. Jazz speaks for life. The blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.”

King’s consideration of the importance of music is reflected across all genres. The 1963 March on Washington, organized by A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, featuring Dr. King and his “I Have a Dream Speech,” was a virtual who’s who of American artists including Peter, Paul, and Mary, members of Locals 802 (New York City) and 9-535 (Boston, MA); Harry Belafonte; Camilla Williams for Marian Anderson; Mahalia Jackson; Bob Dylan of Local 802; and Joan Baez, to name a few.

As American symphony orchestras work toward inclusion of African Americans and other minorities among their ranks, King’s message has had a remarkable impact on classical communities. Symphony orchestras across the country celebrate his legacy and message of inclusion by performing featured concerts in major and small concert halls, colleges, and universities across the nation, including, but not limited to: The Philadelphia Orchestra, Nashville Symphony, Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Muncie Symphony Orchestra, South Bend Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, and Chicago Sinfonietta.

In an interview about his life and career, renowned American conductor Paul Freeman recalls a 2:00 a.m. inspirational chance meeting with Dr. King at the Atlanta airport. When asked by Dr. King why he was in Atlanta, Freeman told him that he was there to guest conduct the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Freeman was the founding conductor of Chicago Sinfonietta whose mission was to promote the classical arts for all in the Chicago area, while employing minority musicians to do the job.

Dr. King responded, “Ah, the last bastion of elitism. Glory, Hallelujah!” Not taking this as a slight, it reminded Dr. Freeman that he should remain true to his mission of inclusion and from there, he worked harder until he accomplished his goal. Today, the Sinfonietta remains an active part of Chicago’s classical cultural fabric. (See the relevant partial interview at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ADy_Rul3bs.)

For Dr. King, inclusion equated to a stronger nation that was tolerant, caring, and a global leader in civil and human rights. Dr. King’s struggle continues today. And we, as musicians, must continue our mission of bringing the joy and healing power of music to every corner of this country and the globe. American musicians tour to advance just that message. Whether under an international commercial touring contract, a nongovernmental sister city relationship, or through US Department of State international exchange programs, professional musicians and artists of all kinds have and will continue to play a role promoting peace, global harmony, and civil and human rights.

As an iconic American catalyst for change, Dr. King’s message will help us endure the most difficult times. His appreciation of music and the arts no doubt played a significant role in the development of such a true citizen of the world who was honored with some of the most prestigious international awards. Let’s remember that our talent helps support that mission. Thank you for sharing your talent and thank you for your membership in your union. Dr. King would approve of you, your affiliation, and your work.

Net Neutrality

What the Loss of Net Neutrality Means to Musicians and the Music Industry

On December 14, 2017, the Republican majority at the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), led by FCC Chair Ajit Pai, voted to repeal Obama Administration net neutrality regulations put in place in 2015. The three to two vote was divided along party lines, approving a Trump Administration plan to repeal Obama-era net neutrality protections. Those rules were intended to keep the Internet open and fair—in essence treating all traffic the same, halting Internet service providers (ISPs) from speeding up or slowing down Internet traffic from select websites and apps. It also prevented ISPs from charging additional fees for users to access content.

Prior to the December vote, some members of Congress and others in opposition to the FCC move asked the FCC not to force a vote now, but to withhold it. Complaints from some members of Congress have centered on a corrupted comment system that has revealed at least a million comments may have fraudulently used the names of real people. Also, the Commission has not held public hearings on the repeal and some 50,000 consumer complaints have been excluded from the public record, as noted in a letter to Chair Pai from Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH). Further, Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) expressed concern that many of the fake submissions on net neutrality were linked to Russian email addresses.

Likewise, several attorneys general have threatened to file suit, including the New York Attorney General who is working on a criminal complaint. It is suspected that members of Congress who disagree with the changes will introduce legislation designed to block the new rules.

Under the new regulations, companies would be able to block, slow, or provide fast lanes to any service they so choose. This flies in the face of a free and open Internet concept that would give consumers the choice to access the content they desire on a free and open platform. It would grant ISPs the overarching responsibility to determine what the consumer can and cannot see.

There are competing legislative proposals on this issue, including Representative Marsha Blackburn’s (R-TN) BROWSER Act, or HR 2520, the Balancing the Rights of Web Surfers Equally and Responsibly Act. These proposals would require companies such as AT&T, Facebook, and Google, to get user permission before selling their Internet browser history.

Aside from some of the fundamental changes by the Republican majority on the Pai Commission that give clear advantage to tech companies, the AFM rejects the FCC’s recent changes because of limitations these new rules can possibly place on the free flow of music audio and music opinion content.

AFM International Vice President and President of Local 99 (Portland, OR) Bruce Fife, summarizes net neutrality and its meaning to our industry this way: “The concept of net neutrality is simple. It means that Internet service providers must treat all data the same. They can’t speed it up for some, slow it down for others, or even worse, block access to websites altogether. They need to treat everyone the same, which in our business, creates a level playing field for musicians working to market themselves, their performances, and their recordings.”

Convention Delegates Renew Commitment to Legislative and Political Action

The 100th AFM Convention became the forum for our delegates to organize around legislative and political issues that impact the lives of professional musicians. Delegates to the Convention stepped up in very real, tangible ways, committed to support our goal to keep government focused on the honest treatment of musicians impacted by legislation and regulations that might be harmful, if not kept in check.

Not enough praise can be bestowed upon Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee. The congressman took time on Father’s Day, June 19, to travel to Las Vegas from Mississippi to engage the delegates. He addressed our ongoing immigration battle over delays in P-2 and O-1 visas, filling the delegates in on the work he and his staff are doing with the AFM Office of Government Relations to address this complex issue.

Prior to his appearance at the Convention gala, the congressman met with AFM President Ray Hair and AFM staff to lay the groundwork for congressional action. Thompson was true to his word about resolving this issue as evidenced by ongoing meetings with his congressional staff and exchanges with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) administrators.

(L to R) AFM Legislative-Political Director and Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard, Congressman Bennie Thompson, and AFM President Ray Hair.

(L to R) AFM Legislative-Political Director and Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard, Congressman Bennie Thompson, and AFM President Ray Hair.

It should be noted that resolution of this matter will be “a process,” not a quick fix, as his staff establishes a path toward a permanent solution. In his comments to the delegates and to the congressman, AFM President Ray Hair noted, “The AFM has no greater champion on the issue of repairing the broken P-2 visa process than Congressman Bennie Thompson. My long-term relationship with him and my family over decades underscores the fact that he is a man of means and great integrity. Congressman Thompson is very knowledgeable about, and has a wonderful appreciation for, music and the arts, as well as a heart of gold as relates to the plight of professional musicians struggling to earn a living. We welcome a man of his stature and superlative character into our house and pledge to do all within our power to assist him in his endeavor toward a resolution of this difficult issue.” 

A discussion also took place over the importance of locals getting behind HR 1733, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act. Convention delegates were treated to a remarkably lucid presentation by SoundExchange President and CEO Mike Huppe. An independent nonprofit collective management organization,
SoundExchange collects and distributes digital performance royalties to featured artists and copyright holders. Huppe was able to clearly outline the nexus between the importance of a solid royalty stream to artists and the passage of the act. HR 1733 will provide a permanent royalty stream for current day musicians whose sound recordings are performed on AM/FM radio, as well as provide copyright law protection for artists who performed on pre-1972 recordings.

On the political front, special appreciation goes out to the AFM convention delegates, all of whom showed exceptional leadership by joining the AFM Signature TEMPO Campaign. This vital leadership campaign was developed as a platform for AFM officers and members to more actively engage in our legislative-political work. Signature Members participate in group conference calls discussing long- and short-range plans to create a stronger national legislative political base throughout the union. In addition to participation on strategic calls, Signature Members receive special TEMPO marketing tools, along with a monthly copy of The Atlantic Magazine to share with members.

We also thank AFM International Representatives and AFM TEMPO Coordinator Sandra Grier in Washington, DC, for the work they do promoting this special campaign. Convention membership increased exponentially due to their diligent monthly promotion of the campaign. Again, this is not just a fundraising drive but a strategic effort to boost AFM member participation in government affairs.

This year, convention delegates participated in the first AFM TEMPO sweepstakes. It replaced the AFM Convention raffle, giving all participants a chance at winning the grand prize. Winner of the sweepstakes piano was Local 34-627 President Don (Warner) Warmbrodt. Congratulations, Don!

Five TEMPO Achievement Service Awards went to locals that meritoriously participated in TEMPO fundraising over a three-year period between the 2013 and 2016 conventions. AFM Local 257 (Nashville, TN), led by President Dave Pomeroy, had the fifth highest level of contributions. AFM Local 9-535 (Boston, MA), led by President Pat Hollenbeck, achieved the fourth highest level of contributions. Local 47, led by President John Acosta, achieved the third highest level of contributions. AFM Local 161-710 (Washington, DC), led by President Edgardo Malaga, achieved the second highest level of contributions. The highest award went to AFM Local 6 (San Francisco, CA), led by President David Schoenbrun. We congratulate the outstanding work of these locals as we work to find ways to successfully integrate all AFM Locals into the TEMPO program.

New USFWS Rules on African Elephant Ivory

On July 6, 2016, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) placed new rules in effect regarding the African elephant ivory ban that includes positive language for musical instruments. After more than a year, working in cooperation with our national ivory partners (League of American Orchestras, The Recording Academy, Chamber Music, American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers, National Association of Music Merchants, and Performing Arts Alliance) we finally accomplished regulatory language that provides a level of comfort for musicians who own musical instruments with de minimis amounts (200g or less) of banned African elephant ivory, particularly musicians who wish to buy, sell, or otherwise trade instruments with de minimis amounts of banned ivory. Helpful new guidance from USFWS in the form of frequently asked questions is found on the website: www.fws.gov/international/travel-and-trade/ivory-ban-questions-and-answers.html, appropriately titled, “What Can I Do with My Ivory.” A more extensive review of these new rules and the AFM’s ongoing efforts to “do no harm” to professional musicians in every musical genre will be posted in the September International Musician.  For additional information contact Alfonso Pollard at apollard@afm.org.

Performers Hit Capitol Hill in Support of Performance Rights

The introduction in US Congress of H.R. 1733, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015, by Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Marsha Blackburn established a new benchmark in the protection of rights for creators whose sound recordings are performed on AM/FM terrestrial radio without a performance right. As a member of the musicFIRST Coalition, the AFM worked tirelessly with nationally recognized performance rights organizations to help ensure the introduction and passage of this legislation. 

Thousands of artists, including AFM featured artists and backup musicians, will reap the benefit of this legislation, as will performers on pre-1972 recordings that were not protected under copyright. Thus far, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act has the support of such luminaries as Elton John of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA), REM of Local 148-462 (Atlanta, GA), Chuck D., Annie Lennox, Imogen Heap, tUnE-yArDs and Sheila E. of Local 47, as well as thousands of artists and fans around the world.

On behalf of the AFM, International Executive Board member and Local 257 (Nashville, TN) President Dave Pomeroy addresses a press conference hosted by Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Marsha Blackburn in support of the Fair Play Fair Pay Act.

On behalf of the AFM, International Executive Board member and Local 257 (Nashville, TN) President Dave Pomeroy addresses a press conference hosted by Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Marsha Blackburn in support of the Fair Play Fair Pay Act.

On May 11, social media was ablaze from outreach by musicFIRST and the AFM to the creative community. More than 40 artists flew in to the nation’s capital to advocate their support of this vital piece of legislation before members of Congress. The group broke into teams visiting almost 50 congressional offices. Some of the industry’s leading featured and session musicians came, including T Bone Burnett of Local 47, AFM International Executive Board member and
Local 257 (Nashville, TN) President Dave Pomeroy, Rosanne Cash and Tom Malone of Local 802 (New York City), Patrick Lamb of Local 99 (Portland, OR), Bruce Bouton and Rodney Crowell of Local 257, and Nona Hendryx. Each brought their own unique perspective representing more than 300 years of combined experience in the music industry. 

Representatives Nadler and Blackburn hosted a press event and led the press conference. We were fortunate to also have House Judiciary Ranking Member Representative John Conyers, the “Dean” of the House of Representatives, along with Representative Darrell Issa on hand to support the event. Issa is the chair of the House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet. As chair, his support will go a long way toward passage of the bill when Congress takes up copyright reform next year. 

After a full day of lobbying, musicFIRST presented the Americana Music Association’s annual awards nominees announcement ceremony at “The Mansion” on O Street, honoring rising recording artists from across the country.

Support of this bill is critical to our members who create new music and look forward to their product supporting their careers. We are extremely happy to have this legislation in place to help AFM members. We encourage each of our members to write their members of Congress and voice their support for this legislation and to thank those AFM members and leaders who have worked to have resolutions introduced in their local jurisdictions. As AFM President Ray Hair continues to note: “Together we are stronger.”

Taking Advantage of Federal Arts Resources

This month, we feature a new initiative that the AFM believes will be helpful to members who are looking for expanded opportunities with the federal government. The Federal Arts Connection was born from efforts initiated by AFM President Ray Hair and me to highlight the vast array of arts-related federal programs that members can use to build their professional portfolios.

By now, you have read in the International Musician about Hair’s visits with the leadership of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Smithsonian Institution, and the US Department of State. We are pleased to have been hosted by agency chairs, department directors, and department chiefs, each of whom have recognized the important role the AFM has played historically in the development of arts and entertainment over its 119-year existence. 

Each agency has made a commitment to include the AFM as an important partner in their deliberations and they are excited about including AFM members as a resource. Hence, the Federal Arts Connection project is now an essential part of our work on your behalf. We hope that you will use this resource.  More about this work will be outlined in the “members only” section of the AFM website.

We look forward to hearing your stories about grants awarded to you and about international travel you accomplish under the auspices of the US Government. AFM President Hair and I engage in constant dialogue with agency officials. Please feel free to contact my office if you have questions about this project.  Many thanks for your membership and for your support of our union’s government relations programs.

This first edition of the Federal Arts Connection (below) features a few of the resources available. Additional resources will be unveiled each month.

Dear AFM Member

This is a monthly source for information relating to federal grant making, performance, education, and research opportunities for musicians interested in project funding and international travel as artistic representatives of the US. Though extensive, this list is not exhaustive. Each month we will highlight different federal agencies with arts-related components. We suggest that you make direct contact with local federal agencies, government councils, and non-government organizations (NGOs) to help you identify other possibilities. This list is only a starting point, to successfully engage these opportunities it may be necessary to contact the agency directly for requirement details. The AFM Office of Government Relations is happy to help you identify as many federal resources as possible.



The Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance:
(Outlines every federal program offered. Serious researchers can search music, performing arts, and similar keywords to get to the programs listed. For grant writers, in seemingly
unrelated agencies there may be
opportunities for creative thinking about how the arts/music can positively impact American communities.)

The Federal Register
(Search music, arts, culture)
National Endowment for the Arts
National Medal of the Arts
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
NEH (Music)

The White House: Music and the Arts
Arts Education
National Medal of The Arts

US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of Note Fulbright Program: www.eca.state.gov/fulbrightexchanges.state.gov/us/special-focus-areas

@ECA_AS (Assistant Secretary)
@FilmShowcase (American Film Showcase)
@UIIWP (International Writing Program)

Exchange Programs At State (ECA)
American Film Showcase
Center Stage (Artists from Abroad)
OneBeat American Music Abroad


Exchanges Videos (ECA)
American Music Abroad