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Twin Cities Orchestras Achieve Balanced Budgets

Both the Minnesota Orchestra and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra have announced balanced budgets for their 2017-2018 fiscal years. Musicians from both orchestras are represented by Local 30-73 (Minneapolis-St Paul, MN).

In Minneapolis, Minnesota Orchestra ended the fiscal year in the black, with its budget of $36.7 million. The orchestra drew audiences averaging 91% of concert hall capacity and enjoyed a successful fundraising year as well, adding 1,000 new donors to its ranks. Artistic highlights included domestic tours and tours abroad to London and South Africa, as well as a Grammy Award nomination.

St. Paul Chamber Orchestra balanced its $10.2 million budget. With a focus on attracting younger audiences, the orchestra saw 10% more school-age concertgoers at its performances, attributed to a continuing policy of providing free student tickets. A record number of unique households attended St. Paul Chamber Orchestra concerts. Donations from individuals also reached an all-time high. In February 2018, the orchestra won a Grammy Award for its recording of Death and the Maiden.

Florida Orchestra Receives Education Program Funds

Hillsborough County in Florida approved an additional $100,000 to expand The Florida Orchestra’s music education program, presented through a partnership with Prodigy Cultural Arts Program and the University Area Community Development Corporation.

The program began in Summer 2018 with group violin lessons and free concerts by The Florida Orchestra’s musicians—members of Local 427-721 (Tampa, FL)—for Prodigy students and families. It now offers a 15-week after school program with group violin lessons twice weekly. The new funds will cover instrument rentals and supplies, and will allow hiring of additional violin instructors and a part-time coordinator.

Cleveland Orchestra Receives Raises in New Agreement

On December 23, 2018, the Musicians of The Cleveland Orchestra ratified a new three-year contract, effective through the 2020-2021 season. The contract provides musicians with 2% annual raises; a new seniority pay category for 25 or more years of service; an increase to the employer’s contribution to the musicians’ retirement plan; and improvements to life insurance and long-term disability benefits. Musicians agreed to contribute more toward healthcare costs and will take part in a future healthcare plan review. Orchestra Committee Chair and Bassoonist Jonathan Sherwin of Local 4 (Cleveland, OH) noted that negotiations were cordial and civil, and emphasized the musicians’ desire to thank the Orchestra’s patrons, trustees, and donors for their tremendous support over the past 100 years.

Richmond Symphony Ratifies Four-Year Contract

In December, Richmond Symphony announced the ratification of a new four-year musicians’ contract, which will run through August 23, 2022.

Under the new CBA, Richmond Symphony musicians, represented by Local 123 (Richmond, VA), will receive pay increases of 1.5% to 2.5% in each of the four years, ultimately bringing base annual salary to $36,847. Four full-time positions will be added over the life of the contract—principal tuba, second horn, and two positions yet to be determined—increasing the orchestra’s full-time complement from 37 to 41 members. Musicians have agreed to expand their role in supporting the orchestra’s fundraising and marketing efforts.

Richmond Symphony is in the final phases of a $12 million capital campaign. A portion of the funds raised in the capital campaign are earmarked to support the organization in carrying out various terms of the contract.

Met Orchestra Announces Details of New Contract

Details of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra’s three-year contract, ratified September 2018, have been released. The agreement, retroactive to August 1, 2018 and continuing through July 31, 2021, will provide an 8.2% salary increase over three years, a substantial increase in the musicians’ pension plan, and a mid-season break in February to allow for rest. There will be flexibility in touring and symphonic performances and a Sunday performance schedule will be phased in beginning in the 2019-2020 season. Musicians will contribute modestly to a healthcare premium cost-sharing plan while making no other changes to coverage or deductibles.

Negotiations were difficult and the successful result was due in large part to unprecedented house-wide unity, with joint bargaining between AFM Local 802 (New York City), representing the musicians, and the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), representing the company’s chorus, dancers, stage managers, stage directors, and supers. The MET Associate Musicians and the MET Music Staff also negotiated a new contract. Additional gains in the contract include the creation of a new Artistic Advisory Committee, a formalized tenure review process, updated audition procedures, strengthened workplace health and safety measures, changes to anti-harassment and discrimination policies, and new collaborative fundraising and audience development initiatives.

League of American Orchestras Launches EDI Catalyst Fund

In January, the League of American Orchestras launched a three-year pilot program of annual grants to adult and youth orchestras that aim to advance their understanding of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), and to foster effective EDI practices. Supported by a three-year $2.1 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Catalyst Fund will address the fact that enduring change requires orchestras to confront their beliefs, behaviors, and practices—their cultures.

“Our experience and research confirm that programmatic diversity efforts fall short when not supported by rigorous examination of values and practices and an alignment among stakeholders,” says League of American Orchestras President and CEO Jesse Rosen.

“Despite the artistic excellence and evolution of America’s orchestras, the intractable problem of there being 4% representation of black and Latinx musicians has remained unchanged for some time,” says Mellon Foundation Program Officer Susan Feder. “We are proud to support the launch of the League of American Orchestras’ Catalyst Fund, which acknowledges that the lack of diverse representation is not due to a lack of talent—it’s due to an issue of access.”

League member orchestras that meet eligibility requirements have until February 22 to apply. Applications will be reviewed by an independent panel of experts and grant awards will be announced by May 17, 2019. For more details and application information visit The League website: americanorchestras.org.

Selected orchestras will be required to use the $10,000 to $25,000 grants to support the retention of a skilled EDI practitioner to advance EDI learning objectives. Grantees will be linked into a learning community that serves as a platform to share their findings, including a dedicated online forum, as well as remote and in-person discussions.

baltimore symphony

BSO Musicians Host Community Event as Contract Struggles Continue

baltimore symphony
A January 8 event at Baltimore’s Basilica raised more than $12,000 for My Sister’s Place, an organization that provides services for homeless and impoverished women and children in Baltimore City.

On January 8, brass players from the National Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony and Opera Orchestras, and The Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as musicians from Canadian Brass and Semper Fi, joined their brother and sister brass and percussion players from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to perform a free concert that was open to the public. The event, which took place at Baltimore’s Basilica of the Assumption, America’s oldest cathedral, raised more than $12,000 for My Sister’s Place, an organization that provides services for homeless and impoverished women and children in Baltimore City.

baltimore symphony
Baltimore Symphony Musicians’ brass extravaganza gathered musicians from several regional orchestras to support a Baltimore charity, while publicizing the BSM’s contract issues.

The concert was also a display of support for the Baltimore Symphony Musicians as they fight to retain their 52-week contract and other hard-won provisions gained at bargaining tables over decades of contract negotiations. As of midnight January 15, the four-month contract extension between management of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and its musicians, represented by AFM Local 40-543, had expired; BSO management said it is not interested in signing another extension.

baltimore symphony
Former Baltimore City mayor, former Maryland governor, and former Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, who was host for the Baltimore Symphony Musicians’ successful concert at Baltimore’s Basilica, shows off his official BSM t-shirt. O’Malley was made an honorary member of AFM Local 40-543 (Baltimore, MD) in April 2000.

The Baltimore Symphony Musicians are focused on maintaining a competitive compensation and benefit package that will allow the organization to attract and retain high caliber musicians, maintain and improve the health and safety language in the CBA, and empower the BSO to bring transcendent performances to audiences in Maryland and beyond.

baltimore symphony
A standing-room-only crowd of supporters packed the Basilica to support the Baltimore Symphony Musicians.

In a statement issued January 16, musicians say they will continue performing on the stages of the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and the Music Center at Strathmore unless management locks them out or unilaterally stops respecting contract terms.

baltimore symphony
Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh and BSO Players’ Committee Co-Chair and Percussionist Brian Prechtl.

Baltimore Symphony Musicians remain committed to serving their community by improving people’s lives through music. Visit their website (BSOmusicians.org) and Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/BaltimoreSymphonyMusicians) for more coverage of the January 8 concert and for updates of their contract talks.

Musician’s Dystonia Symptoms and Treatment

Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder that occurs when the brain sends incorrect information to the muscles. It is characterized by failed or involuntary muscle contractions and movements. Focal dystonias affect specific parts of the body—neck, eyes, face, vocal cords, hands, and feet.

Scientists have not been able to determine an exact cause for focal dystonia. It seems to be related in some way to repetitive motions because it occurs most frequently in musicians who have intensely practiced their instruments over a number of years. It is often focused in the body part where the most complex movement patterns are performed. There is a genetic predisposition in only about 5% of cases.

Focal hand dystonia is strikingly more common in musicians than other groups of professionals that require intricate hand movements—dentists, surgeons, writers. According to the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation, 1%-2% of professional musicians are affected by dystonia, though many may be undiagnosed. At first, they may perceive symptoms as faulty technique or insufficient preparation. Dystonia may even be misdiagnosed as a psychological condition.

Instrumentalists with dystonia commonly exhibit symptoms in the following ways:

  • Pianists: right hand, 4th and 5th fingers
  • String players: left hand
  • Guitarists: either hand, 3rd finger of right hand
  • Percussionists: either hand
  • Woodwinds: either hand, face, mouth
  • Brass players: corners of mouth, jaw

By far, the two most common types of focal dystonia affecting musicians are embouchure dystonia and hand dystonia.

Focal Hand Dystonia

Focal hand dystonia typically manifests as loss of muscular control in highly practiced movements and can also be accompanied by tremors. Initial symptoms include subtle loss of control in difficult passages, lack of precision, involuntary curling or sticking of fingers, and involuntary flexion of the bowing thumb. The problem is almost always painless and task specific. For example, with doublers it may only occur on one particular instrument, but not the other. It may also be sensitive to sensory input with some pianists reporting symptoms only when playing on ivory keys (not plastic).

Embouchure Dystonia

This type of dystonia is most common in brass and woodwind players. It may affect muscles of the mouth, face, jaw, and tongue. Symptoms may be subtle at first—air leaks at the corners of the mouth and tremors (sometimes worse in higher registers) or involuntary and abnormal contractions of the face muscles.


There is currently no cure for dystonia, so the focus is on treatment. Sometimes anticholinergic drugs that affect the transmission of messages from the brain to the muscles can help. Botulinum toxin injections can compel the body to create new programs by blocking nerve impulses to contracting muscles. They work by temporarily weakening the muscles so the spasm is reduced and therefore are a better choice for hand dystonia than embouchure dystonia.

The ultimate goal of treatment is to establish new sensory motor programs to accomplish the tasks that have become challenging. Altering posture or key positions could help. Sensory tricks, like playing while wearing a latex glove or stimulation applied to affected areas, can lessen symptoms. Sensory re-education attempts to reverse the changes in the cortex that have caused the dystonia through repetitive exercises and/or visualization.

In sensory motor retuning (constraint induced movement therapy) nonaffected fingers are immobilized in a splint while performing repetitive coordination exercises. This may facilitate freer, more independent movement patterns from a dystonic finger.

Dystonia can be a symptom of other serious conditions. If you are experiencing uncontrolled muscle movement or contractions see your doctor as soon as possible. For more information on musician’s dystonia visit the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (www.dystonia-foundation.org/musicians).

Mike Daly

Mike Daly Spotlights the Steel in “Renascence”

Mike Daly
Steel guitarist Mike Daly of Local 257 (Nashville, TN) splits his time between playing with Local 257 members Travis Tritt and Hank Williams, Jr.

In his new CD, Renascence, Mike Daly showcases the range of the steel guitar with original tracks featuring artists who unearth sounds that are decidedly nontraditional—and not country.

Featured on the CD is one of steel’s most recognized session players, 82-year-old Lloyd Green of Local 257 (Nashville, TN), who has been in the forefront of the steel guitar since the mid-sixties. Daly of Local 257 (Nashville, TN) says, “He was the first person who helped me get started with the record; he got the whole ball rolling. I wanted to present players who not only play in the country music world, but who had transcended country music with their approach.” Known for his work with Paul McCartney and Henry Mancini, Green is recognized in Nashville and on the international stage. “He can play outside of a country song,” Daly says.

Enlisting top steel players, including the preeminent and ever-experimental British artist B.J. Cole, Daly easily crosses genres. He wrote and chose songs with each artist in mind. His collaborations with Dan Dugmore (Local 257) on Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Lenny” and with Greg Leisz, of Local 7 (Orange County, CA), on “Ry,” suggest he chose judiciously. 

Storied steel guitar player Robert Randolph also appears on the album. Daly says, “I was fortunate that everyone came on board with a very good spirit. Robert Randolph is a perfect example of taking steel guitar and presenting it in his own voice and on a platform that is not country.” Randolph’s fusion of rock, funk, and rhythm and blues has made him a jam band favorite and, Daly says, for this record, “He was a big piece of the puzzle.”

Green and Randolph, who met in Nashville, are two steel players from different generations who approach the instrument in the same way: an individual voice that is not country. Daly says, “It was a musical voice that happened to be played on the steel guitar. Green knew he had something special and encouraged Randolph, barely out of his teens, to cultivate it. Daly says, “Green said, ‘Don’t pay attention to detractors.’”

While it graces country songs with its plaintive, ethereal twang, the steel is perhaps a less celebrated instrument. With this record, Daly compels listeners to move beyond standard instrumentation. There is no electric guitar, just bass, drums, piano, and organ. He explains, “All the textures were somehow created on the acoustic instruments. That was the goal. I wanted to create all that on the steel to show people that there is a lot of depth, a lot of palates, and a lot of color.”

Daly credits his engineer Michael Webb of Local 257 for mixing the album and playing B-3, piano, and an accordion track on “Dimming of the Day.”

For the last nine years, Daly has been lending his unique sound on the pedal steel to Travis Tritt. He has also worked for two decades as musical director for Hank Williams, Jr. Between the two gigs for these Local 257 members, Daly ends up doing about 100 shows a year out on the road.

Currently, he is home in Nashville Sunday through Thursday. For session work, he alternates on the pedal steel, slide guitar, Dobro, and Weissenborn (a hollow neck acoustic lap steel guitar introduced in the early 20th century). On the weekends, he says, “I climb on a bus, I go somewhere and play. It’s kind of the best of both worlds.”

Daly grew up around Cleveland, Ohio, and played piano throughout high school. In 1973 the radio stations were brimming with country rock. Though he was a piano player, he was drawn to the sound of Duane Allman and Little Feat’s Lowell George on the steel and slide guitar. “I just went out and bought a steel when I was 18 years old. In a couple of years people started calling me. I learned a lot on the bandstand. I just bought a steel for my love of the sound and then I just kept at it.” Daly gravitated to players like virtuoso Rusty Young from Poco and “Sneaky Pete” Kleinow, who embraced more diversity and experimentation.

One of the players to whom Daly paid close attention was David Lindley of Local 47 who played fiddle, guitar, slide guitar, and steel guitar. Daly says, “I hardly ever say pedal steel guitar because I consider it all one family, whether it has pedals or not, whether it’s an acoustic instrument or an electric instrument. To me, if you’re putting a bar on it, it’s a steel guitar.”

Daly joined the union, and from 1975 to 1987 enjoyed great success playing to college crowds around Cleveland. One by one, though, those venues closed. He says, “We would play Baldwin Wallace University, Kent State. We played downtown Cleveland, below the Agora [Theater]. We had a circuit. A lot of it was built around colleges, and when they raised the legal drinking age, a lot of those establishments closed up—and with it a vital, live music scene as well.”

He relocated to Nashville and joined Local 257, doing sessions and TV shows, and eventually playing the Grand Ole Opry. “I wanted to be a professional musician, and part of that was being in the union and benefiting from being part of a collective that was looking out for each other. You receive a substantial, respectful amount of money for your talent and your time,” he says.

For the occasional lesson, Daly uses his background in piano to illustrate how music is played on pedal steel. He says, “The steel is somewhat abstract, but I try to simplify it and make [students] visualize what that pedal does, just like a piano chord. Within a chord, this is what this pedal does. It’s taking the fifth of a chord and moving it to a sixth. You can see the relationship between the notes within a chord, within an inversion.”

Recalling a performance back in 2007, when Daly joined CMT Giants, honoring Hank Williams, Jr., he says, “Someone took a picture of me. I’m standing between Steven Tyler and Buddy Guy [of Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL)]. I never could have dreamed of that living
in Cleveland.”

Daly is looking forward to spending less time on the road next year when he’ll be playing exclusively for Hank Williams, Jr. Playing more sessions, clubs, showcasing the steel, and in general, he says, being a part of the vibrant scene in his adopted hometown.

Bits and Pieces—Still Working on the Jigsaw Puzzle!

by Tina Morrison,  AFM IEB Member and President Local 105 (Spokane, WA)

I’ve been learning about apprentice programs in the building trades. These are union worker funded programs that provide wages through on-the-job training paired with classes and certifications. Each trade has its own idiosyncrasies, but a common factor is that working union members pay into the apprentice program from which they benefited, creating a long-running cycle to sustain their trades.

Musician education often includes mentoring, usually through private teachers and professors. The focus is primarily on music making, not necessarily musical work, which requires an income component. Some of our larger music schools, institutions, and conservatories may provide music business classes, but there are few “earn as you learn” opportunities. The primary difference with the trades, of course, is job availability and the belief that certain aspects of becoming a professional musician can’t be taught—the talent mystique.

There’s been an educational push towards science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Drawing lines between the dots, this implies that the jobs of the future will be in technology. The theory is that educational investment should go into ensuring that businesses will have workers and that students receiving an education should expect to find a job. The primary issue is the disparity between jobs and jobs that provide a living wage, which is where unions make the difference.

Business has done well at convincing our government bodies and their constituents that public funding should be used to provide them with workers educated to benefit their businesses, allowing them to profit from our collective investment. Seriously, if you start turning over rocks, you’ll be surprised at the levels of corporate welfare. Unions provide the only meaningful counterbalance, but our potential for success relies on our numbers and organized participation of our members.

In the building trades, the apprentices grow to become journeymen. Investing in the future of their trade is just part of their ecosystem. We have similar paths available to us in our AFM contracts, but only if we make use of them. We can strengthen our own peculiar ecosystem by building solidarity in our workplaces and requiring the use of union contracts.

I strongly encourage musicians in every segment of our industry to become educated about our contracts that cover a wide variety of musical work. If you are a teacher, expand your scope to include the business of music—live and recorded—along with technique and interpretation. If you are successful in your community, find opportunities to pass along your knowledge and experience. The responsibility of “each one teach one” should become ingrained and help us build our collective strength.

We should also consider getting more involved in the push from STEM to STEAM, which adds the arts as a critical part of our education systems. Beyond learning how to be efficient worker bees, we need to reinforce empathy and compassion, as well as creative thought, as integral to our collective well-being. We need allies to help push back against the business concepts of “return on investment” and “revenue generation” being applied to our nonprofit music organizations.

If you believe in the concepts of individual responsibility and accountability, then consider getting more involved with your local and the union movement. Through collective action, we can have a meaningful voice in creating sustainable business models that allow musicians appropriate compensation for live performance and develop additional income streams. Musical product has increasing value but musicians will only receive their fair share if we are successful in counterbalancing the entities that profit from our work. This will take organizing and solidarity. Thank you for your work!

On another note, Women’s Marches are being organized for January 19 in communities throughout the US and Canada. The AFL-CIO MLK Civil and Human Rights Conference will be held in Washington, DC, January 18-21. Also consider participating in MLK, Jr., activities in your own city. Labor and civil rights: two movements—one goal!