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AFM Las Vegas LIVE! Event

A Portrait of Musical Diversity

Professional music is what we do best! More than 200 Las Vegas residents converged on the Historic Fifth Street School in Las Vegas on June 22 to watch more than 40 popular music artists rock the house in a dynamic, explosive showcase of extraordinary musical talent.

Expanding on the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF) tradition of free and open concerts to the public, Las Vegas LIVE! offered a multifaceted event that featured both an educational and organizing program during the daytime hours. All was sponsored by AFM Local 369 and the City of Las Vegas Office of Cultural Affairs, led by Dr. Ally Haynes-Hamblen and her city staff, which provided the hall and staff assistance. That evening, the MPTF-sponsored show included a free public concert featuring new local musical talent. This exciting concert brought diverse unaffiliated musicians directly to Local 369’s doorstep!

Artists between the ages of 17 and 55 performed jazz, R&B, pop, country, and soul, exhibiting an eclectic evening of highly technically, skilled artists. This amazing new Las Vegas-MPTF platform successfully brought the city, the local union, city residents and its artists together for an enjoyable evening of music.

Thanks go out to MPTF Trustee Dan Beck for his visionary support, to AFM Freelance Funding Director Paul Sharpe, AFM President Ray Hair, AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, the IEB, Local 369 President Jack Gaughan, 369 Secretary-Treasurer Keith Nelson, the JOI Jazz Initiative, AFM Local 47 President John Acosta, and the Local 47 Music Fund.

We also thank AFM Director of Organizing Michael Manley, AFM Electronic Media Director Patrick Varriale, Sound Exchange, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the Smithsonian Museum of American History for providing invaluable workshop presenters. This entire project was a vision of the AFM Diversity Committee chaired by Lovie Smith-Wright (president of Local 65-699) which encourages new ways to assist the union with its organizing mission.

Equally as important to the proceedings were City of Las Vegas Cultural Affairs Director Haynes-Hamblen and her amazing city staff led by Anastacio DelReal, who provided both location and technical support for the event. This joint initiative with the city served two purposes. First, to bring quality live music entertainment to the residents of Las Vegas. Second, to host a platform for local musicians to learn the professional way of doing business in this complex musical environment. Educational workshops earlier in the day offered a walk down a different professional path that taught musicians about contract and copyright protections for their creative efforts.

Our sponsors included the JOI Initiative, the Recording Industry Association of America, Sound Exchange, KCEP FM radio, and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. These incredible sponsors combined with special help from Local 369 Board members Angela Chan and Gary Cordell, Latin community musician, entrepreneur, organizer, and television producer Dalinda Torres, helped guarantee the success of the event which identified some 47 new potential members for the local. We thank them for helping to bring this dream for local musicians, the city, Local 369, and the Diversity Committee to LIFE! Finally, our thanks also go out to our own host for the evening, Brother Bennie Keyes, Jr. (president of AFM Local 56), who kept the show moving. Diversity, the quintessential answer to organizational growth!

Las Vegas Philharmonic Responds to Tragedy

A mid-October concert at the Las Vegas Philharmonic, initially scheduled around an Oktoberfest theme, was altered in the wake of the October 1 mass shooting tragedy in the city. The new program was conceived as a way to bring the community together and share a message of hope.

The Bruckner symphony originally planned was replaced with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and Barber’s famous, elegiac “Adagio for Strings” was added to the program. First responders from the city’s police, fire, and emergency services were invited free of charge; 600 free tickets were distributed.

The program served as a healing moment for the philharmonic’s musicians as well, many of whom know people personally affected. The musicians are members of Local 369 (Las Vegas, NV).

Union Musicians Book New Strip Shows

Union Musicians Book New Strip Shows

Frank Leone, the 14-year president of Local 369 (Las Vegas, NV), is impressed with the turnaround of orchestra’s being hired for the Strip. After all, the membership of orchestras in casinos was around 2,000 people back in 1989, and it has dwindled down to about 600 currently. However, that all appears to be changing recently.


“The business is curious as we know,” Leone says, “However, one of my mantras is that live music validates a performer, and a large amount of it validates one even more.”

One of the more popular shows currently in Vegas is Celine Dion performing with a full 30 person orchestra. The orchestra isn’t in the pit either, they are in full view on the stage.

Leon claims this is something the audience loves to see. “The public knows they’re getting the biggest bang for their buck possible. No one should complain about the price of the ticket when they know they’re getting 30 people.”

Leone admits that while orchestras are one of the best ways to enjoy a performance, they can come with some big overheads. To cover this, Leon explains that the musicians drop down one pay scale level. Essentially, the casino is getting the 12-piece string section for the price of a no-strings band.

It’s hard to say what the future will hold, but for right now, it certainly is heading in the right direction.