Tag Archives: local 148-462

Recognizing a Lifetime of Continuing Service

As if 53 years manning the principal tuba chair of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) weren’t enough, along with being artistic director of both the ASO’s brass quintet and the Atlanta Brass Society, Michael Moore of Local 148-462 (Atlanta, GA) has dedicated most of those years to serving his colleagues in a dizzying number and variety of roles.

Moore has served on every single ASO committee and has had just about every position on the Orchestra Committee except secretary. With the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), he has served as ASO delegate, has acted on the Nominating and Minority committees, and was administrator of the Conductor Evaluation Program. Moore was elected member at large to the ICSOM Governing Board in 1990 and served in that capacity until 2002 when he became ICSOM’s treasurer, the job he has kept for 19 years until stepping down this past August.

Over a 53-year career, Michael Moore of Local 148-462 (Atlanta, GA) has gone from being the youngest principal tuba player in the US to the longest-serving.  Photo: Jeff Roffman

“I kind of have this overachiever thing going on,” he says dryly. “And I also married one.” Moore’s wife, pianist Paula Peace, and his daughter, a band director, are also members of Local 148-462.

Teen Union Member

An Oklahoma native, Moore grew up in the Atlanta suburb of Avondale in 1953, where his father was the high school band director. “As a ’60s kid, I enjoyed rock and played guitar, keyboards, and bass in a garage band,” he says. In the school band, Moore was given a Navy-surplus Holton tuba to play. “To this day, I still play that basic design,” he says. 

He scored his first steady gig at 15, playing bass and guitar for the cocktail hour set at a hotel in downtown Atlanta. “One of the first things the contractor did was make me join the union,” recalls Moore. “I had to get special permission, since I was below the minimum age. But my father was already a staunch AFM member.” Indeed, when Moore was still in elementary school, his father joined the ASO as the orchestra’s tuba player. “And tail-gunner bass when there were no tuba parts,” he adds.

Moore himself landed in that same tuba chair in 1968 at the age of 18, right as the ASO was moving to full-time status—“I went from being the youngest principal tuba in the country, to now the longest-serving”—and also, unsurprisingly, auditioned on bass. “Robert Shaw liked what he heard of my tuba playing and gave me a shot,” Moore recalls, adding that he understood that he had a steep learning curve ahead of him. He didn’t take on Orchestra Committee involvement until much later. “I became interested in orchestra politics gradually as I matured,” he says. “It wasn’t until I was 30 that I first got elected. I felt that after 12 years in the ASO, I was finally qualified to do it.”

On that first committee in 1980, he helped push for a 52-week season. “As the information we received about other orchestras came from ICSOM, I had also become interested in getting involved with that organization,” he says. “I soaked up ICSOM like a sponge.” He attended every conference as delegate and in 1986, hosted the ICSOM conference in Atlanta. “That was a learning experience,” he laughs.  

As ICSOM treasurer, Moore says his most satisfying role has been keeping all the numbers positive with the organization’s finances. “Positive, and growing,” he clarifies. “The year I joined the ICSOM Governing Board, their annual report talked about how little money ICSOM had, and how the organization would likely need to borrow from its emergency relief fund just to operate. Today, we have decent reserves.”

Leaving ICSOM in Great Shape

Moore has seen (and helped shape) many changes in the orchestral field since those early days, and knows firsthand how ICSOM has had to struggle to keep up with both internal and external pressures—including the COVID-19 pandemic. “Despite the upheavals of the past year, our finances are stable and the ICSOM Emergency Relief Fund has grown to be potentially useful to orchestras who need it. If we can weather this pandemic, we can weather anything.”

Moore admits his level of fiscal conservativism can be a balancing act between caring for colleagues and saving money. “I look at it like it’s my own money, and never spend a penny unnecessarily. Sometimes it makes me look like the bad guy.” It’s for that reason, he jokes, that then-ICSOM President Brian Rood gave him the moniker ‘IHAT,’ for ‘ICSOM hard-assed treasurer.’

The same year he ran for ICSOM delegate, Moore also ran for the Local 148-462 board. He still serves as the local’s vice president and remains on the board. “It’s great to have a voice and seat at the table to get your ideas across,” he says.

Asked why he has always felt compelled to work on his colleagues’ behalf, Moore is surprised by the question. “It’s the only way to do things,” he asserts. “If you really care about the industry, then you have no choice but to get involved and utilize your gifts, whatever those are, to help bring about the change that your orchestra and the industry needs. I happen to like dealing with numbers.” His answer also contains another truism: If you’re not satisfied with the way others are doing things, then you have to do it yourself. “With all humility,” he adds, “I came up with some ideas that others hadn’t thought of. That’s a great reason for diversity on a committee—both racial diversity, and diversity of thought. Often, orchestral issues can appear to be mostly about the strings. I’m usually in the minority of non-string players and can sometimes contribute positive ideas from a low brass perspective.”

Local Accolades

Accolades have rolled in from Moore’s Atlanta Symphony colleagues and Local 148-462 officers alike. Says Brian Desarro, Local 148-462’s operations manager: “Michael is not just an exceptional tuba player, he is also an exceptional leader within our local and applies an invaluable lifetime of knowledge to every committee, every student, and every interaction that can better the working lives of professional musicians. We are certainly better for him being here.”

Moore’s ASO colleague, horn player and Local 148-462 President Bruce Kenney, concurs. “Michael seems to sleep about half as much as the rest of us,” says Kenney. “His e-mails to the Orchestra Committee are most likely to hit our inbox sometime around 3 a.m.” Kenney says one of Moore’s greatest assets is his knowledge of the ASO’s CBA, which he also formatted and typeset. “Not just what the contract says, but what happened 30 years ago that caused some peculiar language to be written. He can inject some head-turning comments in negotiations, but he also knows when it’s time to shake hands. Then he becomes our go-to guy so that the contract looks good and is readable.” Kenney adds that Moore is a great help in preparing the annual budget for Local 148-462 and “monitoring it with an eagle eye throughout each fiscal year.”

While Moore may have stepped back from his role at ICSOM, he intends to keep giving assistance where he can. “I feel that 40 years devoted to the field means it’s time to pass the torch to those who haven’t been in the trenches as long. I am still on the ASO’s Orchestra Committee, and as an AFM Convention Delegate, I will continue to work at the national level to help our industry prevail over the obstacles facing it.”

As far as playing tuba, Moore intends to stay in orchestras—and be involved in orchestra business. “As long as it’s still fun and rewarding,” he laughs.

Gandolfi, Prior & Oliverio: Orchestral Works

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Gandolfi, Prior & Oliverio: Orchestral Works

Featuring works by three composers who have a special relationship with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Gandolfi, Prior & Oliverio: Orchestral Works is a celebration of the orchestra’s 75th anniversary and the two-decade tenure of its fourth music director, Robert Spano.

The album captures the collaborative nature of Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, who established the Atlanta School to champion the next generation of American composers.

The recording is comprised of studio recordings of Michael Gandolfi’s quadruple concerto Imaginary Numbers, Richard Prior’s lyrical tone poem …of shadow and light… and James Oliverio’s DYNASTY: Double Timpani Concerto, which was commissioned by and written for ASO principal timpanist Mark Yancich, of Local 148-462 (Atlanta, GA) and his brother Paul Yancich, of Local 4 (Cleveland, OH), principal timpanist of the Cleveland Orchestra.

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Completes Amicable Contract Negotiations

Musicians and management of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) announced in early March that they had reached agreement on a three-year contract extension through the 2020-2021 season. Reflecting a renewed sense of collaboration and trust between the two sides, the negotiation process was conducted quietly and the agreement was reached six months ahead of schedule. ASO musicians, members of Local 148-462, endured lockouts in 2012 and 2014, as well as a drastic pay cut in 2012.

The contract extension will include increases to compensation totaling approximately 3% annually over the three-year period. In addition, the agreement includes changes to the orchestra’s work rules. The agreement was made possible due to the strong financial performance of the institution over the past four years, along with the generosity of an anonymous donor who stepped forward with support for compensation increases.

During the term of the extension, the orchestra’s complement remains unchanged. In the most recent contract, management agreed to raise $25 million for a musicians’ endowment fund to restore and fund 11 positions in the orchestra. ASO exceeded the $25 million goal and completed the campaign two years ahead of schedule. Auditions are in process to fill the final positions and raise the complement to 88 full-time musicians.

“The Musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra are pleased that respectful and productive negotiations resulted in this new contract,” says Atlanta Symphony Players’ Association Chair and ASO Cellist Daniel Laufer of Local 148-462. “This agreement is another important step forward in solidifying the financial foundation necessary to support the artistry of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. We would like to thank Jennifer Barlament [ASO executive director] and her senior leadership team, as well as Howard Palefsky, ASO board Chair, for making a positive difference during these negotiations. We are also very appreciative of the anonymous donor who so strongly believes in ASO musicians and understands the importance of continuing to restore the compensation package.”

Jane Little Traces the Steps of Her 70-Year Career

Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, Jane Little was drawn to music from the time she was a small child, and did everything she could to seek out musical opportunities. “I so wanted to play the piano,” she says in her Southern drawl. “But my family struggled during the Depression and we had no piano. I would go to the neighbors’ house to use theirs. I would try to pick out tunes and taught myself to play a little bit.”

Little tuned in to the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts every Saturday afternoon, joined the glee club in junior high, and decided that she would become an opera singer. “I was delusional at that time!” she laughs. There was no doubt, though, that music was her passion. Atlanta didn’t yet have its own symphony, but when an orchestra toured to the city, Little was eager to attend. “It was the first time I heard a symphony orchestra perform live,” she recalls. “And I was just carried away.”

Assistant Principal Bass Jane Little was a 1945 charter member of the original Atlanta Youth Symphony Orchestra, the forerunner of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Little will begin her 71st season with the ASO this fall.

Facing the Bass

Little continued to sing and planned to join the high school glee club when she entered her freshman year. But the orchestra director had different plans once she saw the results of Little’s music aptitude test, which every incoming student was required to take.

“I was called to the music room, and the orchestra director asked what instrument I played,” remembers Little, who answered that she didn’t play an instrument, but liked to sing. The director was shocked and explained that Little had scored tremendously high on the test. “I was 14 at the time, which is a little late to start an instrument, but she asked how I would like to be an orchestra musician. I said that I would like it more than anything!”

The orchestra was in short supply of bass players. At five feet and three inches, and weighing less than 100 pounds, Little seemed an unlikely match for the massive instrument, but she wanted to try. She struggled at first to hear the lowest pitches and could barely press down the thick E string—not to mention, even just carrying the bass around was no easy task.

“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is going to be a challenge!’” she says. “But I was back for the next lesson, and the next, and the next.” After just a couple months of private lessons, Little was ready to join the orchestra—and not only did she join, but she was quickly appointed principal bass.

The next year, the Atlanta Youth Symphony Orchestra was formed under the direction of Henry Sopkin, a well-known youth orchestra conductor in Chicago. Little became a member of the symphony, which performed its first concert on February 4, 1945. In retrospect, that was the beginning of her 70-plus-year career with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO); within three years, Sopkin transformed the youth symphony into the orchestra now known as the ASO.

Eventually, Little met someone who happened to be able to give her a hand carrying her bass. Warren, who would become her husband, joined the orchestra’s flute section in 1948. The two had first met at the University of Georgia, but Little was engaged to a naval officer at the time. She returned to ASO after spending a summer in Chicago studying with a great bass teacher from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Warren noticed that Little was no longer wearing her engagement ring; she had broken her engagement in order to stay in Atlanta and continue playing with the orchestra. Warren asked her out right away. Their first date was a performance by the legendary violinist David Oistrakh.

“I must say that when I met Warren, I was very impressed that he played a small instrument, so he could carry my bass around!” jokes Little. The couple made music together in the ASO until Warren’s retirement in 1992.

Acing the Audition

Henry Sopkin led ASO for 21 years, increasing the budget, adding concerts, and introducing education initiatives. When he stepped down in 1966, it was announced that Robert Shaw—an exceptional choral conductor who had been working with George Szell in Cleveland—would become the next ASO music director. Little knew that even more changes would be ahead for the orchestra. She was excited, but nervous.

Shaw asked to hear every member of the orchestra play individually. Little had two weeks’ notice about the audition, and she didn’t waste a minute getting to work; she knew how crucial this could be. “I told my family that Christmas would have to be on hold that year,” she says. “I was practicing seven or eight hours a day, going through all the literature, doing everything I could.”

When she walked into the audition, Little felt immediately at ease with Shaw. She aced her audition: “I never played better in my life!” she exclaims. “When I got my contract, I was overwhelmed. Robert Shaw had appointed me co-principal of the bass section.” Little was later named assistant principal bass, and now holds emeritus status for that position.

Under Shaw’s watch, the ASO continued to build its reputation. Little can list off an impressive roster of guest soloists and conductors she has performed with—Nathan Milstein, Isaac Stern, Benny Goodman, Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, and many more.

One of her favorite memories is of a sold-out concert with pianist Arthur Rubinstein, who was playing the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto. “He plays the first big chords of the concerto, and all of a sudden, the piano starts rolling toward the end of the stage,” she recalls. “The people in the first rows were scattering. Everyone was just in horror!” Thankfully, the piano caught in the footlights, which kept it from crashing off the stage, and Rubenstein took it all in stride. Once the piano had been secured, the show went on.

The show went on for Little, too, as ASO became a full-time orchestra and gained international renown. She played under Yoel Levi, who became music director in 1988 and “brought the orchestra to new heights,” Little says. He was followed by Robert Spano of Local 148-462 (Atlanta, GA), who took over in 2000. “Through two major lockouts in the last four years, Spano has remained a friend and supporter to the musicians,” she says. “He was determined to maintain the orchestra’s status as a major symphony.”

Earlier in her career, piecing together a living was a bit more unpredictable. “Back then, when the orchestra was still part-time, you would go and beat the bushes for work,” she says. For 15 years, Little played with Theater of the Stars, where she was the only woman in the band. She taught private bass lessons and even saw one of her students grow up to join the ASO.

She’s played for opera companies, and remembers times when she was the only bass player in the pit, and had her instrument amped. She also played with the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra, often making the four-hour drive with a group of fellow ASO musicians late at night after an ASO concert or rehearsal, in order to be ready for a rehearsal in Savannah the next morning. “You did what you had to do,” she states matter-of-factly.

Chasing the Record

Little, who belongs to Local 148-462, is grateful to the AFM, as well as the International Conference of Symphony Orchestra Musicians (ICSOM), formed in 1962, for improving working conditions for orchestra musicians. She has witnessed the positive changes to audition procedures, tenure, and the musicians’ ability to weather strikes and lockouts.

Little has done her share of walking the picket lines and remembers her husband’s determination to negotiate fair contracts—even if it meant late-night phone calls and meetings—when he served as president of the local. “It’s great protection to be a member of the AFM—the union is your friend!” she says. “It brings greater stability to our careers.”

Little has now completed her 70th season with ASO, setting the record as the orchestral musician with the longest-running career, despite enduring several injuries and challenges over the years. At a certain point, she explains, she knew that she had to keep playing because she was so close to that goal. “To be absolutely sure [that I break the record], I’m going to play into my 71st season,” she says, adding that she might consider retirement at some point during the season.

Of course, more important than any record is the unique dedication that she shows for her instrument and for symphonic music. Even over a seven-decade career, she continues to give her all at every concert, never resting on her laurels. She was recently preparing for an ASO concert that included Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony and noted that it was one of the first pieces she played with her high school orchestra. “It’s still difficult!” she says, a testament to the fact that she always reaches to grow in her artistry.

“Suppose I had been absent the day that we took that music test?” Little wonders. “I probably wouldn’t have this career. I must say I’ve had a charmed life.”