Tag Archives: Local 7

Jeeyoon Kim: Pianist Reinvents the Onstage Performance

Jeeyoon Kim’s performances are unique among concert pianists. She walks onto the stage and up to a microphone. In a short, poetic introduction she invites the audience to go on a journey with her. There are no programs to leaf through during the concert; these are handed out at the end. Instead, Kim delivers the prelude, interpreting the composer’s intentions, often providing historical context. She breaks with tradition as much as possible. To maintain a flow, concerts are no longer than an hour, with no intermission, and no “disappearing backstage” she says.

Illuminated by artistry and imagination, performances by Jeeyoon Kim of Local 7 (Orange County, CA) offer a unique classical music experience.

Before Kim embarked on a career as a soloist, she was on track to secure a university teaching position. After a rigorous classical music program at Indiana University, where she earned a Doctorate of Musical Arts in performance, she went back to school to earn a master’s degree in piano pedagogy. It was a strategy, she says, to obtain a teaching position—“a real job”—to support her love of piano.

After her final recital, as Dr. Kim, in 2009, there was fulfillment but uncertainty at the same time. She had studied piano pedagogy to be a great teacher. By 2015, she says, “I wanted to perform, to share the joy of classical music. And I love teaching but being at a university was not a perfect fit.” So, she parlayed her prodigious talent and love of teaching into a unique career. It was after her sold-out and highly acclaimed concert at Carnegie Hall in 2017 that Kim of Local 7 (Orange County, CA) was convinced that her idea would work.

“I realized I had to create a bridge to the classical world. Playing beautiful music, but in a way that connects the audience to the composer’s life. What was Brahms thinking about? His ‘“Intermezzo”’ has so many layers of feelings. Schubert is a musician’s musician—a composer I’d love to sit down and talk to.”

Over the years, as she’s experimented, her narratives took on a personal and meditative feel. For instance, before Debussy’s “Pagodas,” Kim invokes her own childhood home. “Retrieving fresh water from the mountain spring—visions of Buddhist temples, pine trees veiled in the misty morning, and the ringing of the gong each hour.”

“Piano is a natural extension of my body. There is a strong connection to the composer. It’s a byproduct and the audience has no choice but to connect.” Throughout her life in education, it’s been a recurring theme.

She asks: “How can I make piano performance the highest form of artistic expression? How can I communicate with the audience?” She believes classical music should be contemporary, accessible, and approachable. With her podcast, “Journey Through Classical Piano,” Kim aims to reach a wider audience. For special projects and videos, she collaborates with filmmakers, poets, and visual artists. “Most people love it,” she says, and have become “groupies.”

Following a move to California, she joined Local 7. It was there that she began to reconnect, as if with old friends. She started networking and talking with the union and soon realized it was the support system she had been looking for. “I didn’t know there was a whole army of people behind me. When I connected with the union, there were people who supported my journey.” Through the efforts of Local 7 and the Musicians Performance Trust Fund (MPTF), toward the end of the pandemic, Kim performed at the Irvine Barclay Theatre, with 400 people in attendance.

Now a teacher with a private studio, Kim has the best of both worlds. Her students include serious college pianists pursuing classical performance—a few teenagers, but primarily adults, anywhere from 25 to 85 years old. For some, it was a passion growing up and they’re returning to piano as an outlet. She enjoys teaching older students. “It’s an oasis for them,” she says. “These sessions are like piano therapy. We talk about life and struggles. How to play staccato better ended up as an important factor in being a human and their performance of life.”

Kim draws on the lessons of her teacher in South Korea who approached music through the natural world. “Music is transparent. If you’re not connected to the piece, it’s impossible to be transparent. My teacher said, ‘Convince me as nature does—with music.’”

She says, “Water comes down the stream; it’s not perfect, but it’s in that imperfection that there’s an organic shape. It’s just who you are.” Kim laughs when she says that in South Korea, “There’s a Buddhist temple on every mountain so it’s natural to view the world through a spiritual lens.”

The two-time winner of the international Global Music Award has been playing since she was four years old. She has performed throughout the world, namely with the San Diego Symphony, the Mozart Festival in Salzburg, and recently with the chamber music organization Art of Elan (collaborating with Kate Hatmaker and Fiona Digney of Local 325 [San Diego, CA]).

In her book, Whenever You’re Ready: How to Compose the Life of Your Dreams, Kim shares the tools she uses to achieve mental and physical balance, artistic expression—and a winner’s mindset. She focuses on different themes, like forming effective habits, boosting creativity, guarding your mind, and keeping negativity at bay. Kim’s biggest lesson is learning from failure. She remembers another teaching saying, “Don’t ask why, ask what now?”

For Kim, letting go is a lifelong lesson. “Always ask yourself if you are hanging on to something you cannot control, which is not productive. Once you shift to something you can control, the positive flow will come back to you.”

Kim is generous with her insight, recalling her own disappointments and the changes she’s made to create more balance in her life. “I can only control my preparation and mindset,” she says, adding that “Every direction has been a lesson—to be a better person, pianist, and teacher. I take a holistic view of classical music—as a presenter and an agent—whether it’s becoming a better musician or being more positive. Life is not always easy, but with music, it’s better.”

Pacific Symphony Reaches Settlement with Musicians Union on Compensation

Pacific Symphony musicians, management, and the Orange County Musicians Union, Local 7 (Orange County, CA), have ratified a short-term agreement to last until early September, providing the musicians financial support due to concerts the organization was forced to cancel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The side letters do not replace the labor agreement that expires August 31, 2021, but modify the conditions under which the musicians are working. The Pacific Symphony was awarded a $2.1 million forgivable loan through the Paycheck Protection Program through the Small Business Association as well as additional funds pledged to the “Sound Future Campaign.” Both sources have helped the orchestra to “bridge” financially the period though mid-September.

According to the terms of the first set of agreements, Pacific Symphony will pay 95% of wages for orchestra services through June 6; 75% of wages for this season’s final Classical series concert; and 50% of wages for 20 services during the summer season. To maintain Pacific Symphony’s connections to Class Act schools and Heartstrings, a series of recorded and live online presentations will be produced. Musicians involved in those educational activities will be paid 100% of wages due under both the local contract and/or the IMA for these educational services through June 30.

“The union is gratified the Pacific Symphony took timely decisive action to apply for and receive a Paycheck Protection Plan loan. These funds will replace a significant portion of musician wages lost due to cancelation of scheduled work. This will also provide vitally important contributions to the union health and welfare and pension plans on the musicians’ behalf,” says Local 7 President Bob Sanders. “This agreement was overwhelmingly ratified by Pacific Symphony musicians.”

Coalition of Unions Stands Up to Disney

For at least 30 years, we at Local 7 (Orange County, CA) have been scratching our heads wondering why unions that bargain with Disneyland don’t put their heads together, exchange information, and support one another. As it turns out, other unions have been thinking the same thing.

In August 2016, Local 7 joined with 10 of the 26 unions representing Disneyland Resort employees to form the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions (CRLU). This is the first time in 60-plus years anything like this has happened. CRLU consists of Bakery and Confectionery Workers International Union Local 83; United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324; International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Locals 504, 923, and 706; SEIU United Service Workers West; Workers United Local 50; American Guild of Variety Artists; Independent Employee Services Association; UNITE HERE! Local 11; and AFM Local 7. Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD) and Clergy & Laity for Economic Justice (CLUE) have allied themselves with CRLU.

AFM Local 7 (Orange County, CA), along with 10 other unions, formed the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions (CRLU) to lobby for improved working conditions and pay for Disneyland Resort employees.

The catalyst for this historic alliance was a draconian attendance policy unilaterally promulgated by the company. After 11 unions presented 11 demands to bargain, leafleted employees on their way to work, and staged two town hall meetings, the policy was withdrawn. This was a first!

Next, the coalition set out to collect hard data about the economic conditions of resort employees. CRLU underwrote a survey that was independently conducted by the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College, in partnership with the Los Angeles-based Economic Roundtable. The resultant 125-page report is damning. In summary, it found that 11% of employees surveyed reported having been homeless—or not having a place of their own to sleep—within the past two years and 68% of workers surveyed are food insecure. Disneyland is the primary source of income for 91% of these workers, but only 54% work full time. The average hourly wage for these employees in real dollars dropped 15% from 2000 to 2017 (from $15.80 to $13.36). Meanwhile, a proposed compensation increase for Walt Disney Company’s CEO equals the total pay of 9,284 Disneyland workers.

Disney’s defensive and flat-footed response was to attack the survey as politically motivated, inaccurate, and unscientific; it’s unclear if statistics are taught at Mickey Mouse school. The full report can be downloaded at: https://economicrt.org/publication/disneyland.

The report was announced at a February 28 CRLU town hall with more than 1,000 people in attendance. Get a sample of the energy at this standing room only event, at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdooUVl4lwY.

The morning after the town hall, CRLU proposed a ballot initiative to the City of Anaheim. It proposed a minimum wage of $15 per hour for any large hospitality company receiving city subsidies. The minimum wage would increase by $1 annually to $18 per hour in 2022. Signatures are currently being gathered.

An independent survey of Disneyland workers conducted by the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute and underwritten by the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions found that 11% of workers had been recently homeless and 68% are food insecure.

On March 8, CRLU went to the annual Disney shareholder meeting in Houston. We were joined by SEIU Texas, as well as Teamsters and UNITE HERE! from Disney World. There were dozens of workers outside the meeting holding banners, handing out flyers, and talking to the media—as well as a half-dozen or so inside. We got the company’s attention. There were security guards and cops galore—and a very fine looking dog.

An Inspector Clouseau-like character tailed us with a camera at lunch and during our debrief in a nearby park. When confronted, he mumbled something about “urban planning” and “photographing the park” and scuttled back into the conference center.

Interestingly, the meeting, which had averaged an hour and 45 minutes for the four previous years, was cut off at one hour and six minutes—coincidently just as the first union member arrived at the microphone. In all, 10 questions were heard—well, a few questions and copious blown smoke.

Disney CEO, Robert Iger, reportedly said it best: “We’re getting a lot of praise and not questions, but I’ll take it.” In another notable coincidence, for the first time ever, 52% of attending shareholders voted against a nonbinding resolution to increase Iger’s compensation. That was taken “under advisement.”

In closing, there’s a lot of buzz in the media and online about our presence at the shareholder meeting, the survey, the town hall, and the living wage initiative. Please visit the CRLU Facebook page. This coalition is little more than 1½ years old; it is truly remarkable what can be accomplished when workers unite and work together in solidarity.