Tag Archives: local 9-535

Boston Symphony Orchestra Plans Return to Tanglewood

Like many other festivals, the Tanglewood Music Festival is preparing to reopen to audiences this summer. The Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops, represented by Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) will return to their summer home at Tanglewood for live performances in July and August.

The festival will run for six weeks, about half of its normal length, and audiences will be smaller and socially distanced. Performances will be no longer than 80 minutes, with no intermission.

Among programming highlights, guest artists who have become mainstays of the festival—including Yo-Yo Ma of Local 802 (New York City), Emanuel Ax of Local 802 (New York City), and Joshua Bell of Local 3 (Indianapolis, IN)—will join the BSO for performances. Boston Pops will perform a tribute to composer John Williams of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA), in addition to premiering his Violin Concerto No. 2.


Kate Foss

Boston Musician Kate Foss Lays Down the Foundation on Tuba and Bass

Aside from sharing the same clef, you’d think the tuba and the upright bass couldn’t be any more different. You’d be wrong. According to Kate Foss of Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) and Local 802 (New York City), both allow her to do what she does best: lay down the foundation of an ensemble. The choice to play both bass and tuba was natural for Foss, who grew up in a musical family in the suburbs of Milwaukee.


“As a kid, I was fascinated with large machines like locomotives and construction equipment,” she recalls. “So it’s not really a surprise that I was immediately attracted to the bass. It’s the largest string instrument, and you can feel the sound inside you.” And with the tuba, it didn’t hurt that Foss’s grandmother played one in high school. Foss adds that she’s not sure if playing in the low register shaped her personality, or the other way around—but she still gets the most musical satisfaction out of being the supporting voice in a group.

While Foss has carved out an impressively varied freelance career around Greater Boston covering a wide range from symphony and opera orchestras to musical theater, it’s worth noting that music wasn’t actually her first choice: Foss has an undergrad degree in physics. “Toward the end of my physics degree, I did a summer at the Pacific Music Festival, and quickly realized my passion was such that I needed to switch,” she says. Foss searched for grad schools that would accept students without a music undergrad, winding up at New England Conservatory. “While there, I started freelancing in Boston—and that was that.”

Over her years in Boston, Foss has racked up an impressive list of work in orchestras, recordings, and musical theater. Her theater credits alone include 48 shows on which she has played upright and electric bass, and/or tuba. Foss doesn’t claim to have a favorite genre. “It doesn’t matter what I’m playing. A bass line is a bass line,” she says. “The tuba has largely the same function in the orchestra as the bass. Beats one and three, lots of whole notes,” she adds with a laugh. “Obviously, the mechanics are different. With tuba, you have to start the note a second before you think you should. Prep the breath, set the embouchure, etc. Bass is immediate, the second you start moving the bow.”

Foss also thrives on the variety of a freelancer’s life. “If I had to do one genre, I’d get bored. Ballet is marches and dance numbers, and then it’s something else entirely in opera or musical theater to hear a singer who really knows what they’re doing and is in total control.” Having a vocal background certainly helps with her appreciation: Foss’s tuba-playing grandmother got a degree in voice and passed that love on to her own children and grandchildren. Foss has fond memories of singing Bach chorales around the piano with her family. (In that vein, Foss’s CV includes nearly two dozen BWV (Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis, or in English, Bach Works Catalog) numbers identifying the Bach choral works she has participated in.) 

Like nearly all freelancers everywhere, Foss’s music work is mostly on hiatus at the moment thanks to COVID-19. She also admits somewhat sheepishly that her practicing has fallen to a minimum since the pandemic shut things down. “Forcing musicians to be solitary is like isolating a duck—there’s nobody to quack with,” she quips. But she also agrees with the assessment that switching off from music for a while is perfectly okay. “I’ve been hustling with gigs since 2003, and had been thinking of taking a break. So the coronavirus forced me to take an extensive one. It’s about learning to trust yourself that you won’t forget anything. It will come back to you,” she says.

Meantime, Foss has been focusing on other things. Aside from a busy day job, she took up cross stitch, and has become heavily involved with fostering homeless cats and kittens through the Quincy, Massachusetts, animal shelter. Her work with the AFM has remained a constant, both pre- and mid-pandemic. She serves on the executive board of Local 9-535, and has been reading up on the history of unions to help her understand what happened to musician wages over the last 50 years. “The importance of the union should be part of music education,” she says. “Young musicians need an understanding of how the music world has gotten where it is today, and what they can do about it. There are reasons why you have contracts, and why you need to advocate for yourself. Nobody will pay you unless you collectively bargain for it. I wish I had had that knowledge sooner.”

Several years back, Foss participated in unionizing a theater she worked at, and says it was a fantastic experience. From there, it was a natural progression to greater union involvement. She praises her local’s response to the pandemic, particularly its involvement in the New England Musicians Relief Fund, which has been working to alleviate financial distress for some 2,000 freelance musicians that make their living playing music in the region. “The more I get into board duties, the more there is to learn about the AFM and the music business,” she muses. “Like a typical musician, I like to complain—but it’s great to learn how to do something about it.”

Info on the New England Musicians Relief Fund can be found online at www.nemrf.org/our-mission.



■ Electric basses: twin “Peavey Cirrus 5” bass guitars, 5-string thru-necks (long scale), walnut—I bought two and had one converted to fretless

■ Strings: round-wound

■ Tuba: BB♭ Yamaha 4-valve

Orchestra/Opera/BWV/Ballet Gigs

■ Bass: 1999 Joel Mentec 4-string upright bass with C-extension (Mentec is a French maker)

■ Bow: Seifert German-style bow, c. 1980

■ Bow: Horst Schicker French-style bow

Pit/Musical Theatre/Any Cramped or Non-Temperature-Controlled Space

■ Bass: 1939 Kay “Chubby Jackson” 5-string bass, model S-51 (low B is where it’s at if the sound system can handle it)

■ Bow: Seifert German-style bow, c. 1980

■ Amp: Gallien Krueger, MB115


Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin

Beyond Music, Boston Flutist Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin
Finds Ways to Make a Difference


Intersectionality: it’s a word that Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin says is sometimes overused, but it nevertheless applies to most areas of her life. A Massachusetts native, freelance flutist in the Boston area, and flute teacher at MIT, Hershman-Tcherepnin is also heavily involved in local refugee and immigrant support, and is a past president of Local 9-535 (Boston, MA). While the connections between music, education, unionism, and refugee work might at first seem tenuous, she is quick to point out that they’re not so different: all involve helping people.

Music came first. “My early memories are sitting at the keyboard and learning jazz standards with my jazz pianist father,” Hershman-Tcherepnin recalls. Flute came later, in third grade. In high school, she played with the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, and took lessons with a Boston Symphony player. “I was torn between language, biology, and music, but ultimately decided on music.” 

Her studies took her to Boston University, followed by grad school at SUNY Stonybrook. Then she moved back to Boston, where in 1978 she co-founded a co-op chamber orchestra called Pro Arte. “Decades later, Pro Arte is still a co-op, managed administratively and artistically by its musicians,” Hershman-Tcherepnin says with obvious pride. Pro Arte is also one of only four cooperative orchestras in the country. “But even back in the early days, we knew we needed a strong relationship with the union,” she says. And thus began her early forays into union involvement. 

A Pro Arte co-founder and its first music director was Harvard chaplain Larry Hill, who was also a social activist. “Larry originally suggested we approach the union,” says Hershman-Tcherepnin. “At that time the Boston local was, let’s just say, old-school. We wrote up an agreement that the musicians would, as co-owners, pay ourselves $25 per concert and donate the rest back to the orchestra with a long-range plan of getting us up to union scale. And we convinced the union to approve this.” 

In year two, however, Pro Arte had charges filed against them by a jealous local contractor. “He wanted to shut us down. So we visited the AFM’s national office in New York. Organizer Lew Waldeck, an enthusiastic co-op supporter, was quite impressed that we had started our own orchestra and said the National would not get involved.” Hill and Hershman-Tcherepnin approached the Industrial Cooperative Association to ask for help with preparing for a hearing, and scored pro bono legal help from them. “Ultimately, we came out smelling like a rose,” she says. The Boston freelance contractors were infuriated. “But 40-plus years later, here we are.” 

Following this success, it was suggested that she run for the Local 9-535 board. “We got Steve Young elected president, and we got our former teachers from the BSO (Boston Symphony Orchestra) to show up and vote and take an interest in transforming the local.” Hershman-Tcherepnin was hired by Young as Assistant to the President, a newly created position. She stepped in as president after Young moved to the national office. “Someone ran against me,” she recounts. “I wasn’t happy with their planned direction, so I ran for another term to protect the local. Because the union is only as strong as its members.”

Midway through her second term, her husband became ill. After he passed in 1999, Hershman-Tcherepnin decided to pull back and concentrate on just being a regular musician for a time. But true to form, it wasn’t long before she encountered an organization in need: Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment (WCPJE), where she currently serves as president. The organization was originally founded after the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island with a goal of getting contaminated land properly cleaned and usable. “WCPJE is member-driven, made up of working groups formed by members’ motivational interests. So seven years ago, I formed a working group on refugee affairs to try to help with the Syrian refugee situation.”

The WCPJE refugee and immigrant group tackles a wide variety of needs including tutoring, transportation to medical appointments, clothing, food, and housing for families that have been resettled. “Many undocumented immigrants were cleaning houses or doing childcare prior to COVID-19, so they obviously have no work at the moment.” The group also sponsors cultural events, including musical collaborations with immigrant families. And there it is again: intersectionality. A prominent activity is a community iftar (the evening meal eaten by Muslims during Ramadan) where non-Muslims can learn about Islam. Hershman-Tcherepnin points out this is currently also on hold because of COVID-19. The group is continuing what work it can, within social distancing limitations. 

The group also makes vital connections with state representatives in a bid to get help with immigration issues at the federal level. “The ICE situation is very frightening for undocumented families, and even people who are here legally are having terrible times,” she says. “Those trying to renew their work permits wait months, and then the permits expire.” Closer to home for her, the Trump administration’s Muslim ban also prevented some of Hershman-Tcherepnin’s students from returning to MIT. 

Hershman-Tcherepnin was recently named a 2020 Commonwealth Heroine as a result of her work. The annual Commonwealth Heroines celebration recognizes women from across the state who “perform unheralded acts daily that make our homes, neighborhoods, cities and towns better places to live.” Reflecting intersectionality with recent news events, WCPJE also has a working group focusing on addressing racial inequities, particularly now that these have been further exposed by COVID-19. “And for me personally,” she adds, “intersectionality of these issues comes back to the union now being in an interesting position to look at its own racial issues, both internally and externally. These issues are present in every local.” On the positive side, Hershman-Tcherepnin is glad to see the AFM’s national officers heeding the call. “It’s a daunting time, but I feel a great deal of hope.” 

Want to know how you can help? 

Hershman-Tcherepnin says the best way to start is to get in touch with your state’s agencies that are working on immigration issues. Several national organizations like the ACLU can also direct people to local initiatives. Here are a few places to start:

BOND/BAIL FUNDS: an effective way to reunite immigrants separated from their families in detention centers. Bail bond can cost anywhere from $20,000-$80,000. The National Bail Fund Network Directory lists funds by state. www.communityjusticeexchange.org/nbfn-directory.

RAICES: Refugee & Immigrant Center for Education & Legal Services. www.raicestexas.org.

UNITED WE DREAM: Immigrant Youth-led Network. Contributors can choose specific donation areas (e.g., help DACA students pay renewal fees). 


HIAS: Global Jewish non-profit assisting refugees. www.hias.org.

SAMS: Syrian American Medical Association. www.sams-usa.net.

Locals 9-535 and 216 Organize Atlantic Symphony Orchestra

The Boston Musicians’ Association (BMA), Local 9-535, and the Professional Musicians of the South Coast, Local 216 (Fall River, MA), have joined together to organize the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra as an AFM orchestra. In May 2019, musicians of the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra voted overwhelmingly in a Massachusetts Department of Labor election to recognize Local 9-535 as their bargaining agent in negotiations for a first contract. Because the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra has a smaller budget and would present some jurisdictional issues at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the BMA took the novel strategy of filing for recognition at the state department of labor instead.

Boston Landmarks Orchestra Votes to Unionize

In a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election, Boston Landmarks Orchestra musicians voted 41 to 5 for Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) to represent them as they organize and negotiate their first collective bargaining agreement (CBA). With a unique mission to provide free music for all, the 15-year-old Boston Landmarks Orchestra performs a series of concerts on Boston’s famous Esplanade along the Charles River. Repertoire includes commissioned pieces from composers who live in Boston’s various neighborhoods, as well as standard orchestral classics.

“The CBA is integral in supporting the ongoing dialog between players and management as that relationship continues to grow, helping to develop a strong team to work in today’s difficult economy,” says Hans Bohn, a trombonist and member of the Organizing Committee. “For the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, creating a CBA is crucial to business and artistic growth, and will only help in taking this exciting organization to a stronger position in the Boston arts scene.”

Violist and committee member Donna Jerome adds, “I think moving forward with formulating a CBA with Boston Landmarks Orchestra is a step toward offering the musicians tenure, stability, and fair representation in all aspects of the orchestra’s operations.”

Cape Symphony Musicians Ratify First Contract

After 10 months of negotiations between Local 9-535 (Boston, MA)—along with the negotiating committee—and representatives of the Cape Symphony Board, the Cape Symphony is now a union orchestra. Musicians voted 59 to one to ratify the first contract for the symphony that was founded in 1962. The agreement includes tenured status for a roster of 69 musicians with more robust job security protections, favorable leave provisions (for musicians who are cobbling together complicated professional schedules), a generous increase in wages, modest sick pay provisions, and meaningful participation in the audition process for new members.

Cape Symphony Musicians also perform with many of the finest orchestras in and around Boston. All the Cape Symphony musicians are professionals, most with degrees from world-class conservatories.

The Cape Symphony Committee helped organize the Cape Symphony and negotiate the first CBA for the orchestra founded in 1962. Standing (L to R) are Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) members: Norma Stiner, Wendy Rolfe, David Rufino, and Clark Matthews; seated is Stu Gunn.

Clark Matthews, principal horn and chair of the negotiating committee states, “This contract is a product of a multigenerational, pan-organizational collaborative desire to create a work environment capable of sustaining the highest quality of artistry for our community on Cape Cod. We are pleased with the agreement and the development of a mutually respectful relationship with our dedicated management team.”

Local 9-535 Vice President and Lead Negotiator Robert Couture, says, “We appreciate the Cape Symphony team for their work in these tremendously productive negotiations and are pleased to join this wonderful organization as we look to the future and help to bring the finest talent to the Cape Cod audience for years to come.”

“This Cape Cod organizing effort was a process that began 10 years ago (in 2008) proving yet again that perseverance is the key to success,” says Local 9-535 President Pat Hollenbeck.

Jon Damian

Professor Jon Damian Taps into the Universe for Inspiration

Jon Damian

Jon Damian’s workshops feature Rubbertellie murals in which he produces visual and sound art simultaneously.

At Berklee College of Music, professor and guitarist Jon Damian of Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) says, “When I’m teaching, I’m composing. I have to be able to compose on the spot as an example. It’s important to be able to see it actually come alive in someone’s hands and face. Teaching and composing, writing, they work in tandem.”

In his renowned Creative Workshop Ensemble, he focuses on unconventional motifs and nonmusical forms—art and multimedia exercises—to heighten listening skills and teach students to draw on more than music for composing, from alphabets to zodiacs. He explains the better students become as improvisers, the less they tend to respond to musical events around them. “In the Creative Workshop, we’re inspired by anything in the universe.” With everyday language, for instance, he adds, “Go to the piano and play ‘popcorn, air, or mozzarella.’ No two people do the same thing. The language of words becomes a medium. To use it to stimulate a musical idea is cool.”

One of Damian’s earliest music memories is listening to his mother whistle. “It was like listening to an aria.” But it was his older sister Judy’s vast record collection that introduced him to everything from Count Basie and Tony Bennett to opera and classical recordings of Claude Debussy and Béla Bartok.   

His first music experience was vocal. He sang in a cappella groups in Brooklyn. “We were a nice, serious trio that used to sing on the street corners,” he says.

Watching Tony Mottola on The Tonight Show, Damian remembers, “His beautiful solo guitar, swing and rock—I watched and listened, and I said, ‘Wow, I want to do that.’ And that’s what happened.”

Damian began teaching himself to play guitar and read music. One of his first gigs was a veterans hospital near Coney Island with his band, The Strangers. They played the Merry-Go-Round Room in Brooklyn, which had a rotating bar, and that’s when he joined the union. “I still have my cabaret card that says I am able to play in nightclubs.” Damian remembers going to the union office, which was in the same building as the Roseland Ballroom. “Duke would come and play. People would dance. During the day, union musicians would meet and talk, and there would be auditions happening right there.”

Damian’s all-embracing creative model is based on his early career as a visual artist. He worked on Madison Avenue back in 1965 until he was drafted into the army in 1966. His military occupational standing (MOS) was as an artist in the officer’s training unit.

As bleak a prospect as it was, being drafted proved to be a defining moment in Damian’s life. “Brooklyn was just as dangerous as the army. My friends were getting into drugs. For a kid in 1966, it was scary, but for me, it was exciting. Wherever I was stationed, I always studied at the clubs so it was like a paid education,” he says.

The army became a major part of Damian’s musical development. He says, “I was able to go to service clubs, which had instruments and libraries full of music books so I spent all my free time continuing my music training on my own.” He sharpened his reading proficiency to a professional level and auditioned for a larger ensemble.

After the army, Damian attended Berklee on the GI bill, where he studied theory and composition. He’s been a full professor there ever since, for 43 years.

For years, Damian kept busy doing theater work, playing with Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops, Boston Ballet Orchestra, and Boston Opera Company. “I’ve been fortunate to have such a wide spectrum of possibilities,” says Damian, who has worked with Phil Woods, Sam Rivers, Sheila Jordan, Johnny Cash, Howard McGhee, Leonard Bernstein, and Luciano Pavarotti (at the Boston Garden), to name a few. He’s also shared the stage with a number of his students, notably jazz luminary Bill Frisell of Local 76-493 (Seattle, WA) with whom he recorded the CD, Dedications: Faces and Places.

In his book, the Guitarist’s Guide to Composing and Improvising, Damian shows musicians how to break out of pattern-based playing to enrich their understanding of composition and improvisation. In his latest book, Fresh Music: Explorations with the Creative Workshop Ensemble for Musicians, Artists, and Teachers, he chronicles the ideas in the workshop he’s been teaching since the 1970s. 

Damian’s interest in avant-garde music led him to explore other instrumental mediums. One of his innovations is the Rubbertellie, an electric guitar that stretches the boundaries of the traditional guitar. It’s tuned differently, held differently, on his lap or in the style of viola da gamba.

Now, midway to retirement as a part-time professor, he’s finding time to write books for his grandchildren and compose more music. Last year, when he was hospitalized for an extended period, he wrote a woodwind quartet for his caregivers called “Saints and Angels.” He explains, “It’s not too pretty or sad, but more of a soft Schoenberg, a natural roll that builds from chord symbols.” Damian says, “It creates the power of connections. It’s serious, but hopeful.”

Maggie Scott and the Great American Songbook

Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) member Maggie Scott has had a long career performing from the Great American Songbook and teaching it to students at Berklee College of Music.

Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) member Maggie Scott has had a long career performing from the Great American Songbook and teaching it to students at Berklee College of Music.

In a career that has spanned seven decades, jazz vocalist and pianist Maggie Scott of Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) still draws inspiration from the music she grew up with, in an era when the big bands were in full swing.

Scott remembers waiting at the stage door of the RKO Theatre on Washington Street after shows for autographs of Gene Krupa, Anita O’Day, and Tex Beneke. Hearing the Tommy Dorsey band, with Frank Sinatra, was a highlight. “He was thin,” she recalls, “He sang really well—and in those days, girls swooned. I was still in high school and the fare going into Boston was 10 cents!” 

The smoky piano lounges and full jazz orchestras may be long gone but Scott, who still performs at the Top of the Hub in Boston, has done her part to introduce the canon of standards to a new generation. At Berklee College of Music, where she has taught since 1978, Scott is something of a legend.

Her own story lends an illuminating dimension to the course she teaches: The Great American Songbook. She draws on her experiences to help students develop phrasing, tempos, style, and artful presentation. She is a purist who urges students to learn as many jazz standards as possible, a solid repertoire of George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Irving Berlin, and Johnny Mercer.

“The lyric is the song! Tell the story,” she instructs her students. “A jazz piece never requires vibrato, but straight sound always,” she says. Only when a student has mastered the song and knows it inside out can he or she improvise, change keys and tempos.

“An experienced singer starts to hear other melodies that fit the chord progression,” she says. It’s a natural process, but one Scott insists takes time. For diction, unparalleled tone, and range, she points to First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald. “As a singer matures and sings them long enough, the lyrics take on new meaning,” she says, adding, “Billie Holiday, for example, her pain came through on so many of her ballads. You could just hear it.”

To learn harmony and chord progressions Scott studied the piano stylings of Art Tatum and Teddy Wilson. Later, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, and Tommy Flanagan all inspired her playing. She says, “These trios were exceptional—I thought, very swinging, beautiful harmonies.”

Vocalists who had a strong influences on her development included Peggy Lee, Julie London, Chris Connor, June Christy, and Jo Stafford. Classical training came later, in 1950, when she auditioned for Arthur Fiedler. After nearly three years of practice and a second audition, she earned a solo with the Boston Pops, playing Gershwin’s “Concerto in F.”

Scott, who in the 1970s accompanied many of the greats—Cab Calloway, Eartha Kitt, John Raitt, Tommy Tune, Toots Thielemans, and Natalie Cole—studied at the Juilliard School of Music in the late 1940s with jazz pianist John Mehegan.

She had joined the AFM in 1946, just out of high school, and was already playing piano at hotels and clubs around Boston. “I knew the best musicians belonged to the local and I aspired to play with them—and ultimately I did,” she says. “There is a certain amount of respect given a member, and playing with my peers was all part of it.”

She went on to become the first woman elected to the union’s local executive board, where she served for 31 years, from 1979 to 2010. Back in the days of crowded, smoke-filled union halls, the exchanges could become quite heated. Scott says, “I charged 25 cents for every swear word, and actually collected $11. And I bought donuts with the money!” She adds, “I also bought a ‘no smoking’ sign.”

Scott laments the loss of live venues for musicians, noting DJs have flooded the industry, competing for wedding and club engagements once reserved for casual-date players. “There has been a tremendous loss of gigs for the union musician. The jazz clubs have suffered as well,” she says.

Her job now, as she sees it, is to educate a new generation of Songbook devotees. “The lyricists were unbeatable. Students should know the music, become familiar with it because it may influence what they may want to pursue as part of their music education,” she says. Given the scores of young stars and high profile students—Lalah Hathaway, Antonia Bennett, Lauren Kinhan, and Robin McKelle—who have all crooned their way through her classes, there is no doubt of her success.

Boston Local 9-535, Getting Results

Boston Local 9-535, Getting Results

This month, as a part of my series highlighting the outstanding legislative work being accomplished across the Federation, I am honored to shine the spotlight on AFM Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) and its president, Patrick Hollenbeck. Boston, Massachusetts, sits atop global cultural centers as one of the world’s most revered and respected music destinations. For centuries, the Boston arts community has been responsible for innovative musical concepts that have generated new audiences and work opportunities for Boston musicians.

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