Tag Archives: local

Laura Whitely

Laura Whitely: Longtime Secretary-Treasurer Retires at 92

Laura Whitely

(L to R, in back) Local 123 (Richmond, VA) President George Tuckwiller, Vice President Tim Judd, new Secretary-Treasurer Scott Winger, and members Richard Serpa, Jill Serpa, and Jackie Spears. Seated in front is retired Secretary-Treasurer Laura Whitely.

Laura Whitely, secretary-treasurer of Local 123 (Richmond, VA) since 1981, has retired at age 92. She has kept the local office running for the past 35 years and for more than 30 years before that she helped her husband who also held the job. James Whitely, who died in 1990, was a professional musician and the local’s secretary-treasurer since the early 1950s. When he retired, she was officially elected to the position.

Local president George Tuckwiller III says, “Laura has been totally committed to the union since assisting her husband Jimmy many years ago. She is a force of nature, and at the tender age of 92, handled all of the secretarial duties to keep the Richmond Musician’s Association up and running.” 

In fact, Tuckwiller says, “When I joined the union in 1969, it was Laura who handled the paper work and explained the obligations of membership to me.” The union would encourage her to run for re-election, but as Whitely explains, she no longer drives and quite simply, the time had come.

Although another member will be taking over for Whitely, Tuckwiller says she could never really be replaced. After 65 years, she is considered the union’s resident historian. As a member of the executive board, Tuckwiller says, “She has been our go-to person, and even though she is stepping down, we will continue to use her wisdom to guide the organization.”

papa funk Neville

Poppa Funk Neville: Keeping New Orleans Funky into the Next Generation

In a career spanning more than six decades, Local 174-496 (New Orleans, LA) member Art “Poppa Funk” Neville is a
legend of the music scene in one of the world’s most musical cities. Though Art was the first Neville to launch a career in music, today the family name is synonymous with the New Orleans sound. Art’s three siblings—Charles, Aaron, and Cyril—all eventually went into music.

“Being born and raised here, I picked up on the rhythm of the city from a very early age. It’s something you can’t get away from—the people, culture, food, and music shape everyone here differently,” he explains. “I’ve been able to carry those values of loyalty, love, and creativeness with me all my life.”

When Neville first formed a doo-wop group in high school, it was just for fun, and also to meet girls, he confesses. “I was steeped in doo-wop early on—the Clovers, the Spiders, as well as Fats and other local favorites. We used to sing in the bathroom at school (the acoustics were good) and we’d get together at night in the park and practice. It was really the beginning of making music seriously.”

The Hawketts

papa funk NevilleAround age 17, Neville joined his first real band, The Hawketts. The group was looking for a piano player, and through a friend of a friend, Neville was invited to join. “I didn’t know who they were at that point. I said, ‘Sure,’ and my mother and father said, ‘Yeah, go ahead.’ And the rest is history.”

It was shortly after joining the band, that Neville made his classic recording of “Mardi Gras Mambo.” At the time, it didn’t occur to him that it would become a seasonal anthem. “I never thought it would [still] be around to this day,” he says.

The Hawketts became the hottest band in New Orleans and the surrounding area. “We played for every type of function—sororities, fraternities, plus night clubs, small and large,” he says. When most of the original members left, Neville kept the band together. After being drafted into the Navy Reserve’s active duty for two years, including a stint as a cook on the USS Independence, the musician jumped right back into the New Orleans music scene, not missing a beat. 

In 1966, Art’s brother Aaron had his first major hit, “Tell It Like It Is,” and they went on tour together. Soon after, Art put together a seven-member group that included his brothers: Art Neville and the Neville Sounds. In 1967, when they were hired to play a coveted gig at the Ivanhoe bar in the French Quarter, they had to scale-down to fit the venue.

The Meters

That marked the launch of The Meters with bassist George Porter, Jr., drummer Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste, and guitarist Leo Nocentelli. They soon became the house band for Allen Toussaint’s studio. They backed a long list of local and international musicians including Dr. John, Paul McCartney, Robert Palmer, and Patti Labelle.

The group released eight albums of distinctive New Orleans sounds blended with funk, blues, and dance grooves. Together through the 1970s, The Meters toured the globe, including opening up for The Rolling Stones on their Tour of
the Americas.

A family steeped in New Orleans culture and traditions, Art’s parents and uncle, “Chief Jolly” George Landry, longed to see the Neville brothers work together. Landry and his nephews released The Wild Tchoupitoulas in 1977, a sort of aural documentary of Mardi Gras Indians. Following their mother’s death in the late 1970s, the brothers formed The Neville Brothers. The next year they released an album and performed and toured together until 2012.

The Neville Brothers

papa funkThrough all those years, the brothers continued their independent careers and work with other groups. In 1989, Art was involved with an informal Meters reincarnation at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival that included Porter and drummer Russell Batiste, Jr. Encouraged by that performance, the funky METERS was officially launched in 1994 with Neville, Porter, Batiste, and guitarist Brian Stoltz.

“We’re still out there touring and playing festivals. It is exciting to still see the fans that have been with us for a long time, and now young fans discovering our music. It’s also exciting to know the music has stood the test of time,” says Neville. “Last year, The Meters’ ‘Stretch Your Rubber’ was used in a Nationwide commercial and right now ‘Hand Clappin’ Song’ is being in the new Google Pixel ads.”

Through all these years, Art Neville has been a loyal AFM member. “I remember when we first performed on television and filling out the paperwork. I was happy to be able to say, ‘Yes, I’m an AFM member,’ and I was also happy to get paid accordingly and properly. I’m a proud AFM member to this day,” he says. Neville’s AFM membership goes back to the days of segregation, and black Local 496, which combined with Local 174 in 1968.

During segregation, touring outside of New Orleans was particularly perilous, he recalls. “It was interesting because, in New Orleans, playing music was the one thing we all did together: black musicians playing with white musicians, or musicians of any ethnicity. It was always about the music, not what color you were.”

But, in other places it wasn’t like that and touring was scary. “It was treacherous. We wanted to play music, but we always had to be aware of our surroundings, whether we were playing school dances or night clubs,” he says.  “I remember playing a show and when we returned to our station wagon there was a note under the windshield wiper that read: ‘The eyes of the Klan are upon you.’ That was very scary.”

“One dance, in particular, our drummer forgot his snare drum so we had to go back home and get it,” he says. “While we were gone, the stage in the auditorium was blown apart by dynamite that had been placed with a timer under the stage. Had we gone on, on time, we wouldn’t have been around to tell about it!”

Looking back on his long career, Neville says he has no real regrets but does wish he had finished school. “The one thing I would tell my younger self is: ‘The music will be there, and you can do both,’” he says. “I’m very happy and blessed with all the opportunities I’ve had and created on my own.”

Neville says he’s not sure if the Neville Brothers will get another chance to perform together. “Maybe we’ll do some more shows in the future, while we’re all still here, I Neville say never!” he says. “I’m most proud of fulfilling my uncle’s wishes to keep the family and music alive. I think, between The Meters and The Neville Brothers, we made it happen.”

Jane Suberry

Northern Star: Jane Siberry on a New Musical Journey

Jane Suberry

Canadian musician Jane Siberry of Local 149 (Toronto, ON) has a goal to live more authentically, and lets her heart and music decide where she will travel next.

At 60 years old, Canadian singer-songwriter Jane Siberry says she’s inching toward her prime. “Maybe there are several primes,” she muses. “My goal—maybe a lot of people’s goal—is to live more authentically. Don’t make a move until it pushes you from inside.” Planning is not typical for Siberry, but other projects she thinks about include a TV talk show with musical guests, and a detective TV series for which she’d enlist her musician friends—a light-hearted show covering complex issues, she explains. 

Siberry’s new CD, Angels Bend Closer—her first in five years—is garnering the kind of praise that secured her cult-like status 35 years ago. Here, she confronts hopelessness and doubt, but true to form, Siberry inevitably provides solace, a way of feeling whole again. She says, “It was time to do songs that were safe, direct, familiar, not too weird or outside.” The album is listed In NPR’s Best Music of 2016. 

It took her five years to complete Angels working intermittently in different stages. “People might ask why it’s been so long,” she jokes, “Who knows? Maybe they thought I was working at a Whole Foods or something.”

“I went through my whole catalog and I was surprised to find there’s a through line: trustworthy, consistent. I’m much more direct now. I don’t use he and she, I use ‘you.’ I try not to be too cryptic.” She says candidly, “We don’t have that much time, let’s dive in. I’m sort of like that in person, too. It’s a good feeling when you’re not tentative. You’re operating from a whole different foundation.” 

Siberry of Local 149 (Toronto, ON) is largely self-taught, having learned to play piano by ear at a young age. Later on, she would draw on classical and operatic works to create her distinctively lush, ethereal sound. As a teenager, she learned to play the guitar by working through the repertory of fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen.

Already a union member at 18, Siberry began recording in the 1970s. In the 1980s, when she moved into electronic art pop,  she became internationally recognized.

Siberry’s second album, No Borders Here (1984), yielded her first single, the hit “Mimi on the Beach.” With her breakthrough album, The Speckless Sky (1985), she earned awards and the attention of artists like Brian Eno, who collaborated on a later album, When I Was a Boy. Her duet with Local 145 (Vancouver, BC) member k.d. lang, “Calling All Angels,” from the same album, has been featured in two films: Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World (1991) and Pay It Forward (2000).

In 2006, Siberry adopted the name, Issa, and shed most of her possessions, keeping only one guitar. And then six years ago, she made the switch from performing in larger clubs to smaller venues—home concerts in a salon-type setting.

“I move around a lot and that was part of changing my name—to be more at the behest of the universe,” she says. These days, her only home is a cabin in Northern Ontario, where she retreats when not touring. Her traveling companion is her beloved border collie, Gwyllym.

Siberry credits executive producer Dellamarie Parrilli for adding energy to the arrangements on Angels. “She took what she loves about my music and tried to exaggerate it, making things more poignant, more soaring, elevating my voice,” explains Siberry.

“Part of our jobs as musicians is to be a barometer—it’s a natural thing,” Siberry says. I write about things I wish I had heard people talk about when I was 16. “There weren’t very many people [talking about them], except maybe Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell [of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA)]. I felt like that was a party I wanted to join.”

It was through jazz that Siberry became more interested in formal writing. She says she has always “trusted” jazz musicians. “I understand their kind of musical poetry. I’m being spoken to respectfully. They’re connected enough to themselves. I’m hearing how someone else is living their life,” she explains. Jazz players are also better suited to her music and performances, which involve a lot of on-stage improvising.

“I sometimes think the true role of the musician should be unterritorial, more like shaping than writing a song,” she says, adding that she wouldn’t mind if someone decided to change some of her lyrics. “We’re all different musical beings.”

Every now and then Siberry performs with k.d. lang and says she looks forward to the day when they do “Living Statue” together on stage. In the meantime, Siberry will tour wherever the new CD events and celebrations take her—as long as Gwyllym can go, too.

She may play Carnegie Hall, or head to the mountains in Wales, she explains. Some shepherding friends have invited her to help take the sheep up the mountain when they’ve got their lambs—one event where Gwyllym will be the star. After the sheep are up the mountain, Siberry will tour the UK, walking from town to town and gig to gig.

Hamilton Local

Hamilton Local Doubles Its Membership

Pour la version française cliquez ici.

(L to R) Local 293 (Hamilton, ON) Executive Board Members: Brent Malseed, Ron Palangio, Janna Malseed, Larry Feudo, Paul Panchezak, Reg Denis, Brenda Brown, Glen Brown, and John Balogh.

(L to R) Local 293 (Hamilton, ON) Executive Board Members: Brent Malseed, Ron Palangio, Janna Malseed, Larry Feudo, Paul Panchezak, Reg Denis, Brenda Brown, Glen Brown, and John Balogh.

In 2012, when President Larry Feudo and his board took over the leadership of Local 293 (Hamilton, ON) they faced a tough challenge. “Our membership had been decimated to under 300 because of poor prior leadership and embezzlement,” he explains.

The first step was to evaluate the local’s assets and needs to identify specific areas of focus: office procedures, political lobbying, and community outreach. Feudo recruited a new board that included Secretary-Treasurer Brent Malseed and 2nd Vice President Janna Malseed, former board members of Local 293 with years of experience.

“We organized the office and started cleaning up bad clerical practices; then we moved on with a membership drive waiving initiation fees, and taking advantage of various AFM tools that are available,” says Feudo. Along with recruitment, the local made a big effort to grow its reputation in the community and among musicians through both public relations and action.

“We did a lot of advocacy for local musicians—weighing in on timely issues in the media and standing firm for musicians’ rights,” he says. The local built its reputation by contributing to music scholarships at the local college and making charitable donations to community partnerships. “There was a great deal of personal commitment from all our board members to the concept of collectivism.”

The Local 293 board thoroughly understands that actions speak louder than words. In August 2015, after a year-and-a-half battle, the local was instrumental in getting money owed to musicians who were stiffed when the Opera Hamilton suddenly pulled out leaving them unpaid. “We got a $20,000 grant for the musicians from the city of Hamilton,” says Feudo. “That was a very concrete example of what the union does for its membership, but the main thing was that our members walked away with the money they were deserving.”

Brent Malseed, who is in the office five days a week, works hard to build the local’s reputation among its members and the Hamilton community. “We try to keep up to date on Facebook to keep our membership informed, plus we publish our newsletter, Libretto,” he explains. “Many of our board members submit articles and reports. Having the board involved in the newsletter shows that the board is working well together.”

“In the office, we try to answer every single phone call. I think it helps to give that personal touch to our members,” he says. “If they have a question, and we don’t have a answer, we get them one. Members feel confident that we are getting the job done properly.”

Janna Malseed grew up in a musical family and has a strong knowledge of the business of music. “One of the things we feel very strongly about is that musicians need entrepreneurial education,” she says. “There’s performance, but there is also the business component—negotiating contracts and paying the side people. We work very hard with our members to provide educational seminars and give them guidance for directing their careers.”

“One of the things that I think has led to our success is that we have a board committed to collectivism,” says Janna. “Older members came back because the organization rebuilt its credibility, and not just because they are still performing musicians, but also because they enjoy the idea of being in a fraternal organization.”

Board members are involved in the community, even bringing Mohawk College music students to their office for programs. “We try to brand ourselves and get the name out into the community: Hamilton Musicians Guild—your source for the professional musician,” she says.

“We screened the film Broke—a really good documentary about the music industry—and then had a panel discussion about it. You need to engage people in dialogue about things that matter to them,” Feudo says. The local draws nonmembers in by opening up educational events to the public. Members get discounted admission, which is another membership benefit.

“For the younger generation, it’s more about services and what the union can do for its members,” Brent says, adding that the board is extremely aware of diverse communities in the music industry. Among the perks for younger artists is assistance with immigration and P-2 visas for travel to perform in the US. Due to Hamilton’s proximity to Buffalo, New York, it’s the fourth largest local in terms of submitting visas to the US.

Younger members are also grateful to the AFM for helping them access low-cost liability insurance, says Brent. “One young kid came in who found out two days before he was set to leave that he needed proof of liability insurance to play a gig in Michigan. He phoned one insurance company that wanted $1,000 a year for $1 million coverage. Within a couple hours, our insurance provider was able to set him up with $1 million coverage, for one year, for $50. That word spreads around to our younger members.”

The Local 293 board is excited about its future, thanks to community involvement. The city of Hamilton is trying to brand the city as a music center for Canada and Janna, along with Local 293 Director Glen Brown, sit on the city’s Music Strategy Implementation Team. “We got in early enough to steer them away from Austin’s SXSW model of putting on music for free,” says Feudo. “If we didn’t have a seat at the table, we wouldn’t be able to get our message across.”

The local is also hosting the Canadian Conference of Musicians, August 11-13, 2017, which it hopes to extend to a week of performances and events that recognize local musicians. “We are getting all kinds of support from the city,” says Brent.

The local has doubled its membership in the past four years. Brent says that one of the keys to retention is getting new members involved. Rather than just collecting their dues and hoping for the best, the local makes a point of spending time with them, explaining benefits, giving career advice, and making them feel welcome.

Everyone is encouraged to attend general meetings, which are more than just mundane administrative sessions. “We give 25-year pins to members and make it a big event. The young people hear stories of their peers and what they have done in the music industry. Our members enjoy the camaraderie—younger members learning from older members and older members learning from younger ones,” says Feudo.

“Emphasizing the fellowship of musicians is important,” he continues, explaining how they gather together to participate in events like the city’s annual Labor Day parade. The local has gotten Lester Petrillo Memorial Fund money for members who had fallen on hard times, and Music Trust Performance Funds to hire musicians for live music events. It’s even assisted in rallies with other union locals.

“If you aren’t sitting at the table, you don’t have a voice,” Feudo says. “We are trying to be at as many tables as possible, representing the Hamilton Musicians Guild and our members. The end result is that they know the Hamilton Musicians Guild and that means more work for our members.”

“We have a passion for strengthening this local. I think that is the crux of our success,” says Brent. “That passion comes across as genuine to our membership and they appreciate that we really believe in the cause.”

Andrew Schulman

Andrew Schulman Creates Bridge to Healing for ICU Patients

Andrew Schulman

Andrew Schulman of Local 802 (New York City) is resident artist of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at the Beth Israel Medical Center.

Following pancreas surgery in 2009, Andrew Schulman of Local 802 (New York City) suffered cardiovascular collapse and was not expected to survive. When he came out of the coma, doctors called it a medical miracle. But Schulman, a professional musician and guitarist knew it was music that had reached him and brought him back.

At his bedside in the intensive care unit, Schulman’s wife, Wendy, thought music would comfort him in the ICU, but desperately hoped for more, that it just might be a lifeline. From his playlist she chose Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. Within an hour, Schulman’s vital signs began to stabilize. In three days, he emerged from the coma. No one would know exactly how he survived the first night, but Schulman, whose case has been cited in medical journals and at major medical conferences, says, “The day I came back, six months after being in ICU, people said, ‘You’re famous in this hospital.’”

In his book, Waking the Spirit: A Musician’s Journey Healing Body, Mind, and Soul, Schulman recounts his experience, from survival and recovery to his new calling as a medical musician. Drawing on the inspirational stories of the people he’s met, as well as experts in both music and neuroscience, Schulman reveals the powerful ways music helps patients negotiate illness. After his medical crisis, Schulman became a volunteer musician three days a week in the surgical ICU, and in 2011, was officially appointed resident artist of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at the Beth Israel Medical Center.

“The guitar is perfect for playing in this setting, especially if you need to make a modulation instantly,” Schulman says. Most patients in the ICU cannot make a request, but once in a while, someone will ask for Elvis or Gershwin. The right music, the right sound, makes a difference. A Bach prelude is typically calming. Music can make heart rhythms more regular, and lower stress hormone levels, heart rate, and blood pressure. Schulman says, “The key is finding the resonance frequency of a patient.”

Schulman has been working with trauma surgeon, Dr. Marvin A. McMillen, perioperative director at Berkshire Medical Center in Massachusetts, to develop a program of medical music specifically for post-op care. He expects to attract many professional musicians, but Schulman emphasizes it’s not a regular gig. It requires natural empathy, extreme motivation, and a sense of humor, plus the confidence to handle some rather complex medical information. He explains, “You’re the one who needs to keep up the spirits of patients. You have to play your Carnegie Hall best, all the while watching the patient’s face, hands, and feet because that’s where you can see agitation—checking the monitor and range of vital signs.” 

Of his renewed passion for life and music, Schulman says, “It’s like being in three worlds—a triad of music, medicine, and writing. I’m using much more of my brain than I ever did before.” He suffered brain damage during cardiac arrest—retrograde and anterograde  amnesia. In cases like this, although the nerve network for memory was damaged, the brain compensates by reorganizing the neural pathways to work around the deficiency. Called neuroplasticity, the neural rerouting allowed him to continue to play and read music, eventually relearning all the songs he had forgotten.

Schulman continues to play professionally with the Abaca String Band, his own quintet, and as a soloist. His steady union engagements include landmark New York City venues, the Palm Court at The Plaza Hotel, The Mark Hotel, and The InterContinental/Barclay. He’s performed at Carnegie Hall, the Improv, and the Royal Albert Hall in London. His CDs include The Baroque Style, Lullabies, Reveilles, (and Siesta!), and two Live from Chautauqua recordings.

Schulman was just out of college in 1975 when he joined Local 802. A year before his surgery, which coincided with the 2009 recession, his wife learned she had breast cancer. He says, “If it hadn’t been for emergency relief fund of Local 802, if they hadn’t helped us after my surgery, I don’t know what we would have done. I might have been evicted, might have lost my apartment. They helped us through a crucial three months. I’m forever grateful.”

Back to work, in a new role, Schulman reflects on the turning point in his own ICU experience, when he heard St. Matthew Passion. He says, “The greatest grace a musician can have is to play for a patient who’s in a critical care unit. Instead of hearing the cold harsh beeps and alarms of a medical machine and impersonal voices, they hear a beautiful flow of Bach or a melody or tune that’s soothing.”

Rachel Dorfman

My First Year as a Local Officer

by Rachel Dorfman, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 105 (Spokane, WA)

On August 11, 2015, I became the Secretary-Treasurer of Local 105 (Spokane, WA) after having been a rank-and-file member since 2002. Although I did not have a clear picture of what my new job would entail, I’ve always been grateful for the support and guidance provided by our union, especially when the Spokane Symphony went on strike back in 2012.

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Brent Mason

Behind the Scenes with One of Nashville’s Most In-Demand Players: Brent Mason

Brent-Mason-by-Marc-Quigley-PRS-GuitarsOne of the most in-demand Nashville session guitarists of the past 30 years, Brent Mason of Local 257 (Nashville, TN) advises young players who would like to become a part of the Nashville music scene to do as he did: Come to Nashville, hang around, pay your dues, and learn the ropes from today’s hot players.

A self-taught guitarist, Mason grew up playing in a family band with his parents and brother Randy, a drummer. As a youngster, he says he was always reading liner notes to find out who the instrumental heroes were who accompanied the named artist on his records. He hoped to join their ranks one day.

Eager to bring home a steady paycheck and save money, Mason took a job in a toolbox factory when he finished high school. One day he put a rivet through his thumb and realized that, if he stayed in the factory, he might lose his chance to use his natural talent.

Fortunately, his mom was already on it. She always knew her son’s future was in Nashville and had connected him with steel guitarist and Local 257 member Paul Franklin. After hearing a recording of Mason, Franklin offered to introduce Mason to the Nashville music scene.

Arriving in Nashville, Mason was suddenly thrust into a world where he was meeting his liner-note heroes face to face. “I was a nervous wreck,” he says. “I was around all these guys who were playing on records, names like renowned session drummer Larrie Londin and bassist David Hungate. In my eyes, they were stars; when I was around them, I had butterflies. Truth is, they were nice and they could see a musician’s talent and potential from the first few notes.”

One of the most important things Mason learned from the session players is the importance of the union and union contracts. “Pandemonium would occur if things weren’t run through the union,” he says. “Like all unions, there’s strength in numbers. It sets a precedent for pay, a scale. Somebody trying to do it alone could be quickly taken advantage of.”

“The pension is something I’m really happy about. I’m 57 now and I’ve got a pretty good pension,” says the 35-year AFM member who adds that he’s also benefitted from the Special Payments and AFM SAG-AFTRA funds. “They can tally up what you’ve played on only by pulling union contracts.”

“If a guy just hands you $100 when you play on something, then later you find out it sold a hundred million records, there’s no proof you played on it,” he says. “Musicians need to be respected and compensated for their playing and intellectual contributions to songs. We want to know that our history of work is well documented and compensated fairly in retirement.”

A couple years after arriving in Nashville, Franklin’s brother-in-law, Gregg Galbraith of Local 257, helped Mason land a steady gig at The Stage Coach Lounge honky-tonk with the Don Kelley Band. For the next few years, Mason paid his dues, gigging until the early morning hours, then often heading out to Music Row around 8:30 a.m. for his growing session work, sometimes followed by a co-writing at the Monk Family Music Group where he
also worked as a songwriter.

“It was kind of an ambiguous time for me. It was starting to wear me out,” he recalls. That’s when Chet Atkins called him up. “He said, ‘I’m going to come tomorrow night to hear you play and I’m bringing George Benson. I was nervous, not only because they were going to show up, but also because it was a pretty dangerous redneck bar!”

“But, I thought it was a chance. When I looked over and saw they were digging it, that kind of calmed me down,” says Mason, who got his big break shortly thereafter when Atkins phoned him and said, “I’d like you to be on my record on a song with Mark Knopfler.”

The album, Stay Tuned, was a compilation featuring many guitar players. “I remember going into the record store when it came out to see if my name was on it. I thought I would sneak and open the wrapper,” says Mason. The staff was on to him and kicked the 27-year-old out, doubting his claim of being on the record.

Brent-Mason-Marc-Quigley,-PRS-GuitarsEager to be discovered, Mason put everything he had into every job. Working as a songwriter, he frequently recorded demos. “I knew the recording would get pitched to the artist and the producer; they would say, ‘Who’s playing guitar on it? We need him on this,’” says Mason.

The strategy paid off when Keith Whitley decided to cut Mason’s song, “Heartbreak Highway,” and requested Mason play guitar on it. “That was Whitley’s last album [I Wonder Do You Think of Me]; he passed away before it was released in 1989. The album became legendary, and everybody started calling me,” says Mason.

Aside from always putting his best foot forward, he also credits his success to timing. “At the time, the studios were all running the instruments direct. It was very pristine, with no amps,” he says. “While Dwight Yoakam was already doing the live roadhouse kind of honky-tonk music on the West Coast, they weren’t really doing it in Nashville. We—Glenn Worf, John Jarvis, Lonnie Wilson, and myself, just to name a few—were sort of pioneers of that sound. I drug my smokey, buzzy, Stagecoach Lounge Fender amp to the studio to record with.”

Among the earliest sessions Mason recorded in that way was the very first Brooks & Dunn album. “It was like an evolution of music—rock and roadhouse, rather than urban cowboy,” says Mason. “Alan Jackson followed. His songs are a lot of my Fender Telecaster. I gained a lot of fans through Jackson’s stuff.”

By the 1990s, Mason was working around 23 sessions a week. To date, he has played on well over a thousand records and is a 12-time winner of the Academy of Country Music (ACM) Guitarist of the Year Award and two-time winner of the CMA Musician of the Year Award. Among the long list of artists that Mason has recorded with are country legends like Josh Turner, Dolly Parton, Travis Tritt, Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, Shelby Lynne, Trace Adkins, Terri Clark, and Trisha Yearwood of Local 257; George Jones; Merle Haggard; Willie Nelson of Local 433 (Austin, TX); plus artists in other genres such as Alabama, Natalie Cole, and Neil Diamond of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA).

In addition, Mason has a catalog of more than 100 original instrumentals heard regularly on television, in movies, and on commercials. He’s played on many movie soundtracks, including A Few Good Men, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Home Alone, and Indecent Proposal.

One of the things Mason loves most about session work, particularly in Nashville, is the creativity involved. “In Nashville there are a lot of creative juices in the studio; musicians throw out their ideas for what are often just shells of songs,” he explains. “In L.A. or New York all the arrangements are pretty much written out for you, but in Nashville we sometimes don’t know what we are going to play until we show up in the studio. I really love to be part of the creation of a song.”

He also welcomes the variety in session work. “You may do one thing for Shania Twain, but it’s going to be different when you go in for George Strait. It’s fun to have that challenge. There is an art to being a chameleon. When you walk out of the studio, you want to leave the impression that you’ve played that style of music since you were five years old,” he says. “You try to leave them with their jaws dropping and thinking they couldn’t have gotten a better part.”

Mason says he often brings a whole arsenal of guitars to the studio. “If we don’t have the luxury of hearing the stuff before we get there, I’ll bring the whole kit and caboodle—20 to 30 different guitars—a couple Fender guitars: Stratocasters; some PRS guitars—a baritone; some Gibsons—a Les Paul, a 335. You may run into something where you want a hollow-body sound, so a Gretsch with a Bigsby. I’ll bring a Rickenbacker, a 12-string, and maybe a sitar.”

Mason says the industry has changed fundamentally in the years he’s done session work. “Moving from analog to digital has flipped it over sideways. Music is done a lot more expediently now. You don’t have to slave over it and play something just right. Give them a bunch of takes and they’ll put it together. It’s endless what you can do now by manipulating the music with software such as Pro Tools and Nuendo; you can even change the key of the song without changing the tempo.”

It also makes music more accessible, he continues, “Somebody can sit in their living room and play an amazing guitar solo, or write something, and the whole world can see it. The kid in the middle of Iowa can become a star, and rightly so. On the professional level, somebody can send me a track from London or Brazil, and I can play on it, and one of the top musicians in L.A. can be on it, then somebody from Cuba can be on it. We are all playing ‘together,’ but we didn’t ever look anybody in the face. While there are good things about that, I’m always looking for the human element of playing off each other.”

Another benefit is having more time to create the music. “I can take the time to do the best solo that I can do, while back in the old days, we only had like 15 or 30 minutes to get the solo and move on,” he says. “The drawback is that the music can be manipulated so much that somebody can ‘play god’ with it and it becomes fairly mechanical, stagnant, when you can hear the hard tuning.”

“I never thought music was about perfection. If you took Ray Charles and tuned him up, would that be Ray Charles anymore? Would that be soul music? How did The Beatles sound like they did? By not making it perfect; it was a time of invention,” he explains.

Though the industry has changed, and there may be less work, Mason says that the best way to become a Nashville session player remains the same. “Hang out; come into a session and watch. Be a good listener and learn how Nashville works. Be friendly and not arrogant. Find someone you can hang out with, but don’t be too aggressive. Be patient and persevere. Find out what equipment guys are using to get a certain sound, and learn all the tricks of the trade firsthand.”

Though Mason is far from retirement, he says that he feels secure enough with his AFM pension that he can relax and focus more on teaching and creating some of his own music. “I’m a pretty good example of what the union can do for a guy—taking the pressure off him as he gets older,” he adds.

It’s surprising that one of the most recorded guitarists of all time has only done a couple solo projects. His first album, Hot Wired (1997), was nominated for a Grammy. In 2006, he released the jazz and Western swing album Smokin’ Section with his brother Randy, also a member of Local 257. Mason will finally find time to begin work this fall on a second solo instrumental album.

Lately, he also enjoys sharing his knowledge with the next generation through teaching clinics. “I’m able to have a little more fun now, rather than working myself to death!” he says.

local 406

Local 406 Is Back!

After what seems like years, I am pleased to report that a service agreement has been reached between La Guilde des musiciens et musiciennes du Quebec and the AFM, allowing them to continue as an important, vibrant part of the Federation. Difficulties had progressively mounted, as our third largest local, Local 406, was straddled with the overwhelming obligations of representing all musicians in the province under Status of the Artist.

In addition, Local 406 could not just compel producers to sign onto existing AFM agreements, as other laws require a “made in Quebec” solution, which was made even more complex with language laws. These unique circumstances were ultimately addressed by the International Executive Board, resulting in an arrangement that allows more flexibility for the local, while maintaining their charter in the AFM.

Special thanks go out to both AFM International President Ray Hair and the Local 406 team, led by President Luc Fortin. To their credit, they showed tremendous patience and understanding, which allowed for the necessary dialogue and the resulting solution.

Music Supervisors Summit

local 406Several weeks ago, an incident occurred involving our New Use Department that led to a decision, which has echoed through most of the production houses in Toronto. At the core, was a request for paper backup to substantiate new use fees on a popular tune from the 1960s.

As always, the client was in a hurry for a final quote, and our office knew that it would take many days, perhaps weeks, to track down a contract from 50 years ago. Knowing the band was AFM, and knowing the label was signatory (Warner), our team went online to determine how many musicians were on the track. We quickly responded to the production company with the answer—four musicians (five units), and gave them the fee.

That should have been the end. However, the company refused to acknowledge that the track was AFM unless we produced the B4 report form. Knowing that would take time, we instead obtained the “label copy” from Warner and were, of course, able to identify each musician on the album. Still, that was not satisfactory.

I started to become fearful that there was a game at play. Did the producers realize that on a track that old, we could very likely be chasing paper for some time? By stating that without the B4 there was no proof it was an AFM product, they could potentially pocket the fees paying nothing to the musicians who did the recording. For me, such a notion is incredibly unacceptable. Also, we met the burden of proof in other ways, as did Warner. So, I then made the decision to cease providing a copy of the B4, to anyone, period. After all, it’s an internal document, resulting from an agreement between the labels and the AFM. A third party should not be entitled access to a document containing wages, pension, and Social Security or Social Insurance Numbers.

When informed of my new policy, the production company, of course, was extremely upset. In what appeared to be a search in support for their cause, the company then reached out to other music supervisors, the jingle agencies, and even the major labels. Copies of the Master Licence Agreements issued by the labels were obtained to determine exactly what language tied the licensee (producer) to paying new use fees to the AFM. When the dust settled, a meeting of all concerned was scheduled in downtown Toronto, ostensibly to challenge my decision, and possibly to the extent of challenging the labels’ licence language, and the validity of new use.

Contract Administrator for Canada Daniel Calabrese and New Use Administrator James Gadon attended, along with myself, as the presenter for the AFM. The turnout was surprising. There were more than 50 attending in person, with SAG-AFTRA representatives Skyped in from Los Angeles. The meeting lasted in excess of two hours.

SAG-AFTRA presented first, followed by the labels; it was then CFM’s turn. I prefaced the question period with a brief history of the SRLA, the rationale for new use payments, and the fact that similar requirements live in all our scale agreements. I also detailed the setup of our ramped-up new use department, new servers, contract scanning procedures, and link with Los Angeles as our view was to deliver a new use quote in minutes, not days or weeks.

We answered all questions quickly and succinctly, and in the end, not one music supervisor dared to suggest that the musicians did not deserve new use fees for having their music synchronized or repurposed. In fact, all comments directed at the CFM were positive. It seems our quotes and responses were understood and very well received. All were left with the knowledge that we’re approachable and easy to work with. Indeed, good news to our team.

I believe the meeting was a major step forward in having a working relationship with the city’s music supervisors, and a reminder to them that tracks must be cleared through our office. In addition, dialogue that occurred with the major labels prior to the meeting, as well as after, was a positive step toward developing a sustainable rhythm in the process of tracking, billing, collecting, and disbursing new use fees to our members.

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.

100th Convention is Open to All Members

Ever wonder what takes place at an AFM Convention? Ever wanted to watch your local delegates in action? This year, from June 20-23, AFM delegates will again gather in Las Vegas, Nevada, to determine the direction of the AFM for the next three years. While all locals send elected delegates, any AFM member may attend. The AFM is pleased to invite members and spouses who wish to do so to attend as guests. The convention headquarters—the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino—has extended its special low room rate to all AFM members during convention week.

If you choose to attend, you will be invited to the gala reception on Sunday evening, June 19, at the Westgate’s Ballroom that will feature the best in live music. There will be bands performing on Sunday afternoon in the convention area while the delegates and guests register for the convention. Visitors will be given badges that allow them access to the convention area, and entitle them to hear the floor debate on crucial issues facing the AFM today. They will also receive a souvenir 100th AFM Convention program and discount coupons for shows.

Visitors will have a chance to meet Federation officers as well as local officers from all around the US and Canada. They will also hear the Federation President’s State of the Union message and listen to the delegates debate the merits of many initiatives that will chart the AFM’s next three years. In addition, there will be plenty of opportunities to see the sights in and around Las Vegas. Day trips to Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon are available, plus the many shows in and around the world-famous Vegas strip. So mark the dates on your calendar and prepare to watch democracy in action at the AFM Convention.

For your convenience, you may now book your hotel reservation online. Please visit the AFM website www.afm.org/convention and follow the link, which will connect you directly to the AFM Convention’s Westgate reservations page. You may also reserve your room by phoning the Westgate using their toll free number, 1-800-635-7711. If reserving by telephone, please provide the Westgate representative with the AFM’s convention code, SAFM6R