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TMA Update and Conference Date Announced

by Heather Boehm, Theatre Musicians Association President and Member of Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL)

Greetings from the pit! There is much to report, so let’s get to it. The latest extension of the Pamphlet B/Short Engagement Touring (SET) Agreement expires on August 27. Musicians can expect negotiations for a successor agreement to commence later this summer. Often referred to by the shorthand Pamphlet B, these collective bargaining agreements cover all Federation shows touring under contract and impact hundreds of traveling and local theater players.

In accordance with the current agreement, AFM musicians have followed suit with the per diem raises negotiated by Actors Equity Association earlier this year. This effectively gave musicians touring under the SET Agreement a raise from $131 per day to $170 per day in per diem. It guards against musicians incurring out of pocket expenses when they travel to locations with higher costs of living.

Even with multiple extensions during the pandemic, there is much to accomplish since the last full negotiation in 2016. Amidst seismic events in the theater industry, the work of protecting the jobs of musicians, which are endangered by technical advancements, remains critical. As in the past, the Theatre Musicians Association (TMA) approaches our role on this negotiation team deliberately, collaboratively, and purposefully.

Last April, the TMA Travelers Committee hosted a well-attended FAQ session with AFM Director of Theater, Touring, and Immigration George Fiddler. We look forward to the results of the prenegotiation survey distributed by the AFM. Members of the TMA Executive Board met with local presidents in May to discuss theater issues, increasing awareness of pit musicians, technological trends, and pattern bargaining.

The musicians of the Kennedy Center Opera Orchestra, Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) Board and President Ed Malaga, and the TMA DC/Baltimore Chapter worked tirelessly through the early months of the year to secure additional instrumentation for the summer presentation of The Lion King at the Kennedy Center.

Local 802 (New York City) leadership and players secured 12 musicians (one conductor, one associate conductor, seven side musicians, and three actor-musicians) on an upcoming production of Here Lies Love at the Broadway Theatre. The action network petition garnered over 15,000 signatures, helping to amplify this important issue on social media and protect the 157-year precedent of live musicians on Broadway. (Read more details on page 10.)

It’s a privilege to meet with negotiating committees across the country as part of my work with TMA. I wish solidarity and success to the musicians of Local 677 (Honolulu, HI) and their leadership—President James Moffitt and Secretary-Treasurer Robert Shinoda—on their upcoming negotiations. I hope to be able to report a new TMA chapter in Houston. I am grateful to Local 65-699 (Houston, TX) President Alex Navarro, Secretary-Treasurer Sharon Montgomery, member Lovie Wright-Smith, and the many Houston musicians who joined us in April.

Finally, mark your calendars for August 21-22 and join us in Milwaukee! TMA will be returning to an in-person annual conference for the first time since 2019. Many thanks to the Milwaukee Musicians Association, AFM Local 8, particularly President Robert Levine and Secretary-Treasurer Rich Tremarello for their generous support. Our conference dates fall just prior to the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) Conference later that week—also at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee. The TMA Conference Committee (President Emeritus Tony D’Amico, Sue Lerner, and Patrick Plunk) have secured an affordable room rate. Please join us for this important discussion of theater issues with musicians from across the Federation. Visit www.afm-tma.org/ConferenceRegistration.asp to register.

The TMA extends heartfelt thanks to departing AFM President Ray Hair, Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, and Vice President Bruce Fife. Hair was president of the TMA’s Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter and he once stated, “Solidarity is the glue that holds the union together. It is both an asset and a liability. It’s a liability because it depends on musicians closing ranks and working together as a whole, which doesn’t always occur, and it rarely happens in a union that pits its members against each other or helps management do it. Or when the members collaborate with management to help the companies get what they want. Organizing solidarity is a daunting task, but when it works, it works well.”

Touring/Theatre/Booking Division

On the Road Again: 2021-2022 Season Saw 22 Pamphlet B Shows Touring

by George Fiddler, AFM Director of Touring/Theatre/Booking Division and Assistant to the President

This month’s Theater issue features a cover story about Julie Ferrara of Local 802 (New York City), reed player on the current Frozen tour and steward for its 11-member orchestra. She has been involved with Broadway productions for many years and decided to try touring for the two-year Disney production. I am sure you will find her reflections on this venture to be interesting and informative.

Also featured in this issue, on the facing page, is Kristy Norter of Local 802 (New York City). Kristy has been involved in the Broadway scene for many years as a reed player and contractor. This year Norter is contracting both the Aragon and Boleyn Pamphlet B tours of SIX.

During the 2021-2022 season, the Touring/Theatre/Booking Division saw 22 Pamphlet B shows on the roster. As is typical, during the summer, many shows concluded their season and closed, while others continued for the next season. At this writing, 11 shows have closed, or will close shortly. Another 11 shows will continue for the 2022-2023 season.

Looking ahead, there are at least seven shows going out soon. Each of these new productions has significant numbers of touring musicians and local hires. There are many new and a few old remounts, such as Les Misérables, which is coming out of mothballs to tour for two seasons.

In early May, the AFM and the Broadway League reached an agreement to seamlessly extend their current agreement from April 25, 2022 to August 27, 2023. The terms of the extension were ratified by the bargaining unit May 18, 2022. The employers offered a 3% across the board wage increase, which includes all wage-related pay components (doubles, electronic fees, media fees, etc.). The balance of the Pamphlet B and SET agreement stays intact as the extension agreement was not a negotiation but an offer to continue the agreement “as is” through next show season.

The Actors’ Equity Association contract is also on extension. As in the past, the League is set to negotiate a new agreement next year with Equity first, and our negotiations will follow. The advantage to the AFM is that we now have time to plan and develop a campaign to zero in on what the bargaining unit wants and can realistically achieve in the subsequent agreement.

We are currently negotiating a new Health and Safety Manual that addresses COVID-related issues and policies for touring shows. The current situation dictates the need for an updated agreement with the League. We have learned a lot since last year when the original manual was devised.

The pay for musicians who cover emergency situations regarding COVID absences is undecided. Many musicians have been enlisted to cover key parts under emergency situations. These parts facilitate the show’s viability, and if not covered, could sometimes lead to show cancellation. Once the pay for these subbing musicians has been negotiated, the Health and Safety Manual will be put up for ratification by members in the bargaining unit.

Report from the Theatre Musicians Association

by Heather Boehm, Theatre Musicians Association President and Member of Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL)

There is a lot to report from the Theatre Musicians Association (TMA). We’re deeply engaged in our mission: “… to promote the respective interest of theatre orchestras and their member musicians, both full-time and part-time; both local and traveling; to enhance communications among these theatre orchestras and their locals; to exchange information and address problems of mutual concern; and to pursue any other activities conducive to the general welfare of its members in accordance with the Bylaws of the AFM.”

In August, we held our 27th Annual Conference virtually—hopefully for the last time—on Zoom. It featured discussion and presentations from AFM President Ray Hair, AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal, AFM Legislative-Political Director Alfonso Pollard, AFM Diversity Committee Chair and TMA Member at Large Lovie Smith-Wright, Local 802 (New York City) President Tino Gagliardi, AFM Touring/Theatre/Booking Division Director George Fiddler, and AFM Organizing and Education Director Michael Manley.

Each TMA director gave a report on their traveling, city, or regional chapter. DEI Consultant Tania Richard joined the roundtable discussion “Playing Shows with Challenging or Triggering Content.” TMA Chicago Area Chapter Secretary-Treasurer Trevor Jones and Board Member Chuck Webb led a side-by-side playing opportunity and subbing workshop at Chicago State University on August 8. It was held in partnership with the South Side Jazz Coalition, with support from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, as well as the AFM Freelance Services Division.

We were joined by International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) Chair Meredith Snow, Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) President Robert Fraser, Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA) President Stephen Wade, Recording Musicians Association (RMA) President and Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) Vice President Marc Sazer, and RMALA President Christopher Anderson-Bazzoli.

We held our titled officer and delegate elections for the coming year. Special thanks to the conference committee: TMA Philadelphia Chapter Director Sue Lerner of Locals 21 (Wilmington, DE) and 77 (Philadelphia, PA), Patrick Plunk of Locals 40-543 (Baltimore, MD) and 161-710 (Washington, DC), Tony D’Amico of Locals 9-535 (Boston, MA) and 198-457 (Providence, RI), our indefatigable Secretary-Treasurer Mark Pinto of Local 9-535, Vice President Bob Suttmann of Locals 77 and 802, and Legislative Committee Chair Paul Castillo of Locals 47 and 353 (Long Beach, CA).

The AFM’s Pamphlet B/SET agreement Health and Safety Protocol negotiations are ongoing. The Pamphlet B Survey Committee—Matt Brown of Local 802, Julie Ferrara of Local 802, Katie Holmes of 256-733 (Birmingham, AL), Kane Mathis, Kevin McNaughton of Local 389 (Orlando, FL), and Eric Stockton of Local 802—has been hard at work over the last few months preparing a bargaining unit survey with Michael Manley. The Federation will commence full negotiations with Disney Theatrical and the Broadway League in Summer 2023 for a successor Pamphlet B/SET agreement.

Since January 2022, TMA presented five roundtable discussions on electronic replacement with chapters in Washington, DC/Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, Pacific Northwest, and San Francisco. We look forward to upcoming presentations for our Boston and Southern California chapters. TMA thanks our sister player conferences ROPA, ICSOM, and OCSM for the opportunity to speak with your delegates over the summer. We also spoke at the Eastern and Western Conferences. We thank the AFM International Executive Board for the opportunity to join the June meeting to discuss current theater issues.

During the coming year, we hope to deepen our relationship with musicians across the Federation. We will continue to establish new chapters from our members at large in order to build a bigger table at our monthly board meetings and expand representation for traveling musicians. TMA will continue to support theater musicians across the country by providing a sense of community and empowering negotiation committees with shared resources and contract data.

The greatest resource we have is our members, and we welcome all perspectives. There’s never been a more important time to join TMA. I hope you’ll consider joining and helping to empower our community of theater musicians with your voice. Please reach out if you have any questions or if there is anything we can do for you.

AFM Members Take Action Together to Secure a Healthy Pension Fund

In February, more than 85 AFM members participated in the union’s first legislative advocacy phone bank, reaching out to fellow musicians in congressional districts key to the future of the Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021.

The AFM Organizing and Education Department worked with AFM player conferences to engage members of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), the Recording Musicians Association (RMA), the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA), and the Theatre Musicians Association (TMA) to join in the legislative department’s targeted Zoom phone banking campaign to make sure key committee members would support the inclusion of pension relief in the upcoming reconciliation package. In all, over 1,000 of our brothers and sisters in targeted districts across the country were contacted by volunteer callers. 

Zoom phone banking brings volunteers together online at the same time for a quick educational introduction to the purpose of calling and offers instructions on completing the call list sheets. Callers, while on mute, remain on Zoom feeling connected to the group action, and can reach out to staff with any questions.

“This was a great way to connect to our union brothers and sisters around the country, even as we can’t make music together,” said Heather Boehm, member of Local 10-208 (Chicago, IL). “When we raise our voices collectively, we cut through the noise and ensure musicians are heard by decision-makers and protect our ability to retire in dignity.”

Violinist Mei Chang, Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA), joined several virtual phone banking sessions. “The camaraderie in the Zoom was great and made calling people I didn’t know much easier,” said Chang. “I am inspired to continue doing advocacy on behalf of my fellow working musicians, and hope more of us can join in on the effort.”

The AFM-Employers Pension Fund is one of over 100 multiemployer union pensions in critical status because of aging demographics, declining participation, and reduced contributions. The Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021 outlines solutions to help solve shortcomings in multiemployer pension plans and protect our retirement and the retirement of tens of thousands of our fellow musicians.

Screenshot of one of the more than 20 AFM organized volunteer Zoom phone bank sessions conducted in February and March.

Report on the Twenty-Fifth Annual TMA Conference

Greetings from the Theatre Musicians Association (TMA) international headquarters, located in north central Massachusetts! Full disclosure: I’m sitting at my kitchen table, reflecting on our 25th annual TMA conference, which took place this past August. Twenty-five years of doing anything is a milestone, and it would be dishonest of me to write I was not more than a little sad that our silver anniversary gathering could not be celebrated in person. The reality of the current pandemic necessitated an online event. So, for the first time in our history, TMA officers, directors, members, and AFM leadership assembled virtually to discuss all things theatre-related. However, there was a silver lining to presenting a conference in this fashion: Attendance by the TMA general membership was far greater than what we have seen at past in-person conferences. Also, we were able to open this conference to interested non-members, as well as potential new chapter organizers. More on that in the coming months.

The conference began with my brief welcome, after which I turned the proceedings over to AFM International President Ray Hair. Hair gave a sobering assessment of the music business in general, and the theatre industry in particular. Currently, the Broadway League and Disney have no intention of sitting down with us to negotiate a successor agreement to the expired Pamphlet B contract. Hair predicted that musical theatre producers and presenters will use this pandemic as an excuse to gut contracts and abolish provisions the AFM has fought for over many years.

Following the president, I was pleased to introduce AFM International Vice President Bruce Fife, who spoke about the new version of the AFM’s officer training course. This course was given only once, at the Western Conference, before the pandemic hit and things were shut down. For the time being, the program is being presented via Zoom. AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal reported that work dues coming into the Federation were down, as one might expect. To make matters worse, the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program was not available to labor unions, so no help was to be found there. Blumenthal finished his report by telling us the International Executive Board endorsed the Biden/Harris ticket in the upcoming election.

During my president’s report, I spoke about the timeline of the Broadway and touring shows shutdowns, the plight of our musicians on the road whose instruments were stranded on trucks for months, and the uncertain future of our business. While things certainly look bleak, I pointed out the public misses the theatre, as displayed by the tremendous success of Disney Plus’s broadcast of Hamilton. I am confident musical theatre will return to Broadway and cities across the United States and Canada. 

In preparation of that day, TMA, in cooperation with AFM Director of Theatre, Touring, and Booking Tino Gagliardi, drafted a document outlining suggested safety protocols for theatre reopening, previously published in these pages. TMA Vice President Heather Boehm, Secretary-Treasurer Mark Pinto, and myself have also drafted a document that addresses the complexities of subbing after theatres reopen. There will no doubt continue to be new COVID cases after we return to work, and a clear, carefully considered plan for last-minute pit orchestra substitutions must be in place. I also mentioned how proud I was that the TMA Executive Board published a statement of support for those who work towards ending systemic racism in the United States. 

Boehm then spoke about unemployment insurance issues musicians face, the huge threat the new virtual orchestra technology KeyComp poses to the employment of live musicians in the pit, and the successful organizing campaign of Chicago’s Porchlight Theatre she spearheaded. Pinto gave a positive  report on TMA’s finances and membership numbers.

We were then treated to reports from two of the other four players’ conferences—Chairperson Meredith Snow for the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), and President Mike Smith for the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA). Lovie Smith-Wright gave her always-interesting diversity report, made all the more important due to the current wave of civil unrest and protests against systematic racism in the United States. Her report was the perfect precursor for the following day’s diversity roundtable.

Closing out Day 1 was Gagliardi’s report, giving a timeline of the Broadway shutdown and the subsequent closing of touring productions. He reported that while the Broadway League has stated there will not be a resumption of shows before the first of January, there are some regions that are advertising productions for the fall of 2020. He also cautioned about musicians devaluing their work by offering to livestream their performances without receiving compensation. 

Day 2 of the conference began with a presentation from renowned peak performance psychologist Dr. Don Greene, who offered coping mechanisms customized for musicians. We then heard from the other two players’ conference presidents—Robert Frasier of the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM) and Marc Sazer of the Recording Musicians Association (RMA). AFM Legislative, Political, and Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard gave us a legislative report highlighting the work he is doing to represent musicians’ interests on Capitol Hill. Smith-Wright and Pollard then led a thought-provoking roundtable examining diversity in the musical theatre orchestra. 

The final presentation of the day was titled, “COVID-19, Musicians, and the Return to Work,” led by otolaryngologist Dr. Adam Schwalje. This enlightening presentation examined the science of COVID and the criteria that must be met to ensure our safety as we return to the theatre. 

Finally, elections were held, and all national TMA officers were reelected by acclamation: myself as president, Boehm as vice president, and Pinto as secretary-treasurer. Also elected by acclamation were Jan Mullen as director for Broadway, Lovie Smith-Wright as director of membership-at-large, and Angela Chan as director for travelers. 

My sincere thanks to all the presenters and attendees for making this conference a great success. I look forward to seeing everyone in person next summer!


Non-Union Touring Shows Weaken Us All

by Anthony D’Amico, Theatre Musicians Association President and Member of Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) and Local 198-457 (Providence, RI)

We’ve all heard the lines before:
“It’s only one tiny gig. What’s the harm?”

“I just want to get together with other
musicians and play!”

“If I don’t take the gig, someone else will.”

“Sure, I’d rather it be a union job,
but sometimes I don’t have a choice.”

There are probably a hundred reasons why an AFM member will agree to take a non-union job. But in the end, I would argue all those excuses do not justify the tremendous harm done to the musicians’ labor movement and the core principles of our union when professional musicians agree to take non-union work. This is nowhere more accurate than in the world of musical theater.

A few months ago, I was attending a bargaining session at a recently re-opened Boston theater to work on a new contract. The team across the table was trying to explain that they had to bring non-union traveling shows into their theater in order to compete with other venues in the area. While I attempted to listen to their plight with a sympathetic ear, I instead found myself getting annoyed.

That irritation was the inspiration for this article.

A professional musician going out on the road as part of a non-union touring company is in effect acting as a free agent, surrendering the protections the Federation has collectively bargained for over many negotiations. While I cannot speak to every non-union show that has toured across the Federation, reports I have received indicate many musicians travel in less-than-ideal circumstances, stay in substandard accommodations, work additional hours without remuneration, all while receiving unacceptably low wages.

With our pension plan in the current precarious position, the need for any and all contributions is imperative. Yet the non-union production does not contribute to the Fund in the musician’s name. However, perhaps the most damaging aspect of non-union shows is that these productions lessen the value of what we do. I have stated numerous times in these pages that professional theater musicians are some of the most versatile artists in the AFM, and it is my great honor to represent their interests as president of the Theatre Musicians Association (TMA). So, it pains me to hear stories of our players going out on the road selling themselves short.

Back in 2005, there was an effort made by the then-current AFM leadership to address the issue of non-union touring shows head-on. At the Pamphlet B touring agreement negotiations, an idea was submitted to put in place a system of wage tiers. The amount a show would pay a musician was directly linked to something called the “weekly guarantee,” which is the amount the presenter guarantees will be paid to the producer for the right to present the show. The theory was that a show that wasn’t going to do blockbuster ticket sales could reduce payroll costs and thus afford to be sent out under a union contract, vastly reducing non-union productions. The producers promised these tiered shows would be going into smaller venues often on split weeks, and would not affect the larger full Pamphlet B productions.

Under this agreement, a touring musician on a lowest tier show would make $675 a week for eight performances. That works out to $84.38 a show. Talk about not respecting the value of what theater musicians do! While TMA was vehemently opposed to this deal, it ended up being approved by the bargaining unit, and went into effect in 2006. The result was touring musicians made less money under AFM-sanctioned contracts, and non-union shows continued to crisscross the Federation.

In 2012, new President Ray Hair allowed TMA to have an integral role at the negotiating table, with then-TMA President Tom Mendel speaking at length on how the tier system was unfair, and how the producers were disingenuous about how those tiers would be used. The tier system has since been replaced by the much preferable Short Engagement Touring agreement. But still, non-union productions continue to be a reality. So, what is the solution?

I believe in the end it comes down to rank-and-file musicians insisting they be compensated fairly for the highly skilled work they perform, and they decline non-union tours when they are offered. I understand the lure of steady work can be difficult to resist, however, the long-term damage these substandard shows are doing to our industry cannot be denied. The public must be constantly reminded that the highest quality music is made by union professionals, and they are getting less value for their money when they attend a non-AFM sanctioned production. Taking away the “If I don’t take the gig, someone else will” excuse will force these discount producers to go to the AFM and sign a contract. By standing up together and demanding our fair worth, we are a formidable force.

What TMA is Doing in Response to the COVID-19 Situation

by Anthony D’Amico, Theater Musicians Association President and Member of Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) and Local 198-457 (Providence, RI)

As in all other sectors of our industry, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe effect on the musical theatre business throughout the federation. On March 12, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered Broadway to shut down until at least April 13. National tours throughout the United States and Canada have been suspended or canceled, and cast, crews, and musicians have been sent home. Local city governments everywhere have restricted the size of public gatherings, all but closing regional theaters.

We theatre players live by the maxim “The show must go on,” yet here we find ourselves sitting at home with all work canceled. The Theatre Musicians Association (TMA) is monitoring this everchanging situation closely, and will send out useful information and suggestions to our members via The Pit Blast—our email notification system.

Many theaters and producers are citing force majeure clauses as a reason not to pay musicians for canceled work. However, it is in the musician’s best interest to look at the individual agreements they work under to confirm they are in fact not entitled to compensation for lost services. All contracts and force majeure language are certainly not alike.

The Broadway World website is a good place to keep track of the situation through a musical theater prism. This page will keep track of canceled theatre tours. They have promised to update the information as the situation changes: www.broadwayworld.com—under “Shutdown Updates” click on “National Tour Updates.”

We are in uncharted territory. While the closing of theaters and suspension of tours is certainly an extreme measure, it is necessary if we are to “flatten the curve.” Along with frequent hand washing and social distancing, staying out of the close confines of an orchestra pit is our way to fight this outbreak. I welcome any suggestions and questions you might have—I can be reached at president.tma@afm-tma.org.

Highlights From the 2019 TMA Conference

The summer of 2019 brought warm temperatures, a Red Sox team with a World Series hangover, and, perhaps most importantly, Theatre Musicians Association (TMA) officers from all over the country to Boston. Our 24th annual conference was held within the jurisdiction of my home local 9-535 on July 29 and 30. It was a chance for TMA and AFM officers to get together to attend meetings and presentations, and join in on discussions pertaining to all things musical theater. As a bonus, The Boston Musicians’ Association (BMA) and I were able to play host and show off the Hub of the Universe to our guests.

My thanks to BMA President Pat Hollenbeck and the members of the board of directors for all their assistance with our conference and helping to make it the success it was. I’d like to use the space here to fill you in on some of the highlights of our conference.
After opening remarks from myself and TMA Boston chapter president Walter Bostian, AFM International President Ray Hair took to the podium to report on the recently concluded 101st AFM Convention, the status change of the AFM-EPF, and how capturing streaming revenue is paramount to the efforts being made to bolster the pension fund. President Hair spoke about the upcoming negotiations for a successor agreement to the expiring Pamphlet B touring musicals contract and gave a short history of independent contractor laws and how changes to those laws have negatively affected the membership numbers of the AFM over the years.
AFM Secretary-Treasurer Jay Blumenthal then addressed the attendees and described the AFM’s recent move up a few floors at 1501 Broadway, and what a massive undertaking that turned out to be.
At this point, it was my honor to address the conference and give my president’s report. I began by pointing out Broadway and international touring musicals are having a record season vis-á-vis ticket revenue and attendance, and I wondered aloud how this fact will affect the Pamphlet B negotiations that are right around the corner. I spoke about my experience attending my first AFM Convention and summarized the two resolutions TMA submitted and were able to get passed:
First, to encourage the AFM to use its best efforts to influence producers of touring musical theater productions to use fuller orchestras and employ more musicians.
Second, to organize on a national level the proliferation of touring acts sometimes known as “star attractions”—the Josh Grobans, Two Cellos, and Il Divos of the world—that crisscross the country sometimes exploiting musicians with substandard wages and no benefits or protections.
Finally, I spoke about what an honor it was to address the convention and convey how proud I am of TMA, our officers and board, and all our members making first-class music in the theater pits across our Federation.
TMA Vice President Heather Boehm followed me and gave a report highlighting the recent campaign to organize the Porchlight Theatre in Chicago. Secretary/Treasurer Mark Pinto gave a report on TMA’s finances and membership numbers.
We were then treated to reports from the other players’ conferences—Paul Austin for the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM), Liz Johnson for the Organization of Canadian Symphony Musicians (OCSM), Martin McClennan for the Recording Musicians Association (RMA), and Mike Smith for the Regional Orchestra Players Association (ROPA). Lovie Smith-Wright gave her always interesting Diversity Report.
We then welcomed out first guest speaker of our conference—labor attorney Gabe Dumont. Gabe is perhaps the top labor lawyer in the Northeast, and the Boston local has been lucky to call him our attorney for many years. His talk, titled “Organizing Musicians At Theatre Venues,” touched on voting eligibility, employee versus independent contractor status, and joint employer issues.
Southern California chapter President Paul Castillo led a panel discussion titled “Pamphlet B Issues and Solutions.” The purpose of this panel was to identify and discuss issues TMA would like to see addressed in the Pamphlet B negotiations that are just on the horizon. Participating in the panel were DC-Baltimore chapter Secretary-Treasurer Brian Butler, TMA member from Philadelphia Susan Lerner, TMA Secretary/Treasurer Mark Pinto, and St. Louis chapter Director and TMA President Emeritus Vicky Smolik.
Our busy first day concluded with a presentation entitled “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone—Hearing Health, Healing Loss,” given by Dr. Stephen D. Rauch, professor and vice chair for clinical research, Department of Otolaryngology, Harvard Medical School.
The day’s meeting adjourned, and conference participants were treated to a duck boat tour of historic Boston, followed by a meal at the Union Oyster House—America’s oldest restaurant.
The next day was highlighted by a report from Broadway director Jan Mullen on the newly ratified Broadway agreement. Finally, elections were held, and all national TMA officers were re-elected by acclamation: myself as president, Heather Boehm as vice-president, and Mark Pinto as secretary/treasurer.
It is always a pleasure to attend these conferences and meet with theater musicians from all over the United States and Canada. Whether you only occasionally play musical theater productions or you make life in the pit your full-time job, I think you will find TMA membership worthwhile. Please go to afm-tma.org to learn more about our organization or contact me at


TMA and Building Solidarity

paul castillo

by Paul Castillo, Director Executive Board Theatre Musicians Association, President SoCal Chapter TMA, and Member of Locals 47 (Los Angeles, CA) and 353 (Long Beach, CA)

I want to begin by thanking Theatre Musicians Association (TMA) President Tony D’Amico for the opportunity to write this column. Solidarity is at the heart of the TMA. A primary goal is to strengthen relationships with the Federation and the AFM locals. Current issues include ever-diminishing pit orchestras and musician/actors on the musical theatre stage. The TMA is building solidarity to fix those problems and other issues.

Part of solidarity involves supporting others in one way or another. This year TMA Vice President Heather Boehm, TMA President Emeritus Tom Mendel, and other TMA members attended rallies and spoke in support of the Chicago Symphony Musicians who, at the time of this writing, are on strike over fair wages and benefits. In March, at the invitation of my AFM local, I attended the first session of the Motion Picture and TV negotiations as an AFM member and a representative of TMA. In February, I attended the AFM Western Conference on behalf of TMA.

Members working together with AFM locals and officers is critical to solidarity. In a recent conversation with a local officer it was mentioned that, prior to a local negotiation for a musical theatre agreement, an email survey was sent to AFM members who had worked under the local agreement. Some of them were members of other locals and there were few responses. A survey is a union’s way of asking for help with negotiations so that the union can ensure members get what they want in an agreement. It builds union solidarity. Without it, the union has little choice but to bargain the level of exploitation the employer will be allowed to commit upon the musicians, instead of bargaining for what musicians want. Connecting with the union is vital to successful employment.

The concept of solidarity and employment is certainly not new, and much has been written and said about it. In contemporary terms, solidarity is a major part of a support system for musical employment of all kinds. The TMA is an integral part of the AFM and musical theatre employment for musicians. The TMA, along with the AFM, are a fundamental support system for musicians employed in musical theatre. Simply put, solidarity = support system + unity = successful employment!

As the TMA continues to build solidarity, we will look for principles to incorporate in our efforts. Here are several to consider:

There is always one more thing you can do to influence the matter in your favor. Few things are more frustrating than being told “can’t do” when asking for help or information. The emphasis needs to be on what can be done. It’s not always easy to come up with “can do” items. Sometimes it’s necessary to get ideas from others, such as a support group. Then, and this is the most important part, we go and do that one thing. After that, there is always one more thing to be done.

Empty your bowl so that it may be filled. Things accumulate over time, often to the point where they are not only useless, but may be harmful. We must ask, “What are we doing that we should not be doing?” and hack away the unessential. This makes way for new things that yield better results.

Use ecological solutions. For any solution we must ask two questions: 1) Will this cause harm to ourselves? and 2) Will this cause harm to any other musicians? If the answer to both is “No,” the solution is ecological and consistent with solidarity. If the answer to either question is “Yes,” then the solution needs to be modified. If it becomes necessary to ask someone to make a sacrifice so that we may benefit, we must first ask ourselves what sacrifice we will make so that they may benefit—and make that sacrifice.

Theater Musicians Association—25 Years of Workplace Involvement

I’ll have the privilege of attending the 23rd conference of the Theater Musicians Association (TMA) on August 20, at Local 47’s new offices in Burbank, California. TMA is the newest AFM player conference. It began its journey 25 years ago, and is now comprised of chapters organized among locals that negotiate local agreements with theatrical venues and presenters that book Pamphlet B tours.

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