Tag Archives: traveling musician

Important Clarification to FAA Rules on Flying with Instruments

The AFM spent more than a decade trying to clarify and improve the ability of musicians to fly with instruments as carry-on baggage. These efforts resulted in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which was implemented in 2015. The law states that if the instrument fits in the airline luggage bins and the owner boards early enough to have available space in the bins, a musician cannot be made to check their instrument.

TSA’s recent announcement that new security scanners in airports are smaller than previous scanners has caused some confusion and concern for musicians. The thought of having to check all bags that don’t fit in the new machines hit a nerve among traveling AFM members. There have been some poorly worded descriptions and/or misinformation spread about this announcement.

Dave Pomeroy, AFM Executive Board member and Local 257 (Nashville, TN) president, contacted the TSA for clarification. They have verified that the language or meaning of the law regarding musical instruments has not changed. However, the new machines’ smaller entry size (24.5”W x 16.5”H) does mean that some instruments that fit in the airplane luggage bins and the previous scanners may not fit in the new scanning machines, or more specifically, do not fit in the trays that are used with the new machines. TSA personnel will now have to individually inspect instruments that don’t fit at the security checkpoint. Pomeroy was told that in the (hopefully) near future, additional scanners will be provided that will speed up the scanning process for individual instruments that do not fit in the new machines.

As always, it’s important that you check the overhead capacity of each plane on which you will travel beforehand to ensure your instrument will fit. If you have concerns about whether your instrument will fit in the new machines, you should plan for extra time at security and arrive at least 30 minutes earlier than normal. If possible, try to get priority boarding and board early, when overhead compartments are less full. Additional travel tips are available in our Travel Kit on the AFM.org website.

Eating Healthy on the Fly: Don’t Let Fast Food Slow You Down

Eating HealthyFor musicians on the road, eating healthy food can be hard. Restaurants and mini-mart offerings can add unwanted calories quickly, but they are often the only option.

Choose beverages with no added sugar or with few calories. Most stores stock fat-free or low-fat yogurt, fruit packs, and trail mix. Keep in mind that some prepackaged foods look like single servings, but actually contain multiple servings. Avoid obvious bad choices: fried food, high-fat meat, and milk shakes. Instead, choose sandwiches with fewer toppings and no cheese. Opt for salads with low-fat or fat-free dressing, replace French fries with sliced fruit, and swap out fried meats for grilled options or fish.

The good news about health halos is a bit more complicated. Fast food chains use the symbol to indicate a healthier option. This claim, however, usually overestimates the healthfulness of an item. Researchers note that consumers frequently confuse low fat with low calorie, resulting in overconsumption. Some veggie dishes pack nearly 1,000 calories, while a burger may have as few as 250.

According to the Food and Brand lab at Cornell University, “Consumers chose beverages, side dishes, and desserts containing up to 131% more calories when the main dish was positioned as ‘healthy,’ even though the main dish contained more calories than the ‘unhealthy option.’” The rule of thumb is always read the nutrition facts before ordering. (Now that restaurants are adding calorie counts to menus, it’s becoming easier to riddle out how much you will be taking in.)

Other recent studies done by the Food and Brand Lab found that “low-fat” labels on snack foods encouraged people to eat up to 50% more than those who saw labels without the low-fat claim. “Simply seeing the words low-fat encouraged people in these studies to consume 84 extra calories! This happens because when consumers see the low-fat label on a product, they automatically assume it has fewer calories.”

Got a smart phone? Get an app to count calories. The Fast Food Calorie Counter app ($1, for iPhone or Android) lists more than 9,000 menu items. Also, eat small with pint-size portions. The kids’ menu can save you calories. If it’s unavoidable to eat unhealthy at one meal, make sure the next choice is a healthy one.

Dehydration can cause sweet and salty food cravings. Stay hydrated and you will be less likely to snack. Fruits can add to overall hydration: lettuce and some vegetables have high water content, as do watermelon, peaches, strawberries, oranges, pineapple, and blueberries.

Banana, beans, greens

Maximize protein and plant-based foods. Plant-based foods plus plenty of protein keep energy levels up. Generally, avoid refined grains, sugary snacks, and fried foods. Called a super fruit, bananas are high in B vitamins, calcium, and other minerals, such as magnesium and iron. Dark leafy greens, quinoa, nuts, seeds, and fruits, and foods high in probiotics (fermented foods) all boost energy. High-fiber and nutrient-heavy plant foods that will burn for hours. Low-fiber and nutrient-light foods—simple carbohydrates—burn quickly. When you’re eating plant-strong, you won’t have the energy highs and lows.

Kale, mustard greens, collard greens, cabbage, and broccoli are high in nutrients and contain glucosinolates, which inhibit the growth of certain cancers. Swiss chard and spinach have similar nutritional value. What’s more, they are available throughout the year, and both are rich in iron, which carries oxygen to the blood.

Egg, salmon, almonds

Nuts are satisfying proteins that fill you up, although try to find the “no salt” option. They have heart-healthy unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and fiber. 

Eggs pack a punch, too. More than half the protein is found in the egg white, along with vitamin B2, and whites are lower in fat and cholesterol than the yolk. Egg whites are also rich sources of selenium, vitamin D, B6, B12, and minerals, like zinc, iron, and copper.

If you like it, fish is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Like nuts, it is plentiful in omega-3 fatty acids and the vitamin D, a nutrient that most people are deficient in. It functions like a steroid hormone in the body. (Of the many unhealthy options at a McDonalds, the Filet-O-Fish contains a rather modest 380 calories.)

college band

Calling All College Students: If You Want a Career, Look to the AFM

A while back I had an opportunity to speak to students at the Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam, about the business of music. It was an interesting experience. The questions were fast and furious. The energy and enthusiasm were contagious. Many of the students weren’t aware of the American Federation of Musicians and the benefits of being a member of the AFM going forward into a career in music.

The Crane Library not only features issues of the International Musician, but has many books about the AFM as well, and extensive reading material on careers in music. However, a lot of today’s college students don’t know the AFM exists. Being a member is an opportunity to be a part of something big. It’s an opportunity for networking, career advancement, pension, and a decent wage. College students who are going out into the world of music want to make a good living. They need guidance and support. Many aren’t aware of the benefits of a union contract. It can mean getting paid and paid fairly. It means not playing for free, for low pay, or for anything but a fair wage. For professional musicians, playing music is a living, not a hobby.

In AFM Organizing & Education Division Director Michael Manley’s IM article last month, he said “no one is impressed by underpaid work.” No one is impressed when you work for substandard wages, and working for “pay to play” or “exposure” does not lead to working with the influential first-call musicians, agents, promoters, and people with whom you hope to share the stage as your career develops.

You must know your worth, whether it is Broadway, symphonic, freelancing, recording, clubs, or onstage. Sometimes musicians need to know when to say “no.” AFM members are professionals. Playing music is how they make their living. Getting a living wage is paramount when you are a member of the AFM.

The International Musician will be at this year’s NAMM Show in Anaheim, California. Music retailers, manufacturers, industry veterans, and music legends will be there, as well as some AFM officers. Music colleges from all over the country will be sending some of their students. Many of the educational sessions will talk about the benefits of the AFM. There is a wide range of opportunities in today’s music industry for music school graduates. The future of the AFM is with the young musicians of today. We have to look ahead.

If you’re a college student picking up this publication in your college library, it might be time to look into joining the AFM (if you’re not already a member.) Many of the locals offer a student membership. This is a great time to be a member!

A Guide to Easy Border Crossing

Touring requires preparation and organization. One element of touring that demands much of both is border crossing. Crossing a border to work in a foreign country can be nerve-wracking and difficult, if you are not prepared. With thorough preparation you can ensure easy border crossings while on tour.

The first consideration should be work permits. Every foreign artist who performs in the US is required to have a temporary work visa. I highly recommend the P-2 Visa, which can be processed through the Canadian Federation of Musicians (http://www.cfmusicians.org/services/work-
permits). When making your initial entry into the US, you will need to carry the USCIS approval notice (or a copy). If band members are entering the country separately, everyone should have their own copy.

Make sure that all of your travel documents are in order. All passports must be valid at least six months beyond the last performance date. If you do not hold a Canadian or US passport, you will also be required to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) (www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp), to fly into Canada. Other countries require all foreign passports to be valid for a certain number of months from the date of entry or planned exit. Look into the requirements for each country you intend to visit.

If crossing by land, you may need to show vehicle ownership; if travelling by air, you will need to show a return ticket. You may be asked to show proof of accommodation and/or proof that you can support yourself while in a foreign country. If you are a parent travelling with a child, you will need written travel permission from any other guardian or parent.

Also, before traveling, look into any possible issues of criminality. Any prior conviction, however minor, can cause problems at the border and should be dealt with well in advance with either a waiver of ineligibility or a criminal rehabilitation application.

You must also plan for transporting equipment and merchandise. Understand the border restrictions in relation to prohibited goods or substances. If you are travelling with instruments and other gear, consider applying for an ATA Carnet, a document that can minimize hassles and fees at the border (www.chamber.ca/carnet). In the absence of an ATA Carnet, have a complete inventory with you. Whenever possible, include descriptions, serial numbers, purchase dates, and values. Having your gear organized in numbered cases will make it much easier when border officials need to check the gear.

Be aware of restrictions on crossing a border with instruments containing endangered species. There’s no point in risking confiscation of your gear. Check out the Musical Instrument Passport program (www.fws.gov/international/permits/by-activity/musical-instruments.html).

If you are flying, make sure you know the airline’s rules and regulations for transporting instruments. Invest in high-quality cases to protect them from damage.

If you are carrying merchandise, be sure to declare it and make sure it is properly labelled or properly stickered (for promotional copies). Have the invoice of manufacture with you. Keep in mind the option of sending merchandise via courier or mail, or having it manufactured in the country to which you are touring. For large quantities of merchandise, use a customs broker.

Finally, consider your strategy for interacting with border crossing officials. Appearances are important. You need to look and sound like you are a law-abiding citizen, respectful of authority, who poses absolutely no risk. Turn off the radio or iPad, remove ear buds and sunglasses. If crossing by land, your vehicle should reflect this as well—neat and clean. Rehearse straightforward answers to typical questions you might be asked by officials. Coach everyone in your group to be honest and forthright, and to answer questions succinctly without volunteering additional information. 

With sufficient knowledge and preparation, border crossing can be simple.

Robert Baird is President of Baird Artists Management Consulting and an expert in international touring. Involved in the performing arts for more than 50 years, he was president of NAPAMA, and Treasurer of FEO. He is currently president of OAPN and APAP Showcase Coordinator. Contact him at robert@bairdartists.com.

Touring Show Update

2017 Touring Show Update

Touring Show Update

During a performance of Elvis Live in Concert, AFM Touring/Theatre/Booking Division Director George Fiddler (left) had the opportunity to meet with Greg Luscombe who assembled the symphony orchestra used in the show.

The traveling show season has begun and most of the new productions have premiered or are about to start their season. I visited Les Misérables in Hartford last month as it began a new tour. There are numerous seasoned road musicians in the orchestra, as well as musicians new to touring. This show has an orchestration for 15 touring musicians, nearly all of them on orchestral instruments. The conductor, Brian Eads of Local 257 (Nashville, TN), has done an amazing job of having everyone play at the highest ensemble level possible. The production quality was first-rate.The show’s stellar cast was accompanied flawlessly by the orchestra, creating a magical performance. The fortunate audiences have certainly received a production worthy of the Broadway experience.

This season there are many shows that have sizable touring complements, as well as large local musician employment. The new Disney blockbuster for the road this year is Aladdin, which has an orchestration of 16, with a minimum local hiring of eight musicians in every city it visits. The King and I continues this season with 13 local musicians hired in all cities.

Another new production with a large musician complement is Love Never Dies, the sequel to Phantom of the Opera. This show travels 15 musicians, with local hiring in select venues.

There are a variety of unusual productions that are not traditional in orchestration or content that will be travelling under our agreements.

As the new director of the AFM Touring/Theatre/Booking Division, I look forward to overseeing a large and varied season of traveling musicals that is sure to provide a genuine Broadway experience to audiences across the US and Canada.

Elvis Live in Concert

Elvis Live In Concert Celebrates the Career of Elvis with a Live Symphony Orchestra

August 16 was the 40th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. To commemorate this event, Graceland/Elvis Presley Enterprises sponsored Elvis Live in Concert, a tour of Elvis performing with a live 46-member studio orchestra. The show stripped the background music from videos and films in which Elvis appeared and replaced it with live orchestrations. Requiring precision timing, the music was synchronized to recorded videos of Elvis performances projected on a large screen above the orchestra. The effect was striking and awe-inspiring. It felt like Elvis was actually performing live onstage.

British conductor and arranger Robin Smith debuted Elvis Live in Concert in the United Kingdom in the fall 2016 and it toured throughout Europe and Australia. The show proved so successful that Graceland/Elvis Presley Enterprises wanted to duplicate the event here in the US. The plan was to tour throughout August in large arena-style venues, honoring Elvis’s memory with concerts featuring a live orchestra. Many audience members had never seen the real Elvis in concert. The tour came “home” to Memphis, Tennessee, August 16 for a special show honoring Elvis’s passing.

Graceland turned to Memphis Symphony Orchestra musician Greg Luscombe of Locals 71 (Memphis, TN) and 10-208 (Chicago, IL) to assemble the highly skilled professional musicians required to make the music come to life. Most of the musicians were members of the Memphis Symphony, but some were selected because of expertise in performing Elvis’s music.

“It was especially amazing working with some of the most talented musicians from Memphis,” says Andre Acevedo of Locals 777 (Biloxi, MS) and 301 (Pekin, IL), who played sax for the show. “The rhythm section and the drums were particularly impressive. Because the music came from live Elvis performances, the drum set had to follow along with click that didn’t have a consistent tempo. James Sexton did it well and made the music feel smooth and groove. Jim Spake [of Local 71] on the solo tenor saxophone, played the opening ‘If I Can Dream’ with such a classic tenor saxophone sound. It was perfect for this genre, which makes sense as he is something of a Memphis legend. Finally, I loved the string section as a whole. The string arrangements were gorgeous and helped glorify Elvis’s voice.” 

Elvis Live in Concert

Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley, Graceland/Elvis Presley Enterprises sponsored Elvis Live in Concert, a tour of Elvis performing with a live 46-member studio orchestra.

The results were remarkable. The musicians didn’t just precisely perform the written scores, they were genuinely passionate about their performances. The enthusiasm of the musicians was clearly transmitted to the loyal Elvis fans attending the joyful events.

“The show was beautiful and the audience reaction was something I will always remember,” says Acevedo. “The audience reacted as if Elvis was really there! I watched couples cry and dance together, and I watched older women scream like they were 16 years old again. Each show ended with thunderous applause, showing so much appreciation for Elvis and our ensemble backing him up.”

The AFM Touring/Theatre/Booking Division (TTBD) assisted Luscombe in achieving a union agreement that offered the musicians competitive wages and benefits, plus carefully planned travel conditions. The tour moved from Connecticut to Florida, stopping at more than a dozen venues along the way. “As contractor, my first job was to establish appropriate pay, per diem, travel, and accommodations that fit the budget of Graceland/Elvis Presley Enterprises, while doing the right thing for the musicians,” says Luscombe. “I found it extremely helpful that all of the basic items you need in a touring contract are well established by the AFM TTBD, based on years of experience and negotiations. The fact that the AFM agreement was good for the musicians as well as for Graceland (c/o Elvis Presley Enterprises) contributed to the overall good morale among the musicians and everyone that was involved with the tour.”  

Negotiating for a short-running tour isn’t always easy. Aside from proper compensation for the musicians involved, the contract must also take into account their travel concerns. The sizes and economics of the large venues where the show played meant the musicians were provided wage scales commensurate with top dollar pop acts.

Elvis Live in Concert

The Elvis Live In Concert show orchestra featured many musicians from Local 71 (Memphis, TN).

“Of course, the long bus rides and other inconveniences of touring are not always fun, but when musicians feel they have a fair deal, plus good accommodations and meals waiting for them, it can translate into highly energized performances,” adds Luscombe. “It was obvious that the audience sensed the good vibe from the musicians throughout the tour.” 

“Because the tour was on a union contract, we could count on the production adhering to a set daily schedule. That meant a lot to us since we were working on such a tightly booked tour. Receiving a reasonable salary with payments for pension, doubling, and overtime made all the difference. In a ‘right to work’ state environment it can be tough to negotiate these issues on a contract,” says woodwind player Gary Topper of Local 71 (Memphis,TN).

The overwhelming success of this tour reaffirmed the concept that working closely with an employer to realize a fair agreement for both parties leads to highly professional results that both the employer and musicians can be proud of.

Elvis Live in Concert

The sizes and economics of the large venues where Elvis Live In Concert played meant the AFM musicians were provided wage scales commensurate with top dollar pop acts.

“All in all, this tour was so much fun and I had a wonderful time playing beautiful music,” says Acevedo. “I am very glad that Greg Luscombe worked things out to make it an AFM tour. I would hope the demand for this show continues as I would really love to do it all again!”

Traveling by Air? Know the Rules and Your Rights

After years of negotiating and lobbying, the AFM saw the implementation of standard rules regarding musical instruments as carry-on and checked baggage. As of March 2015, musicians are allowed to bring certain musical instruments in-cabin on US carriers. Here are some airline travel tips for musicians.

Your Reservation

Tell the airline that you will be transporting a musical instrument. Air carriers are required to adequately inform passengers about limitations and restrictions to travel with instruments.

Book priority seating, requesting or purchasing early boarding.

On-board stowage rules  apply to any instruments that meet FAA carry-on size requirements.

Packing Your Gear

Remove any sharp tools and all liquids that do not comply with TSA’s three-ounce regulation.

Have a proper travel case, in the event that your instrument is not allowed in the cabin.

Board early. Overhead stowage is on a first come, first served basis.

Once an instrument is stowed in-cabin it cannot be removed or replaced by other bags.

Deal Calmly with Problems

If you are stopped by a flight attendant, calmly and quickly explain the precautions you have taken to prepare your instrument to safely travel in-cabin.

Do not block the way of other boarding passengers.

If necessary, ask to deplane so that you can resolve the matter with airline supervisors. Remember, you have approximately 15 minutes before the plane backs away from the gate.

Be prepared for the possibility that you may not be able to travel with your instrument in the cabin. It is important to have a backup plan.

Bring Along Links to Helpful Resources

Keep a link to the Department of Transportation Traveling with a Musical Instrument web link (www.dot.gov/airconsumer/air-travel-musical-instruments).

The AFM has developed comprehensive manuals: A Guide to Traveling with Musical Instruments (34-page guidebook) and A Guide to Flying with Musical Instruments (eight-page pocket guide). To find these resources, log into afm.org and go to “Document Library” and open the “Legislative Office” folder.

For a more in-depth story on the AFM’s efforts to ease air travel for musicians please visit: internationalmusician.org/musical-instrument-airline-carriage-rule/

Peter Cho

Peter Cho: Educating and Organizing in the Big Easy

Peter Cho

Peter Cho of Local 174-496 (New Orleans, LA) is a pianist, educator, and union board member whose work runs the gamut, from advocacy for all musicians to mentoring a younger generation of music students.

At the Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp, where Peter Cho of Local 174-496 (New Orleans, LA) has taught for the last 20 years, he says, “We make sure music students are well-rounded. Part of that is making sure they understand their capacity for other things. If you’ve got an analytical mind, explore music composition or the music business, maybe as a booking agent or a talent buyer. It’s a holistic approach to education.” An educator and jazz pianist, Cho is the executive dean of Delgado Community College’s West Bank Campus.

For a much sought-after pianist, Cho admits he had a rather inauspicious start, learning piano as a kid—and hating it, he claims—because it required too much discipline. In high school in Auburn, Alabama, he played the clarinet in the jazz band and participated in music festivals around country.

Before he knew it, the kid who was heading to Auburn University for pre-med was getting scholarship offers for music. Cho says he owes his sudden change of heart to his father, a professor of veterinary medicine, who said, “I don’t want you to be an old man, wondering, ‘what if?’” Cho ended up at Loyola University on a scholarship as a jazz studies major. 

In New Orleans, he began playing gigs immediately. Cho would take the streetcar downtown to the Maison Bourbon, where he’d met an old piano player by the name of Ed Frank. Cho says “I’d hang out with him every day. He was my unofficial teacher and mentor.” By the time he was 19, Cho was playing piano professionally.

The cultural economy is the life force of New Orleans rooted in older musicians passing the mantle on to younger musicians. Like elder statesmen of the Marsalis and Batiste families, Cho sees his job as an extension of this, training younger generations of musicians. He says, “As a community we are doing what we need to do to make sure that engine of creativity continues.”

As a dean and a musician Cho has found what’s meaningful. “You understand how you fit into your community, how what you do matters to others,” he says. The college enlists musicians from the community, many of whom are retired, to teach classes and provide students with real-world ensemble experience. “They want to give back. Professional musicians are mentoring. It’s the internal program linking students to the actual music scene.”

Early on, Cho (who went on to earn a Ph.D. in Education Administration from the University of New Orleans), studied with Michael Pellara. He’s responsible for many of the city’s best musicians, including the younger Jon Batiste of Local 802 (New York City), who also came out of the Armstrong camp and is now the musical director of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Pianist Barry Doyle Harris of Local 802 served as an inspiration for Cho. Nearly every night, since 1990, the 48-year-old Cho has performed with James Rivers and his band, The James Rivers Movement, which has been a fixture in the city for nearly 50 years. He is also a pianist for the Victory Swing Orchestra of the WWII Museum. 

On stage, he’s performed with Willie Singleton of Local 56 (Grand Rapids, MI), Jimmy Heath of Local 802, and Johnny Vidacovich, George Porter, and Delfeayo Marsalis, all of Local 174-496, to name only a few.

An executive board member of Local 174-496 since 2006, post Katrina, Cho knows firsthand the permanent shadow the storm cast over the city, where once-robust music neighborhoods have been forever altered. When Katrina struck, the natural musical traditions of individual areas were uprooted. “A lot of musical families were displaced. Musicians came back, but they weren’t able to settle in old neighborhoods. The actual engine that created this musical tradition and culture has been disrupted,” Cho explains.

Musician friends of Cho’s, who were forced to relocate, say one positive effect of displacement is that there now exists a fairly thriving New Orleans style jazz music scene in other cities, like Houston and Atlanta. He says, “These cities are seeing an influx or growing New Orleans musical and cultural heritage.”

The loss of neighborhoods and the corner clubs after Katrina created unexpected opportunities for musicians. But Cho says, “There are districts where a lot of musicians are willing to play for the door or tips, and aren’t necessarily compensated as professionals. The local has been trying to fight for musician’s rights, trying to organize and give all musicians a roadmap.” He’s encouraged, noting, “I’m seeing a lot of attitudes of nonunion musicians change; if we’re willing to undercut each other, everybody loses.”

“Right to work” laws obviously obstruct the aims of the local union, but with the present board and Deacon John Moore at the helm, Cho sees more solidarity among all musicians, union and nonunion alike. Moore’s efforts, in fact, have greatly improved working conditions for musicians.

“Once nonmembers understand the advocacy and how we as musicians fit into the cultural economy and how we, as raw materials of this economy, have more power. If musicians boycotted playing any type of music for one day, the ramifications would be tremendous,” he says.

“That’s how you mobilize and show what type of clout you have. It gives you more leverage and you’re better able to go to club owners and say, ‘Hey, we’re not going to take these conditions anymore.’” In addition to highlighting the benefits of a pension, the local advocates financial literacy. Cho says, “One of the things we tell musicians is: pay yourself first, you’re worth it. And you’ll have something to fall back on.”

A Meditation for Nobodies and Old Mares

by Madelyn Roberts, AFM Diversity Committee Member and Member AFM Local 586 (Phoenix, AZ)

On a recent drive from Phoenix to Albuquerque in my faithful steed, my Subaru Forester, “The Sofa Killer,” I had a seven-hour opportunity to reflect on a February meeting of the AFM’s Diversity Committee. Established in 2002, and encouraged to build upon the work already accomplished in its predecessor, the AFM Diversity Council, this year-round committee works to encourage and develop communication and understanding among all musicians. The committee’s ultimate goal is to develop an effective coalition of musicians from all walks of life, ethnicities, and musical genres, built upon mutual respect for the intrinsic value of the many roles we musicians play within the fabric of our human culture. In our numbers there is great strength, if we only martial it to make the lives of all musicians better, healthier, and more secure—more solid.

Playing classical music as a violinist in orchestras, and performing folk music, rock and roll, western swing, country, funk, and jazz on guitar, I have seen most of this country. I have seen most of the attitudes musicians display toward other musicians, whether friends, colleagues, or unknown nobodies. Consequently, as a member of the Diversity Committee since its inception, I have observed from a perhaps unique frame of reference, how we humans relate to each other. For instance, I have seen how others react to me when I am a “nobody.” Quite often, the response is a perfunctory and soon forgotten acknowledgment of my existence. I have also seen how they react when they find out that I am a “somebody”… at least in their eyes … because I am related to a famous and iconic “somebody.” In those circumstances, some of the same folks suddenly find me interesting, fascinating, clever, and now, somehow worthy of their time. Why?

If you, like me, have gone through the process of losing weight to the point of radically changing your appearance, you already know that some of those individuals to whom you were a “nobody” now treat you with a new level of respect, deference, and civility. You are a new “somebody.” Interesting, but I see these shifts in attitude to be disingenuous.

One time, when I was on the road with my band, someone approached the bandstand during a break and asked my co-leader husband, “Hey, my first cousin is (insert name of famous country star), so can I get up on stage during the break and play her guitar?” The “her” was me. When he was directed to ask me that question, I explained to the gentleman, “Yes, you can play the guitar if you just give me $3,000 to hold in case something happens to it, then give me the keys to your car so I can quickly drive down to the Circle K, buy a six-pack of beer, and slam it down before I have to go back on stage.”

He stared at me, bewildered, as if he’d never seen a space alien before. Those same people who see me and think, “Oh, a middle-class housewife can’t play guitar!” are happily perplexed when I go onstage and give them an exciting and satisfying performance.

I’m almost really old now, and I still like to go onstage and tear it up and make those people dance. True, I still am 15 in my head, but that is all to the good. I’m still silly enough to believe that a broad coalition of musicians can exist and make the world a better place. The people on your AFM Diversity Committee have always been, and continue to be, dreamers of the same ilk. We believe such partnerships within our AFM can change our world with solidarity and a fundamental ability to trust each other. 

By the way, The Sofa Killer told me an interesting story on our way back home from Albuquerque. (Or, at least I think she told me. Perhaps it was too many hours of driving, and being in my own head.) She said, “Did you know the old story about herds of wild horses being led by their stallion is not true?” I said, “Well, how about My Friend Flicka and all those Saturday morning westerns?” She said, “Not true. The herd is always led by an old woman horse, a mare. The stallion trails the herd to make sure none of the other male horses can get close to his women.” I was shocked. “Then, what is the stallion always doing on television, running full tilt at the head of the pack with his mane and tail streaming gloriously in the wind?” Sofa Killer said, quite simply, “Just showing off.”

Foreign SXSW Musicians Denied Entry

Some foreign musicians attempting to enter the US to perform at South by Southwest (SXSW) have been turned away, and in certain cases even arrested and detained overnight after attempting to use the wrong type of entry visa. Performers arriving to tour in the US typically enter using a P-1 or P-2 “performance” visas. However, the musicians turned away thought they were legally allowed to perform in unpaid “showcase” events using a B-1 tourist visas.

Visa information on the SXSW website states: “Foreign artists entering the US to perform both at SXSW and at any other public performance, whether for compensation or not, must obtain work visas. In general, these work visas will be either an O or P visa, depending on the specific situation. Citizens of 38 countries may be eligible to register under ESTA and enter the US under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), or apply for a B visa instead … We encourage you to be very careful when using the VWP Program to perform at SXSW, the guidelines to do so are very strict.”