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Timpanist Jauvon Gilliam Drives the Rhythm

“I have a dream job,” says Jauvon Gilliam of Local 161-710 (Washington, DC), principal timpanist for the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO). “Rarely am I the superstar or the soloist and I relish that. I like being the main support system, like the load-bearing wall, if you will.”

From his riser in the back of the orchestra, sequestered in a fortress of drums, Gilliam has a unique vantage point. With this position, comes great responsibility. The timbre, the resonant, rumbling sound, the thick, velvet tones pulsate over the orchestra like a heartbeat. Often called the “second conductor,” the timpanist drives the rhythm of the music. Gilliam’s spare but powerful notes must be exact, his timing perfect. The power of the timpani is such that if the conductor and the timpanist were out of sync, the rest of the orchestra would fall in time with the sound of the timpani.

Gilliam shapes the energy of timbre by adding layers to the orchestral rhythm. “If I didn’t really like where this note was placed, I’m going to change it the next time. Or the color just didn’t work for me. Maybe I’ll try a different stick or a different beating place,” he says. “There are so many different variables from note to note; it makes it very interesting for me day to day.”

The Concept of Sound

Gilliam cut his teeth in the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for seven years and was timpanist for the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra (and former member of Local 190 in Winnipeg). “It was a great band in a great community and I learned the ins and outs of figuring out what works for me,” he says.

His competitive streak in sports extended to his passion for music: “Work harder and smarter so that when the time comes, your average is better than everyone else’s best,” he says. When he was preparing for the NSO position, Gilliam played for several major timpanists between Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and Washington, DC. In 2009, he packed up his drums and made the 26-hour cross-country trip to the US capital twice to audition. It’s a process, he says. “You have to gel with the sections in order to fit.”

Not unlike a choir, orchestral musicians strive to blend their sound. Because of its dynamic range, the timpanist must assiduously calibrate his instrument. “I have to work on being as clear as possible in a concert hall, which is designed to resonate, which is designed to amplify,” Gilliam says.

The great majority of timpanists in the US use the American system of timpani, but there are a few schools that teach the German technique, notably the Cleveland Institute of Music, where Gilliam studied. With the placement of the largest drum on the right and the pedals on the inside of the drum, it’s designed to produce a clean, warm sound. “Hard sticks will get you to sound clean, but they won’t get you to sound warm,” Gilliam explains. “If you use super soft sticks, you’ll be warm, but you won’t have any clarity. So being able to do both simultaneously is where I try to find the balance all the time. Every single note that I play, I want to be clean and warm. That’s different for Mozart than it is for Mahler, but Mahler still deserves the same clarity that Mozart does.”

A Father and Other Teachers

Growing up in Gary, Indiana, in the 1980s, there was plenty of opportunity for a kid to get into trouble. While some of his peers were hanging out on the street, Gilliam was busy with sports or music. His mom was the breadwinner and his dad was “Mr. Mom.” “My dad used music to keep me away from the drugs and guns,” he says. “I was always busy playing basketball or swimming or playing piano.”

Gilliam won his first national piano competition at 11 years old and earned a scholarship in piano performance to Butler University. In his sophomore year, he met timpanist Jon Crabiel of Local 3 (Indianapolis, IN). Gilliam was immediately enthralled with the timpani and switched to percussion full time.

Crabiel had inroads to a world of virtuoso players, like former Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra principal timpanist Tim Adams and the Cleveland Orchestra’s principal timpanist Paul Yancich, both of Local 4 (Cleveland, OH). Crabiel became a mentor and a friend to Gilliam. “I’m the human being that I am because of him. I’m the musician I am because he put me on this path.” As the director of percussion studies at the University of Maryland and a coach for the National Youth Orchestra, Gilliam says he tries to “pay it forward” with his students. “I try to give them as much information, as much help as I can because if you have a kid who’s willing to put the work in, the sky’s the limit,” he says. “I see that because it’s what Jon did for me.”

Gilliam has been a union member since his days in Canada. “Without [our] union, the National Symphony Orchestra isn’t the NSO. You must have people who are likeminded across the country who can join forces to collaborate, to hold everybody together, from the bottom up,” he says. “It’s unique, like a team. Being a part of a strong union is vital to my career. It’s vital to making sure that the collective stays whole.”

On the NSO’s role in the union, Gilliam says, “When there are rough times, we can all help each other out. We are always able and willing to pitch in both as an organization within the musicians’ union and individually. … We have brought people in to supplement the core group to perform with us when we go on tours or when we make recordings. And when other orchestras around the country fall on hard times, we will also invite them to perform with us. We’ll also make financial contributions to their local union. So, if it’s a family, you’ve got to have that in order to stay strong. There is strength in numbers.”

Building on Inspiration

Among the most impressive parts of Gilliam’s job is its physical location. The National Symphony Orchestra is housed in The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. As its artistic affiliate, the NSO plays in the Concert Hall which, with a capacity of more than 2,400 seats, is the largest performance space in the cultural complex. “It’s a fantastic place to work,” says Gilliam. “The fact that it is the nation’s living memorial to the arts—and I’m there a lot—I’m still humbled. I don’t take for granted that I get to drive up to that massive place. There are about 17 performing spaces under one roof and they just opened up the Reach, which is the brand new wing of the building, which, I think, has another 11 spaces.”

Gilliam says it was President John F. Kennedy’s vision that the arts would be a vital part of the nation’s fabric. To  that end, as a flagship institution, the NSO participates in a robust community engagement initiative. For an entire week, the orchestra is embedded in a different DC neighborhood, momentarily taking the music out of its grander concert hall and making it available to everyone across the city. Whether it’s a presentation in a public school, a master class, or a night club, musicians aim to build deeper connections with audiences in their own local venues.

In DC’s diverse city schools, where Gilliam teaches percussion clinics, he reflects on what it means to be that one person who could influence students striving to fulfill their own potential. “I think what was important to me was seeing people who looked like me, who do what I do,” Gilliam says. “When I met Jon’s teacher, [percussionist and professor] Tim Adams—when I talked to Tim—he looked just like me. He was a skinny black man, glasses and a short cropped haircut, wearing a suit—the perfect ideal of what I wanted to be, what I thought I wanted to be. So seeing him, even though I didn’t know it at the time, allowed me to say, ‘Hey, this is something that I can do because I see that this guy is doing it here.’”

For his part, Gilliam says, he wants to encourage students to do what they love. “At the end of the day, if it ends up being classical music, great. If they want to be a doctor, great. I just want to instill in them the first thing is, in order to be happy in this life, you have to do what you love and then everything else will fall into place,” he says. “So, I think that for me it’s more of a philosophy of just paying it forward: Being a good human being and, you know, everything else is secondary.”

Arts and Entertainment

The Shifting Face of Arts and Entertainment Policy and Power in Washington, DC

As I noted in the May International Musician, federal arts and entertainment policy experienced a seismic shift in leadership in Washington, DC, when Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Democratic co-chair of the House Arts Caucus passed away unexpectedly in March. Over the years, Slaughter was a dynamo when it came to public arts policy on Capitol Hill. Time and time again, her leadership of the 161-member bipartisan Congressional Arts Caucus came up with new policy strategies that led, not only to the survival of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), but also National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and public arts education.

She was a friend to the entire arts community, but a very personal friend to us at the AFM. Aside from taking the leadership role in pressing arts and entertainment issues, she worked with the AFM as the sponsor of the 1998 Congressional Sing-Along for the Arts on the west steps of the US Capitol Building.  Sponsored by her office, the office of former Congressman Sidney Yates (D-IL), and the AFM, the event was heralded as one of the strongest shows of support for the NEA. Hosted by Slaughter, it included more than 60 members of the House and Senate. A Congressional band led by Peter Yarrow (a member of Locals 802 and 1000) of Peter Paul and Mary fame included Representatives Collin Peterson (D-MN) (a member of Local 30-73) on guitar and David Obey (D-WI) on harmonica, as well as yours truly on percussion.

In Memorial

Arts and Entertainment

The AFM sponsored the Eastman School Alumni String Quartet to perform at a memorial service for Representative Louise Slaughter. (L to R) are Marcio Botelho, Heidi Remick, Marta Bradley, Claudia Chudacoff, and Joanna Owen.

To express our heartfelt thanks to Slaughter and her family, the AFM sponsored a quartet of Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) members, organized by Local 161-710 Secretary Treasurer Marta Bradley to perform for family and friends in honor of Slaughter’s service. The group, the Eastman School Alumni String Quartet, comprised first-call players with professional roots in Washington, DC. The April 18 memorial event, organized by the office of House Speaker Paul Ryan, took place in Statuary Hall in the US Capitol Building. The memorial service was for members of Congress, guests, and friends who could not make the earlier funeral in New York. They commemorated one of the most beloved, capable, and respected bi-partisan legislators in the history of Congress. Stories of mentorship, friendship, and endearment filled the room along with tributes from Slaughter’s children, Speaker Ryan, and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. The quartet masterfully performed the prelude and postlude in a fitting tribute to their personal congressional hero and Eastman School of Music supporter. Afterwards, thanks poured in from those in attendance; members of the quartet were interviewed by a Rochester, New York, news affiliate.

Pelosi Names Pingree Co-Chair of Congressional Arts Caucus

On the following day, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi named Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) as Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus. Another fierce supporter of the arts, Pingree previously served alongside Slaughter on the House Congressional Arts Caucus in the fight to keep the arts alive in America. The AFM joined members from other arts and entertainment unions in a meeting with Pingree on May 18.

NEA Chair Jane Chu Steps Down

In May, arts and entertainment unions met with new Congressional Arts Caucus Co-Chair Chellie Pingree. (L to R) are Howard Sherman (SDC), Brandon Lorenz (AEA), Paul E. Almeida (DPE), Representative Pingree, Sarah Howes (SAG-AFTRA), Alfonso Pollard (AFM), and Michael Wasser (DPE).

After four intensely successful years as chair of the NEA, Dr. Jane Chu, the dynamic force behind recent NEA growth, served notice that she would be moving on. Chu was an active, hands-on chair who made it a point to visit growing arts organizations in all 50 states, from densely populated cities to remote rural communities. She sought to connect artists and communities to expand the arts and sew a more inclusive cultural fabric of this nation’s most prolific arts institutions. As a musician with advanced degrees in piano pedagogy, business administration, and a PhD in philanthropic studies, Chu envisioned an America where arts organizations and artists expand into more livable communities. She encouraged artists to collaborate with their communities to promote the business and economic value of the arts, which has helped make the industry one of the most financially progressive contributors to the US gross domestic product. Her even-handed relationship with members of Congress made it easy for the majority of legislators to see the value of the arts. This visionary approach, time and time again, led to full funding of the agency, despite attempts by many in government to end the agency.

Chu’s unpretentious style, grace, and artistic talent, underscore the true merit of her appointment. She was the right person to lead the agency at the right time. She leaves the NEA better off than when she inherited it. We are sure this is not the last we’ll see of her. We look forward to our continued work with NEA staff and all the national artists and arts groups committed to maintaining the power of federally supported arts. The AFM wishes Chu a future full of all the best that life and career have to offer.

Full House Passes Music Modernization Act

AFM President Ray Hair (right) with Representative Donald Norcross (D-NJ).

On April 25, shortly after Congress welcomed French President Emmanuel Marcron, following brief votes, the House took up, the Music Modernization Act (HR 5447) offered by Judiciary Committee Chair Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). 

The parties involved, along with committee leadership, successfully and unanimously dispatched the legislation during the legislative process under Suspension of the Rules. This coveted Congressional procedure signifies that there is no objection to the legislation by anyone in that Congressional chamber. Once passed, the bill moved to the Senate for final congressional consideration. The Senate was expected to take up the bill May 15. 

The AFM continues to work with other musicFIRST affiliated organizations and the offices of Goodlatte and Nadler to reach a negotiated settlement with broadcasters on a terrestrial performance right. During his opening comments at the April mark-up, Nadler clearly expressed his commitment to creating a performance right in terrestrial radio, even though it is not included in this bill. In his opening remarks Nadler states: 

Not included in this bill is the creation of a terrestrial performance right, but that is solely a result of timing. Under our direction, the National Association of Broadcasters and the musicFIRST Coalition are engaged in discussions on this issue. We do not want to wait and potentially lose the opportunity to resolve some other timely issues, but we are confident that the parties will continue to negotiate in good faith toward a solution that benefits both sides.

Those negotiations continue. The Music Modernization Act is the first major piece of copyright music licensing legislation moved in Congress in 30 years.

Pension Resolution Requires All Hands On Deck

AFM International President Ray Hair has enlisted the full range of legislative lobbying expertise from the AFM Office of Government Relations. Operating on several fronts, the office has, over the past year, participated in weekly calls by the National Coordinating Committee for the Solvency of Multiemployer Plans and worked with other labor affiliates to forge new ground in the battle to strengthen pending pension legislation.

Joint Select Committee on the Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans AFM
participation timeline:

November 2, 2017—AFM President Ray Hair and Legislative Director Pollard meet with Gideon Bragin, pension advisor to Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), to discuss components of the Butch Lewis Act

November 16, 2017—Bill read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance; AFM-EPF actuaries evaluate Butch Lewis Act (S. 2147) and find that it meets plan criteria

November 16, 2017—I attend Butch Lewis Act roll out

January 30, 2018—Hearings held by Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

March 14, 2018—I attend opening Joint Select Committee on Pensions Organizing Meeting 

April 11, 2018—Local 161-710 President Ed Malaga attends public hearing of the Joint Select Committee; pension fund and AFM lobbyists begin weekly conference calls

May 10, 2018—Hair and I attend six meetings with Joint Select Committee members and staff, and AFL-CIO Legislative Department Pension Staff Lauren Rothfarb to discuss the Butch Lewis and Grow acts and labor positions on each. These meetings outlined the official pension fund position on the progress of Congressional legislative process and updated members of Congress on the status of the AFM-EPF

As the multiemployer pension issue moves forward, Hair has committed to regular visits to Washington, DC, briefing members of Congress, while working with the AFL-CIO to investigate consensus positions on legislation. The committee is expected to complete its work and make a final recommendation/report to Congress by November 30. 

Members of the Joint Select Committee are:

Republican Senators Orrin Hatch (UT), Rob Portman, Lamar Alexander (TN), and Mike Crapo (ID); and Representatives Virginia Foxx (NC), Phil Roe (TN), Vern Buchanan (FL), and David Schweikert (AZ). Democratic Senators Co-Chair Sherrod Brown (OH), Joe Manchin (WV), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), and Tina Smith (MN); and Representatives Bobby Scott (VA), Richard Neal (MA), Debbie Dingell (MI), and Donald Norcross (NJ).


Nurit Bar-Josef: Behind the Scenes with the National Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster

Nurit-Bar-JosefWhen Nurit Bar-Josef of Local 161-710 (Washington, DC) was selected as concertmaster for National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) at age 26, she was the youngest concertmaster ever appointed to a major symphony orchestra. More than 16 years later, she recalls initial surprise on finding out she’d won the spot.

“I knew some of the others who had auditioned—it’s a small world—and I thought they might think I was too young or too inexperienced,” she says.

The young musician was aware of the huge responsibility she had accepted. “I knew what to expect from my previous experiences in St. Louis and Boston, where I saw just how much the concertmaster has to deal with on a daily basis,” she says. Bar-Josef was assistant concertmaster for Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops when she auditioned with NSO.

Leading from First Chair

“It’s constant pressure; when you are sitting in that chair, you are expected to always be on—it’s 120%, all the time. I feel like I represent the orchestra and there are times when the whole orchestra is looking to me for guidance,” she says. “That’s the biggest challenge; no matter what is going on at home, or what’s going on around you, or on the podium, you are out there for your colleagues.”

Meticulous preparation is key, she says. “Knowing the score well, in and out, and knowing everything that’s going on. You have to have that first violin part down like no one else,” she says. “And because you are number one, you have to always play the solos and play them well. I try to do my best every single time.”

“It’s a good lesson in time management because there is so much music coming out, week after week,” says Bar-Josef. “It forces me to prioritize and manage my practice, even when I have limited time. I have to figure out what I need to do now and what can wait.”

Above all, she has a passion and dedication to the current repertoire, whatever it may be. “Every week, whatever we are playing, I throw myself into it. That’s what we live and breathe for that week. Oftentimes, I feel like we are actors given a role to play,” says Bar-Josef. “If we play a Shostakovich symphony, he becomes my favorite composer that week. If we are playing Brahms, I am all about Brahms, emotionally and physically.”

For pleasure, she says, “I always, always enjoy playing a Beethoven symphony or even a Beethoven violin sonata. I wouldn’t say that he’s my favorite composer, but I would say anytime I’m playing Beethoven I’m musically and technically fulfilled,” she says.

Like all principal string players, Bar-Josef spends time marking bowings. “The other principals are waiting to get my part in order to mark their bowings to match mine, and I’ve got the library waiting for all of that to happen. That’s added pressure,” she says. “Part of the process is making sure my colleagues have the music well enough in advance to feel comfortable.”

A Conductor’s Liaison

Nurit Bar-JosefBar-Josef has the honor of meeting guest conductors and acts as a liaison to the rest of the players. She ensures a smooth working relationship between members of the orchestra and the conductor. This, she says, “is an incredibly rewarding responsibility.”

“I learn a lot from working with conductors,” she says, explaining that many of them request a one-on-one meeting before the concert, especially if she will perform a solo. “Every musician who comes to visit is different. It’s really important to me that I represent the orchestra well. No matter what is going on, I try to connect with the person on the podium.”

“Conductors travel the world and they conduct all different orchestras, from the top notch to smaller groups in smaller towns,” she continues. “I want them to feel like the NSO is an all-around good experience. As concertmaster, I am part of that—making that connection with the person. It’s a short period of time and it can be really intense for those few days.”

Though Bar-Josef relishes the challenge of these responsibilities, she admits her role can be isolating, sometimes setting her apart from her colleagues. The time requirements mean she has less time for socializing, particularly when they are out on tour. “When we go on tour, I’m constantly thinking about what we are playing tomorrow, what we are playing tonight, and how much time I have to prepare. I don’t have a whole lot of time to hang out and have fun in some new city.”

Though she is passionate about playing solos, Bar-Josef admits, “It’s one of the hardest things I do. It’s very rewarding that I get to play amazing solos like Scheherazade, though it’s stressful. There’s a lot of pressure playing solos with some of the greatest conductors standing one foot away from me.”

Bar-Josef is currently one of an estimated 25 women concertmasters in the US and Canada. While there have been some remarkable women in this leadership role over the years—for example, Cecylia Arzewski (Atlanta Symphony Orchestra 1990-2008) and Emmanuelle Boisvert (Detroit Symphony Orchestra for 23 years)—their numbers are still far below the current ratio of women to men in orchestras. Bar-Josef feels like more women will likely take the leadership role in the future.

Of course, blind auditions help to ensure the best candidates, male or female are selected fairly. And fortunately today, unlike just a couple decades ago, female orchestra musicians enjoy equal treatment. “I have never felt that anyone looked at me as a female or thought they’d rather have a man in my position; I never once felt that a guest conductor was disappointed by having a female concertmaster,” says Bar-Josef. “Today, I feel it’s all about the music and what type of musician you are—gender doesn’t matter.”

The Joy of Chamber Music

nurit-bar When Bar-Josef has a chance, she looks forward to performing in smaller chamber groups. “I always love playing chamber music,” she says. “I enjoy the camaraderie and the intimacy of it—sitting in a group close together, having my sound blend with theirs and not having to worry about leading a section. I can be much more free in a chamber group.”

A founding member of Kennedy Center Chamber Players, she performed with them for nine years. “It’s basically a core group that started out as the principals of the National Symphony—Principal Viola Daniel Foster, Principal Cello David Hardy, and Principal Keyboard Lambert Orkis. We would ask other people from the orchestra, both titled and nontitled players, to join us for four chamber music concerts a year at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.”

The other group she’s been involved with for a long time, the Dryden String Quartet, came together less formally about 16 years ago. “When I first moved to DC, I didn’t have any family here. I had to play over Thanksgiving so I was stuck in town,” she recalls. “Daniel Foster asked me if I wanted to go to his family’s house for Thanksgiving and he said, ‘Bring your violin, we might do some sight reading.’ He’s cousins with [Time for Three] violinist Nicholas Kendall and [Philadelphia Orchestra Assistant Principal Cello] Yumi Kendall. It ended up being a pretty good group.”

The group named itself after John Dryden Kendall, grandfather to Foster and the Kendalls,  who brought the Suzuki method to the US. “The first concert we played was at an embassy event in honor of their grandfather,” says Bar-Josef. “Unfortunately, everybody is just so busy in their own lives it’s difficult to find time. We try to get together at least once a year, sometimes twice if we are lucky.”

Every now and then Bar-Josef finds time to perform in other chamber groups. “I like to do outreach with different NSO players and Millennium Stage performances at the Kennedy Center, house concerts, or whatever pops up,” she says.

She has performed at the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, Bay Chamber Festival, Aspen Music Festival, and festivals in Tanglewood, Portland (Maine), Kingston (Rhode Island), Steamboat Springs, Garth Newel, and Caramoor, where she performed piano quartets with André Previn at his Rising Stars Festival.

This season Bar-Josef looks forward to working with incoming NSO Music Director Gianandrea Noseda. “I am excited that we have so many great programs coming up with him,” she says. In particular, she looks forward to playing Chausson’s Poème in November. “It’s just such an honor and a privilege. I’ve always wanted to perform that piece and what better opportunity than with the NSO and Noseda conducting.”

Nurit Bar-Josef currently performs on the G.B. Guadagnini, 1773, the “ex-Grumiaux, ex-Silverstein” violin.

Washington, DC, Arts Advocacy Season

Late winter and early spring is the time for organized arts advocacy in Washington, DC. AFM President Ray Hair makes an annual trip to Washington, DC, to lend his leadership to our legislative-political mission. The results are always highly successful, not just for AFM musicians, but for musicians across the country. Hair’s presence raises the status of all artists, as well as all other workers in arts and entertainment disciplines, who are affected in some way by the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government.

In February and March, our advocacy work extended across a range of government platforms. This is a brief round-up of our activities.

AFM President Hair’s
Policy Visit to Washington, DC

OC Alfonso Pollard pic 1 State Department Meeting Principles2

(L to R) National Symphony Orchestra Violist and International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM) Governing Board Member Jennifer Mondie; State Department Program Officer Julia Gomez-Nelson; Chief Cultural Programs Division for the State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Amy Bliss-Iacoella; AFM President Ray Hair; and AFM Legislative-Political and Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard.

On March 14 and 15, Hair, National Symphony Orchestra Violist Jennifer Mondie, who is also on the governing board of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM); AFM Director of Touring, Theatre, and Immigration Michael Manley; and AFM Canada Executive Director Liana White joined me in Washington, DC, to lobby on a broad range of issues.

Hair’s first stop was at the US Department of State where he was hosted by the Cultural Diplomacy Division, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Chief Amy Bliss-Iacoella. The purpose of the meeting was to open doors with the State Department relating to cultural exchange for professional musicians interested in travel abroad as representatives of the US Government. A more in-depth report will follow in the May 2016 International Musician.

The day concluded with a reception for Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY 10) to discuss HR 1733, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, as well as the progress of his congressional race. Nadler is the original sponsor of the Fair Play Fair Pay bill along with Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN 7).

On March 15, Hair and his staff participated in an hour-long visit with Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS 2) who serves as the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss possible solutions to delays in P-2 and O-1 visa processing by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) service centers in Vermont and California.

During the meeting, we also raised our objections about visa approvals by USCIS that were counter to the AFM negative opinion letters for groups with flawed applications that the AFM does not believe meet federal immigration guidelines. Work on resolutions to these issues is moving forward; we are confident that solutions will be forthcoming.

That afternoon, Hair and I attended a meeting of the US Trade Representative Labor Advisory Council (LAC) at the office of the US Trade Representative. The LAC is responsible for providing reports on trade agreements to the President, Congress, and the Office of the US Trade Representative at the conclusion of trade agreement negotiations. The meeting agenda and council deliberations are confidential. During the meeting, Hair brought up important issues related to trade.

At the end of the day, we joined labor affiliates at a reception for Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-LA 2) at the United Union’s building. Richmond graciously gave Hair and me a 15-minute audience to discuss the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, as well as immigration. He is a member of both the House Homeland Security and Judiciary committees.

On March 16, I attended a reception for
a great friend of the AFM, Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY 25). In addition  to being the ranking member of the powerful House Rules Committee, Slaughter is a founding member and co-chair of the House Arts Caucus that helps deliver member support for federal arts programs, in particular the National Endowment for the Arts. Her decades-long support for the arts in America, as well as her ability to organize members of Congress around our issues, is priceless. The AFM is committed to helping her remain in the US Congress.

Arts Advocacy Day

(L to R) AFM Director of Touring, Theater, and Immigration Michael Manley, AFM Canada Executive Director Liana White, AFM President Ray Hair; and AFM Legislative-Political and Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard.

(L to R) AFM Director of Touring, Theater, and Immigration Michael Manley, AFM Canada Executive Director Liana White, AFM President Ray Hair; and AFM Legislative-Political and Diversity Director Alfonso Pollard.

Each year, the AFM serves as a national cosponsor for Arts Advocacy Day. This event brings more than 500 arts advocates to Washington, DC, to make the case about the economic and cultural value that the arts bring to communities across the country. In addition to the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy at the Kennedy Center and a White House briefing on administration-supported federal arts programs and policy, a broad range of arts-related issues are lobbied with House and Senate members, and their staff. These meetings leave an indelible impression about the power of the arts to make positive change in our communities.

Arts Advocacy Day, hosted by Americans for the Arts, is recognized on the Hill as one of a few important Washington, DC, arts-related conferences trusted by federal leaders. A few of this year’s issues were: arts education funding and policy, support for the National Endowment for the Arts and other federal arts agencies, charitable giving and tax policy, visa processing and cultural exchange, and support for public broadcasting.

Recently Introduced
Arts Legislation

On February 8, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), along with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), introduced S 2510, the Arts Require Timely Service Act of 2016 (ARTS Act), which codifies O and P visa processing times. The bill, as outlined on the Library of Congress website: “… amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to adjudicate O and P visa petitions (nonimmigrant visas for aliens with extraordinary ability or achievement, and athletes, artists, and entertainers) within 14 days after receiving such petitions and related documents. The bill grants premium visa processing without charge to a petitioner that is a nonprofit arts organization, if DHS does not meet the deadline for adjudicating a visa petition.”

The ARTS Act was introduced in the 113th Congress and passed out of the Senate. However, it failed for the lack of House action on immigration reform.

On March 8 (Arts Advocacy Day), Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) Introduced S 2648, the Comprehensive Resources for Entrepreneurs in the Arts to Transform the Economy Act of 2016 (the CREATE Act). It provides for a host of new arts-related tax proposals in addition to arts-related proposal expansions into such federal programs as the Small Business Administration; Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, and Homeland Security; the Internal Revenue Service; and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to name a few. The objective is to create arts-specific programs that help entrepreneurs in the arts to take advantage of federal program business guidance and funding.