Now is the right time to become an American Federation of Musicians member. From ragtime to rap, from the early phonograph to today's digital recordings, the AFM has been there for its members. And now there are more benefits available to AFM members than ever before, including a multi-million dollar pension fund, excellent contract protection, instrument and travelers insurance, work referral programs and access to licensed booking agents to keep you working.

As an AFM member, you are part of a membership of more than 80,000 musicians. Experience has proven that collective activity on behalf of individuals with similar interests is the most effective way to achieve a goal. The AFM can negotiate agreements and administer contracts, procure valuable benefits and achieve legislative goals. A single musician has no such power.

The AFM has a proud history of managing change rather than being victimized by it. We find strength in adversity, and when the going gets tough, we get creative - all on your behalf.

Like the industry, the AFM is also changing and evolving, and its policies and programs will move in new directions dictated by its members. As a member, you will determine these directions through your interest and involvement. Your membership card will be your key to participation in governing your union, keeping it responsive to your needs and enabling it to serve you better. To become a member now, visit


Home » Officer Columns » The Art of Giving Back

The Art of Giving Back


Music is a gift. Those of us who can express ourselves through music are fortunate to have that creative outlet, yet sometimes we take that simple fact for granted as we wrestle with the realities of making a living in the music business. In a media-driven, short attention span world, it is easy to forget that music truly is the universal language. Music has been breaking down barriers and bringing people together for hundreds of years, long before TV, movies, cell phones, and other entertainment options invaded our personal space.

Media outlets pay lip service to the importance of arts and culture to our society, while promoting superficial and trendy “artists” whose music is far from uplifting. The recent barrage of inaccurate and sensationalistic coverage of the challenges many of our symphony musicians are facing only serves to heighten the irony of the culture wars we are experiencing. Positive messages are not seen as cool and don’t sell as many ads as whatever flavor of the month is featured on the magazine racks and on TV. Sadly, conflict—real or staged—is more popular than stories about peace and progress. 

What can we do as musicians to reverse this trend? Making a difference in your local community is a great place to start. For the past 20 years, with the invaluable help of a long list of generous artists and support crew, I have produced an annual holiday concert to benefit Room In the Inn, an amazing homeless organization that helps countless families and individuals get through difficult times. I get a lot of satisfaction for doing that once a year, but the real credit goes to those who work every day to make the world a better place. The holiday season is a great time to give back, but the social and community issues that need to be addressed don’t take the rest of the year off, and neither should we.

The power of music is bigger than any one person, yet its impact is very personal. It has been proven time and time again that music education has enormous positive impact on kids, especially those who face a variety of challenges in their life outside of school. Budget crunching often starts with arts education, so it is all the more important that we, as professional musicians, contribute to filling the void created by shortsighted funding decisions. It doesn’t cost anything but your time, and can really make an impact on a young person’s life. There a few things more rewarding than seeing a smile on a child’s face as they begin to understand and appreciate the joy that music can bring. Any of these kids could become musicians, and sometimes all they need is a little encouragement in order to find their own voice. 

Music has value, and we owe it to ourselves to educate and inform the general public of that simple fact, so the musicians of the future will be able to make a living. Those of us who are in a position to give back should do so, or risk being the last generation of professional musicians. The world needs the power of music now more than ever. You can a make a difference, one person at a time. I believe that we have a responsibility as musicians to spread the love and joy that making music gives both its creators and consumers. To do so with a positive attitude ensures that whatever you give will come back to you many times over and will make the world a better place.