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Home » Officer Columns » Executive Board Members » Theaters Must Keep Live Musical Performances Live

Theaters Must Keep Live Musical Performances Live

  -  AFM International Executive Board Member and President of Local 161-710 (Washington, DC)

I was attending my first International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians
(ICSOM) Conference in 2011 when I learned about the Theatre Musicians Association (TMA). Tom Mendel, who was TMA president, gave a report on TMA at the conference.

Afterwards, I took the opportunity to introduce myself and ask his advice about starting a chapter in Washington, DC. Mendel was gracious and helpful in this effort. I’ll never forget all his support. Eleven years later, our chapter continues to grow, expanding several years ago to include Baltimore.

The primary reason for wanting to start a chapter at our local was that Washington has quite a vibrant musical theater scene. I felt it would be extremely beneficial for our members to have access to information from other chapters around the country in order to stay current on the various issues affecting their work and compare notes. I am grateful to Mendel, his successor Tony D’Amico, and current TMA President Heather Boehm, for all of their work on behalf of theater musicians over the years.

Today the musicians working on musical theater productions are faced with increasing challenges—the lingering COVID pandemic, smaller scale orchestrations, an increase in the number of non-union tours, and a new technology called KeyComp, which could have serious repercussions for future musician livelihoods. TMA President Boehm has worked tirelessly to communicate the concern over this technology with locals and TMA chapters over the course of the last year and deserves our appreciation for her efforts.

These issues will also play a role in negotiations for a successor Pamphlet B agreement next year. Pamphlet B covers terms and conditions of employment of touring musicians. The solidarity and support of all theater musicians, locals, and travelers alike, will be invaluable to achieving the best outcome in those negotiations.

To address the KeyComp issue specifically, our local, Local 161-710 (Washington, DC), has included virtual orchestra ban language in most of our local theater agreements. When bargaining successor agreements with these venues, we have updated that language to include KeyComp in the definition of virtual orchestra. Let’s work together to keep live musical performances live!