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Home » Music Business » Welcome to the Electronic Media Services Focus Issue

Welcome to the Electronic Media Services Focus Issue

  -  AFM Electronic Media Services Division Assistant Director

by John K. Painting, AFM Electronic Media Services Division Director and Assistant to the President

As the calendar slowly turns to fall, it is my honor to welcome you to this year’s issue of the International Musician focused on electronic media and the Electronic Media Services Division (EMSD). This division is charged with serving and protecting the interests of nonsymphonic recording musicians. (The AFM Symphonic Services Division represents symphony, opera, ballet, and chamber orchestra electronic media projects.)

This is my first focus issue as director of EMSD, following the tragic death of Patrick Varriale in May. While there will never be another Pat, we continue to fight every day for the union principles that guided his illustrious 48-year career at the AFM.

I like to think of those principles as “the 3 E’s”:

•Enforcement of the collective bargaining agreements we have achieved.
•Education of our members and employers about the inner workings of those contracts.
•Expansion to new members, new projects, and new forms of electronic media exploitation.

This EMSD focus issue takes education to heart, providing us with the platform to announce updates to agreements and teach intricacies of contracts that might otherwise not be well-known by officers, members, or the public.

To that end, I am pleased to announce the initial release of our series of EMSD Contract Toolkits, available now on the AFM website. Over time, we will be releasing and updating these toolkits, creating versions intended for employers, local officers, and administrators, as well as rank-and-file musicians. For now, a handful of signatory packets designed for prospective employers are available for some contracts, including the Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA), Commercial Announcements Agreement (CAA), Public Television Agreement, and Independent/Festival Film Agreement. It is our hope that the simplified, step-by-step procedures and information found in these packets will increase work filed under contract.

Speaking of contract information, there have been updates to both the National Public Television Agreement and the Industrial Films Agreement since the last EMSD focus issue.

As you might expect, the world of internet streaming continues to evolve. The handling of contractual coverage of internet streams for different types of engagements has been the most requested information from EMSD since the start of the pandemic. A rundown and chart of current streaming agreements and how to select the right one.

You can find a guide to the correct sound recording agreement for your album project on the facing page, along with some information about the AFM Joint Venture Agreement. Included every year are updated versions of our agreement “cheat sheet” and “EMSD 101” questionnaire.

I would like to thank Recording Musicians Association (RMA) Los Angeles President Christopher Anderson-Bazzoli for contributing an article to this issue. I also want to thank the hardworking staff of EMSD on both coasts for their tireless efforts in enforcing our agreements, whether in getting work properly under contract or billing and collecting wages and benefits for new uses of recorded product. There is an updated list of the current EMSD staff and their functions. I am proud every day to call them my colleagues.

I want to acknowledge the hardworking electronic media staff in our Canadian Office as well, under the direction of Vice President from Canada Alan Willaert and Executive Director Liana White. This year, they present an article on “The Prezi,” toolkits for local officers and members.

Finally, I would like to thank our in-house counsels Jennifer Garner and Russell Naymark for their tireless work in assisting negotiations and Joint Cooperative Committee meetings, pursuing claims, and providing guidance on a daily basis.

I am confident that all our readers will find something valuable to take away from this year’s issue. Please let us know if you have any questions about the material.

New Agreements for Public Television, Industrial Films

In March, the AFM concluded negotiations with the public television producers on a successor National Public Television Agreement. The agreement was subsequently ratified by the bargaining unit on May 26.

The three-year deal sees a 4% increase in wages in the first year, with 3% increases in the next two years. We were able to achieve a restructuring of the agreement’s “made for new media” provisions, in line with gains made by other unions. Formerly, the employer had the “sole and exclusive option” to choose whether to cover a production that was made for new media. This language change guarantees that projects made by signatory public television producers for internet distribution will require AFM contracts, wages, and benefits.

The AFM also gained a bump in health and welfare and electronic sell-through, as well as language for licensing to secondary digital channels, in line with what was gained in the Television Videotape Agreement.

As part of the bargaining, the producers were able to gain some discounts in residual cycle payments, as well as the introduction of a wider array of options for foreign use, with language borrowed from the Television Videotape Agreement. In addition, both sides made several adjustments and clarifications to the clip use provisions.

The updated scale summary sheet is available on the AFM’s website. For employers working on their first public television project, our new signatory packet for this agreement is also available online and should answer most questions.

In August, the AFM introduced an update to the promulgated Industrial Films Agreement. This agreement, which covers underscoring as well as sidelining work for nonbroadcast films, had not seen an update in wages or conditions since 2005 and had previously been under an indefinite extension.

In addition to updated wages, the new agreement cleans up some outdated language and includes a side letter provision to allow for the posting of the film online in a free-to-the-consumer format, in exchange for an annual cycle-based payment to the musicians. This may prove useful for the underscoring of in-house videos that might also see some form of public distribution, such as for instructional videos.

More information on both agreements can be found on the AFM’s website at

In Search of Original Musicians on Recording

On June 24, 2022, Verve Label Group released a never-before-heard live recording of Ella Fitzgerald at the Hollywood Bowl. Originally recorded on August 18, 1958, Ella at the Hollywood Bowl: The Irving Berlin Songbook was recorded just months after the similarly titled classic album and contains 15 songs. It marks the only concert in which these arrangements were performed with a full orchestra.

The AFM has secured payment from Verve to cover the release of the location recording pursuant to terms in the Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA); however, we have been unable to accurately identify the musicians on the recording.

If you have any information or documentation indicating musicians who performed on this engagement, please contact AFM EMSD at 917-229-0213 or

A Guide to Sound Recording Agreements

Looking to record an album under a union agreement, but don’t know where to start—start here!

AFM member recordings are covered under a variety of sound recording agreements. This chart identifies some of the more common agreements that can be used to protect your work and the work of the musicians you hire. This chart is for individually produced album recording projects only, not for symphonic or theatrical products. It is not meant for audiovisual projects, such as films or concerts.
Recordings covered by these agreements are eligible for announcement in the International Musician. See page 14 for details. If you have any questions about where your project fits, contact your local or the EMSD department.

Joint Venture Agreement

The pandemic saw more musicians offer their performances online in response to the physical venue closures of 2020. This avenue of distribution has continued even as venues have reopened, but self-produced online content must be protected. The AFM has developed the Joint Venture Agreement specifically for that purpose.

The Joint Venture Agreement evolved from AFM’s “Bandstand Records” guidelines, which allow independent bands to self-produce their recordings with key union protections, when no wages are paid and in the absence of an employer. Originally developed for audio recordings, the Joint Venture Agreement now has a video component. This makes protecting self-produced online media a breeze for musicians.

Since Joint Venture Agreements are filed locally, it is important that local officers get the word out to their members. To ensure the agreement is used properly, the AFM Electronic Media Services Division (EMSD) has established the following guidelines:

•Recordings may be solicited for exhibition over the internet, as long as all musicians on the recording consent to that exhibition.

•The member(s) involved in the recording(s) must maintain control and ownership of the product.
The Joint Venture Agreement is the simplest of all AFM agreements, yet it offers vital protections to musicians who create their own media, when that media is monetized later. You can find the Joint Venture Agreement in the Document Library on the website.

Local Limited Pressing

Album projects that do not reach the 10,000-unit sale threshold may be filed under the Local Limited Pressing Agreement. The scale wages under this agreement are established by the AFM local in whose jurisdiction the recording takes place. Benefits, such as pension and for health and welfare, are established at the same rates as the main Sound Recording Labor Agreement. Digital streaming is permitted, though a small back-end percentage (0.55%) of digital receipts are owed twice annually to the Pension Fund, unallocated.

Single Song Overdub Scale

If you are not calling sessions in person, but are contracting individual musicians to record parts from their home studios, you and the musician can utilize the AFM Single Song Overdub Scale Agreement to establish a rate and pay the musician by the song, rather than by the hour. A copy of this agreement can be found in the Document Library on the website.

Local Audio Demo Recording

Some audio sessions are called for projects not intended for release. These products may be created for use in seeking funding for other projects or works, such as live engagements. These demonstration recordings are filed on separate local agreements. Contact your AFM local for more information.

Internet Streaming Agreements

It’s no secret that the agreements that govern internet streaming have always caused some level of confusion. The confusion grew as the COVID-19 pandemic shifted some engagements that would previously not have been captured at all to the internet. The following is a guide to AFM EMSD contracts related to the evolving internet streaming sector of the industry.

This chart is meant for productions in which the audio is captured simultaneous to the visual component of a production, which is to say, they are performance-based. It does not apply to “film” projects where the audio is underscored after photography is completed. The AFM’s agreements with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) have contained new media side letters since 2010 and those terms must apply to film projects.

The AFM makes a contractual distinction between long-form performance videos (usually of full concerts) and short-form videos of individual songs. This is designed to prevent the terms from circumventing either the television agreements or the Sound Recording Labor Agreement’s language on music videos. Remember, these promulgated internet agreements need to fit into the puzzle alongside new media terms that are bargained with the industry elsewhere.

A more detailed account of the nuances between these agreements for local officers can be found in the document titled “Local Administration Packet for Internet Streaming” in the EMSD folder of the “For Members” section of the AFM website.

  • This chart is meant to provide a simple overview of the numerous options available to potential internet streamers.
  • These guidelines could, but may not necessarily, apply to symphonic orchestras. You should check with the AFM Symphonic Services Division, and they may direct you back to these EMSD parameters.
  • For theatrical producers, there is a pandemic-specific side letter that permits the capture and streaming of a currently running production for an additional 25% of the weekly performance wages, plus 10% pension. This side letter currently runs until the end of 2022. For full show captures intended for long-term internet exploitation, a special letter of agreement with the Federation would be required.

Canadian Electronic Media Tool Kit for Locals and Members

by Liana White, Executive Director, AFM Canadian Office

The Electronic Media Tool Kit presentation, “The Prezi,” first introduced to Canadian locals at the 2018 Canadian Conference, provides a one-stop-shop to locals and members for electronic media information. This concept was developed by Rosalyn Dennett, member of Local 1000 (nongeographic), who was working for the Canadian Office in the Electronic Media Department at the time.

Since its inception, agreements have been renegotiated and there was also a need to update the various B forms used in Canada. For example, the Canadian Pension Fund address needed to be updated. In recent years, we have made efforts to ensure these B forms are available in a fillable PDF format.

Over the last year and a half, we have worked on updating the Prezi and have added even more content. While it is dense with information, we have formatted it so that you may focus on only one area or as many areas as needed. You may view the Prezi at: or through the QR code here. As content in the Prezi is changed or updated, this QR code/weblink will always be updated to the most recent version.

The Prezi is intended as both an internal reference for local officers and a tool that can be presented at general membership meetings, new member orientations, board meetings, and even for industry conferences and student music programs. We can also provide condensed versions of the Prezi with a focus on recording, visas, or general membership benefits. These versions have more eye-catching graphics, ideal for presentations.

I will be giving a brief overview of the revised Prezi to the delegates of the upcoming Canadian Conference in September. Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in the AFM Canadian Office staff presenting it to your respective audiences, or if you have any questions on the content of the Prezi.

Trousse des médias électroniques canadiens à l’intention des sections locales et des membres

par Liana White, directrice générale, Bureau canadien de la FAM

Le « Prezi », une trousse d’outils pour les médias électroniques d’abord présenté aux sections locales canadiennes au moment de la Conférence canadienne de 2018, est un guichet d’accès unique à l’information relative aux médias électroniques qui est destiné aux sections locales canadiennes et aux membres. Il a été élaboré par Rosalyn Dennett, membre de la section 1000 (non géographique), qui travaillait au Service des médias électroniques du Bureau canadien à l’époque.

Depuis le lancement du Prezi, des ententes ont été renégociées, et il y avait également lieu de mettre à jour les divers formulaires B qui sont utilisés au Canada. Par exemple, l’adresse de la Caisse de retraite des musiciens du Canada devait être actualisée. Au cours des dernières années, nous nous sommes efforcés d’offrir ces formulaires dans un format PDF remplissable.

Pendant la dernière année et demie, nous avons travaillé à la mise à jour du Prezi et y avons même ajouté du contenu. L’information qu’il contient est donc dense, mais nous l’avons formatée de telle sorte que vous pouvez focaliser sur une seule section ou sur plusieurs, selon vos besoins. Vous pouvez voir le Prezi ici : ou par l’entremise du code QR ci-haut. Au fur et à mesure que nous effectuerons des modifications ou des mises à jour du Prezi, ces deux moyens d’accès seront mis à niveau afin de toujours vous en offrir la version la plus récente.

Le Prezi se veut une référence interne pour les dirigeants des sections et un outil qu’on peut présenter lors d’assemblées générales des membres, de séances d’orientation de nouveaux membres, de réunions des conseils d’administration et même dans le cadre de conférences de l’industrie ou de programmes pour les étudiants en musique. Nous pouvons également offrir des versions condensées du Prezi qui mettent l’accent sur les enregistrements, les permis ou les avantages offerts aux membres. Ces versions profitent d’une réalisation graphique plus accrocheuse, idéale pour les présentations.

Je donnerai un bref aperçu du Prezi révisé aux délégués à la prochaine Conférence canadienne, en septembre. N’hésitez pas à me contacter si vous souhaitez qu’un membre du personnel du Bureau canadien de la FAM en fasse une présentation à votre propre auditoire ou si vous avez des questions au sujet du contenu du Prezi.

Los Angeles musician and consultant Stephanie Matthews of Local 47 (Los Angeles, CA) has a message: “We are here.” That message is directed at anyone doubting the level of Black string talent in today’s music industry.

And she should know. Matthews has put together string sections for some of the biggest stars. In 2020, she assembled an all-Black, all-female orchestra for Lizzo’s opening performance at the Grammy Awards. At the 2022 Academy Awards, she brought together the ensemble for Beyoncé’s opening performance of “Be Alive,” from King Richard, which she says was an incredible experience. Also this year, Matthews gathered orchestra musicians for composer and pianist Robert Glasper’s salute to Duke Ellington at Disney Hall.

Through her company StringCandy, she does every type of music consulting, from original arrangements and transcriptions to musician staffing and staging. When she started out as a young violinist, Matthews could never have conceived the winding career path that would lead her here. Back then, she had never seen violinists who looked like her.

Matthews began playing violin at age 4 after she was mesmerized by a Pinchas Zukerman performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto on PBS. Even though her teachers saw a lot of talent in her while attending the Levine School of Music, her focus was academics and violin remained an “extracurricular” activity.

After high school, she set her violin aside to begin intense studies in biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Maryland as a Meyerhoff Scholar. The prestigious program covers full tuition for students in science-related fields.

During her third semester of college, she was asked to play “Meditation from Thais” by Jules Massenet at a family friend’s wedding. Easy, she thought; she’d learned the piece back in middle school. To her surprise, it wasn’t.

“It wasn’t in my fingers and I had an emotional breakdown,” she says. “I remember calling my dad and telling him, ‘I don’t think I can do this; I don’t want to lose the ability to play violin.’”

Thankfully, she says, her parents were very supportive when she decided to pursue violin performance. “I begged my violin teacher to take me back to get ready for auditions. I shifted over and finished up my bachelor’s at Indiana University,” says Matthews.

Outside the Classical Space

Matthews’ mother insisted she go to grad school. That summer, before moving to New York to attend The Juilliard School, she had her first experience working outside the realm of classical music. Singer PJ Morton hired her to write strings for his debut album and flew her and two colleagues to Atlanta to record.

The experience was a prelude to life in New York City. “I was immersed in this scene where you have all of these incredibly talented jazz musicians, singer-songwriters, playwrights, emerging film directors, and choreographers. It was like this electric talent pool,” she says.

She often found herself collaborating outside of the traditional classical space. “It was like a breath of fresh air; I was listening differently,” she says. “I remember going to live shows and hearing the guys in the band completely killing it and they weren’t tied to the music in front of them.”

Following grad school, she formed The Ebony Strings Quartet with three other Black women and they performed throughout the city. Her big break came in 2007. Adam Blackstone of Local 802 (New York City) was looking for a violinist and string arranger for Kanye West’s Glow in the Dark tour. After hearing Morton’s Emotions album, Blackstone decided to enlist her help.

“That was my first time in Los Angeles and my first time to work with an artist at that level of production, and my first major tour—which was international,” she says. “I think that kind of redirected my career trajectory in the music industry.”

Back in New York, the members of her quartet went their separate ways. Matthews accepted a two-year artistic residency in Trinidad where she helped to build a pre-college program at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. However, she sorely missed performing and during breaks, she would fly back to the US for spot dates and shows.

At the end of the residency in spring 2012, she decided to try something different. On a bit of a whim, she went to LA and launched StringCandy. The idea first occurred to her when she started to get calls after working with Kanye. “I started the company just because I wanted to work more consistently,” she says.
She had some money saved up and gave herself one year to make things happen. “I wasn’t getting the caliber of work that I wanted, so I moved back to New York,” she says. She soon landed a few placements on Saturday Night Live and other visible shows like VH1 Storytellers.

It turns out, she just hadn’t given StringCandy enough time. “While I was living in New York, I was starting to get more calls in LA. After a while, it didn’t make sense for me to keep flying back and forth,” she says. “The company began to take on a life of its own. I had developed relationships with different music directors, singer-songwriters, artists, and they began to call.”

She took on every project that came her way. “It was a training ground. You get sharper and faster and learn what works well and what doesn’t,” she said. On-the-job training also included a one-year stint as director of artistic development for the Sphinx Organization, 2017-2018.

Earlier, she had been a member of Sphinx Virtuosi, as well as the group’s tour manager. “I love the mission of the Sphinx Organization,” says Matthews. “It has positively impacted my career and the careers of a lot of my close friends and colleagues, as well as raised awareness for diversity and equity.” It also provided Matthews with a network of talented musicians to call on.

We Are Here

Gathering musicians and creating awareness is something she does well. She and arranger/conductor Matt Jones grew tired of the seemingly endless panel discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). “I was talked out about DEI; I’d rather show and prove at this point,” she says. They were inspired to create a one-time “think piece” to say “we are here.”

They based their piece on the question: what would the orchestra of Wakanda look and sound like? She and Jones gathered 33 Black orchestral musicians in a New York studio for a video recording of the Black Panther title track “All the Stars.”

“I’m super thankful to the musicians who showed up; a lot of them came in between gigs and work engagements to make it happen,” Matthews says.

They posted the video and it went viral. “We got messages from people in their 70s and 80s saying they’d never seen anything like it. It was humbling,” she says. “There are so few times that Black musicians get to collaborate in one space.”

“We didn’t even have a name for the orchestra,” says Matthews. “One of the violists suggested Re-Collective Orchestra because it is a collective of Black musicians—like a co-op.

“We created something that we were not only proud of but that built a community to empower Black musicians,” says Matthews. “We wanted to provide a safe workspace based on our shared experiences where we could learn from each other, connect, and create from a space of belonging, encouragement, and support.”

The Re-Collective Orchestra—never with the same musicians and in various configurations—has come together several times since for concerts and studio projects. The musicians are from all around the country—some have tenure positions in orchestras; some are educators; others are freelance, touring, or recording musicians.

The largest configuration to date of the Re-Collective Orchestra—69 musicians—was for Juneteenth: A Global Celebration of Freedom. It was also the first time in the Hollywood Bowl’s 100 years that an all-Black orchestra played the venue.

“It’s humbling knowing that there are so many people that came before me who made it possible for me to be in this position,” says Matthews. “All the Sanford Allens, and all the people who have broken new ground—the unsung heroes in our field. They made it possible. We’re standing on their shoulders.”

Real Change

During COVID, Matthews worked with the Black Orchestral Network. “We brainstormed ways to affect change in a real and tangible way. I’m proud of what we were able to do and to have been a part of it in its seedling form. I’m grateful for the friendship and leadership,” she says. Many of those musicians took part in the Juneteenth concert.

Matthews says that looking out for the concerns of fellow musicians has long been important to her. That’s why, when then Recording Musicians Association President Marc Sazer asked if she had a moment to discuss the AFM’s Band Together campaign, back in 2019, she was totally invested.

Up to that point, she had not been aware of the contract negotiations aimed at gaining residuals from streaming platforms. The AFM member-driven Band Together campaign included action-oriented mobilizations designed to bring musicians’ issues to the public as well as to the studios and their executives.

“We immediately began to discuss strategies and outreach; I knew we needed to make sure we were talking to all of the professional musicians—as many as possible—and not just those who function in scoring,” Matthews says. “There are so many more people in LA who needed to be engaged and included in the conversations because it affects us all.”

Matthews says she continues to do her part to ensure young musicians are aware of their rights and the union. “There are a lot of young, capable musicians graduating from music schools every year. They are eager to enter the workspace and create in LA’s dynamic music community,” she says. “I’m not sure that they understand the role of the union and how to protect and inform themselves.”

“I think we need to have more engagement and conversations, as opposed to exacerbating some of the divides that exist within the LA music scene. Ultimately, we are going to be a lot stronger if we approach this together than if we are fragmented,” she says.

Matthews says she enjoys working with young musicians through outreach programs because, as a student, it had never occurred to her that the type of career she has today was even a possibility. She says, “We weren’t having those conversations in our classes, so it wasn’t on my radar. I love being able to let them know the possibilities.”

“There are so many opportunities in the music industry to find your place. Everyone has their strengths—some are brilliant soloists, some do well as orchestral musicians or may function better in smaller chamber ensembles; some people thrive in more mainstream art forms, and others end up going into film scoring, arranging, or contracting,” she says.

Matthews says she admires the upcoming generation of musicians and has strong hopes for the future. “This younger generation has a lot of fire and energy, and they don’t have patience for foolishness. I think people have been too fearful of ruffling feathers, but the younger generation is not going to stand for it; they have a certain boldness and a need for real change to happen.”

Local Happenings

Violist Launches Relief Fund for Ukraine’s Musicians

Alexander Vavilov of Local 9-535 (Boston, MA) and co-founder of the Sheffield Chamber Players has spearheaded an effort to help Ukrainian musicians who lost instruments during the war. He is cofounder, with Boston-based opera singer Christina English, of the Relief Fund for Ukrainian Musicians (RFUM) in partnership with the King Baudouin Foundation US.

Since its inception in April, the RFUM has sent direct financial assistance to 140 Ukrainian musicians from cities and regions that have suffered the heaviest destruction, such as Kharkiv, Mariupol, and Sievierodonetsk. “Russia’s invasion forced many musicians to flee without their instruments,” says Vavilov, who grew up in Kiev and came to the US at 19. “We have covered all of the members of Mariupol Philharmonic who were able to escape with our grant program. Stories from our beneficiaries tell harrowing tales of perseverance and highlight the importance of the assistance we provide.”

With the help of many regional artists and musicians, including Sheffield Chamber Players musicians Sasha Callahan of Local 9-535 and Local 198-457 (Providence, RI), Leo Eguchi of Local 9-535 and Local 99 (Portland, OR), and Megumi Stohs, Vavilov has coordinated fundraising efforts in the US and distribution in Ukraine.

“Most Ukrainian musicians we are helping have lost their homes, many have lost their instruments, some have lost their loved ones, all have lost their livelihoods,” says Vavilov. “At this darkest hour of their lives, financial assistance from the relief fund gives them hope and means to sustain their families. I cannot think of anything more meaningful we can do as a musical community than supporting this mission!”

“For Those We Lost” Benefit Honors Late Nashville Musicians

On August 9, members of Local 257 (Nashville, TN) performed the benefit concert “For Those We Lost,” as part of the Nashville Musicians Association Beneficiary Fund. The fund paid out more than $130,000 in 2021 to beneficiaries of members who passed. All funds raised will go to help keep next year’s dues from going up.

Hosted by bassist and Local 257 President Dave Pomeroy, the concert featured a variety of performers, including Local 257 members Jeff Coffin, Larry Cordle, John Cowan, Don Schlitz, Guthrie Trapp Trio, Three Ring Circle, The SloBeats, and the McCrary Sisters.

The show honored many prominent Local 257 members who passed away during the pandemic, including John Prine, Joe Diffie, Bob Moore, JT Gray, Beegie Adair, Bill Pursell, Hargus “Pig” Robbins, Charlie Daniels, Jan Howard, Dallas Frazier, Tim Akers, Roland White, and Kenny Malone.

(L-R) Local 257 President Dave Pomeroy and Regina McCrary perform “World Peace” at the benefit, which raised upwards of $5,000. Photo: Mickey Dobo

Kingston Musicians Celebrate Legacy of Black Music

Beau Dixon of Local 149 (Toronto, ON) brought his critically acclaimed “Freedom Cabaret: The Spirit and Legacy of Black Music” to downtown Peterborough for a one-night performance in August. The performance was sponsored by Local 518 (Kingston, ON) and the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF), which had special funding this year for Juneteenth and Emancipation Day, which commemorates and recognizes the abolition of slavery.

Called a “stunning and poignant celebration of Black music,” when it premiered last year at the Stratford Festival, “Freedom Cabaret” is the emotional exploration of Black music from the moment Black people landed on North American soil to the present day. It celebrates Black culture through a musical journey, from church hymnals to blues, from jazz to rock ‘n’ roll, and from R&B to rap.

“We’re honored to help ensure Black performers are able to take advantage of the incredible MPTF funding,” says Sue Moore, secretary-treasurer of Local 518. “We had enormous support from the Peterborough community. They brought their chairs and the square was filled!”

“We owe much of our music genres to Black culture and were thrilled to have Peterborough participate in an event for Emancipation Day.” Moore adds, “[We hope] it draws attention to the contributions of Black musicians and the present-day struggle that racism presents to Black communities across North America.”

(L-R) Musicians from Local 518 (Kingston, ON) Joe Bowden, Roger Williams, and Rohan Staton perform during “The Spirit and Legacy of Black Music,” a Juneteenth celebration.

Honoring Decades of Devoted Service

In August, Local 78 (Syracuse, NY) honored Secretary Joseph Carfagno for his many years of federation membership and service to the local by officially passing a resolution to rename the Local 78 scholarship the Joseph Carfagno Scholarship. The resolution reads, in part: “Whereas, Joseph Carfagno has devoted himself to the service of music, professional musicians, and the labor movement in Central New York. He has been a member of Local 78 for more than 70 years and secretary for 40 years.”

(L-R) Local 78 Vice President Bill Harris, Treasurer Ed O’Rourke, Secretary Joe Carfagno, Board Member Sergeant-at-Arms Rich Schaffer, and Board Member Member-at-Large Carol Dumka, (not pictured Acting President Robert Bridge).


Canadian Accordionist Plays It Forward

Gary Kreller happened to see a Facebook post about a 10-year-old musician in need of an accordion. Kyrylo Kisten had to leave his accordion behind when he fled Ukraine with his mother in March. Kreller, of Local 226 (Kitchener, ON), didn’t hesitate to offer one of his, especially after he clicked on the YouTube link and heard the young musician play.

“He’s 10, and I was impressed,” says Kreller. Both Kreller and Kisten started playing at age 6. “I don’t think I was that advanced when I was 10. I think it would be a travesty to deprive a talented kid like that of an opportunity to develop his gift.”

When Kreller was 16 his accordion teacher introduced him to the leader of a local dance band, who invited him to play a gig. “I joined the union. I bought a Cordovox, and then the next thing I knew I was playing a nine-day Oktoberfest,” says Kreller.

A few bands later—including a stint with a Ukrainian group based in Hamilton, Ontario—he became a founding member of the Black Forest Band in 1981. Adding to his polka and multi-ethnic repertoire, Kreller plays Celtic music with The Gaes and classic rock, blues, and jazz with Winnipeg Wind.
He’s been a member of the AFM since 1972, and a member of the executive board of Local 226 since 2018. Kreller was not a music major in college. In fact, aside from his early entrée with accordion lessons, he has had no formal training.

“The result of my studies in political science was an abiding appreciation of the value and necessity of the labor union movement in our society.” He adds, “And of course, the union is yet another demonstration of interdependence. We all support one another.”

Born in Toronto, Kreller has lived most of his life in Kitchener, except for a brief period while attending York University in the early 1970s. He’s played major festivals in most of the Canadian provinces and a number of US festivals, from Michigan to Tennessee. He’s done session work on accordion and keyboards for many local and regional artists. He says, “Life makes me tired. Playing music invariably energizes me.”

“Some of the longest running and best paying gigs came about because of my union membership. So, for me, being in the union is an extended example of being in the right place at the right time,” says Kreller.
One of the first breaks for the Black Forest Band occurred when a band member happened to be in the Kitchener union office when a call came in about Oktoberfest players. “We ended up performing the Kitchener-Winnipeg Oktoberfest, a 10-day event before a crowd of about 8,000 people,” Kreller says. “We played it for the next 20 years.”

Kreller convinced all of his band members to join the union, stressing one of the instant benefits. “If you get one job, you basically pay your union dues.” The Gaes, a classic toe-tapping Celtic band, which has been a fixture on the local Kitchener music scene for years, has participated in a number of summer concerts sponsored by the Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF).

“The MPTF is a wonderful program. At its most basic, it is something that offers work for musicians—always a good thing. It’s also an opportunity for members to work with different musicians,” Kreller says. “It provides musical/cultural benefits to the community at large. And it gives the members the potential to have their music reach a wider audience in venues they might not normally reach.”

His accordion influences are wide-ranging and include jazz accordionist Art Van Damme, Irish fiddler and button accordionist Sharon Shannon, and polka players Chicagoan Eddie Blazonczyk and Joey Miskulin of Cleveland polka fame, a Local 257 (Nashville, TN) member. Kreller says, “[Joey] is the one who really solidified the Cleveland style sound. Yankovic was the cake and Miskulin was the icing. He played lines around the melodies that accordionists have been copying ever since.”

A practicing Buddhist, Kreller is also a writer and poet and a past president of the Canadian Authors Association (Waterloo-Wellington). Growing up, he listened to The Beatles; as a teenager, it was Yes. He says, “When I’m in my car, I still listen to them.”

On the importance of the union, Kreller says, “Ultimately, I think it’s a demonstration of the interconnectedness, or in Buddhist terms, the interdependence of things. It might be called networking—but it goes deeper than that.”

“I am convinced that Kyrylo, given the opportunity to continue his studies, can become a wonderful musician, and I’m satisfied that I could play even a small part in furthering this.”

Accordionist Gary Kreller of Local 226 (Kitchener, ON) has been a member of the AFM since he was 16 years old. In that time, he’s played pubs, big arenas, and music festivals in Canada and the US. He says the best gigs he’s gotten have often come through the union.

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