[Dixielandjazz] Hooray for Louisiana Musicians and musical ethics

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat Oct 22 07:19:28 PDT 2005

One of the musos I work with in Atlantic City NJ, also works every year for
the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show In NYC. It is a very high paying
gig because there are 6, 45 minute shows a day on weekends. Reed players
sometimes do all 6, while brass may do 3.

Basic rate is about $150 per show, with overtime premium after the 2nd show
and doubling pay for some musos. It is one of the most lucrative gigs of the
year and done by experienced free lancers in NYC. Reed players who double
and do all of the 200 shows can earn $50,000 in two months.

Trombonist Clint Sharmin has done this show for the past 30 years (as well
as Liza Minelli's tours etc). He works with us in AC when not otherwise

The musos & Local 802 AF of M are in a labor dispute with Radio City. So
Radio City put calls out all over the area, as well as in New Orleans for
replacement musicians. Here is the story per the NY Times.



To Louisiana Musicians, Radio City Has Lost Its Allure

By DANIEL J. WAKIN October 22, 2005 NY Times

For struggling musicians of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, their
season silenced by Hurricane Katrina, it sounded like a spectacular offer
indeed: a 10-week job in New York, where they are due anyway for a joint
benefit concert on Friday with the New York Philharmonic. At least $1,600 a
week. Free transportation and lodging. And a chance to be part of a beloved
tradition: to play for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

"It was kind of too good to be true," said Mollie Pate, the principal horn
player, "and it really was."

It turns out that there is already an orchestra that plays for the show, and
its musicians are involved in a labor dispute with Radio City Entertainment,
the producer, and its owner, Cablevision Systems. The Radio City players
have authorized a strike.

"We're totally out of work, but I still would never stoop so low to take
somebody else's gig," Ms. Pate said. Once word of the dispute circulated
among the Louisiana musicians, she said, she immediately dropped the idea,
as did fellow members who had been approached.

The trail that would have led Ms. Pate and her colleagues to Radio City is
murky. She said she and another horn player, Samantha Woolf, had been
contacted by a colleague, who was relaying the job offer from a New Orleans
hiring agent.

"We're pretty desperate," Ms. Woolf said. "It was presented, 'You want to
come up here, people want to help you out, they'll put you up.' "

The colleague, Rachel Jordan, a violinist, said she had passed on word of
the job to seven or eight players without knowing the labor situation at
Radio City.

"If there's money to be made, I'm going to call the people I know," said Ms.
Jordan, a 14-year member who said she was fighting to keep her job in a
separate dispute with the orchestra. She said she had been approached by an
agent in New Orleans, whom she would not identify. The agent, too, appeared
not to know about the labor situation, said Ms. Jordan, who comes from a
prominent New Orleans jazz family.

A spokesman for Radio City Entertainment, Barry Watkins, would not respond
specifically to the question of whether Radio City sought to hire Louisiana
players. But he said of the Radio City musicians, "Once they threatened to
strike, we had no choice but to explore all alternatives." Those
alternatives, the producers have said, include recorded music or putting
together another orchestra.

The New York musicians union, Local 802 of the American Federation of
Musicians, seized on the situation, sending out an alert to its members and
other musician locals that Radio City was trying to hire replacement workers
from Louisiana.

"They lied to them up front," David Lennon, the local's president, said in
an interview. "They said they wanted them to play the Radio City Christmas
show, and that it was a gesture of charity, even with 802's blessing, when,
in fact, that was not the case." He, too, would not identify the New Orleans

The first rehearsal for the Christmas show is scheduled for Friday, with
performances beginning Nov. 3. Local 802 has called for a rally outside
Radio City at 5 p.m. on Wednesday. No bargaining sessions are planned, both
sides said. The old contract expired in May.

The 35 Radio City musicians - an eclectic mix of top New York classical
freelancers, Broadway musicians and jazz players - said Radio City was
seeking to cut back on paying overtime, which the producers deny. Radio City
said its last offer included increases in salary and benefits.

"That is false," Mr. Lennon said. "They have proposed nothing to us other
than threats, concessions and substandard conditions."

The Christmas show is a substantial portion of the musicians' income. With
more than 200 performances in the season, some can play up to six a day. A
player who performs in most of them or doubles on several instruments (with
extra pay) can earn $40,000.

The extravaganza, which includes the Rockettes, is a big money producer for
Cablevision, which owns Madison Square Garden and the Knicks and Rangers.
The show, with most top tickets selling for $150 but some reaching $250,
grossed $73.8 million last year, Cablevision said. It declined to say how
much the show earned but said the expenses of paying 300 performers were

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