[Dixielandjazz] A reason to Like Barbra Streisand

Steve Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat Jun 16 07:40:18 PDT 2007

Interesting story about the lives of free lance musicians in the NYC area.
They follow the money and Barbra Streisand is providing it. One of my
trombone replacements also tours. He is in South America currently with Liza
Minelli and may be touring Europe with Blood Sweat and Tears in July. Those
are indeed sweet gigs.

Nice to know that Ms . Streisand is taking 58 musicians with her.

Note the gig pay scales and performance frequency. Makes one want to cry.
Who said tuneful music doesn't pay? :-) VBG.

Steve Barbone

Streisand Tours, and New York Musicians Cheer

NY TIMES - By DANIEL J. WAKIN - June 16, 2007

Barbra Streisand is touring Europe with a 58-piece orchestra composed mostly
of the cream of New York¹s freelance musicians. It¹s a sweet gig for the
players. But beyond that, the tour has created a mild economic boom for the
pool of musicians left behind.

Many of the Streisand musicians are regulars in Broadway shows like ³The
Lion King,² ³Legally Blonde² and ³The Color Purple,² as well as in the
American Ballet Theater Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic and the
Westchester Philharmonic.

With their absence, somebody has to substitute. And that means opportunities
for others, especially younger musicians or players who have yet to crack
the regular lists of contractors.

³I was thrilled,² Alison Zlotow, a violinist, said of having received a call
to play with the Brooklyn Philharmonic tonight. ³As a diverse freelancer,
this is just the golden opportunity for me. I love playing with a symphony,
and it¹s really hard to get symphony jobs.²

Ms. Zlotow is one of several substitute violinists for Saturday¹s
performance. At least two Brooklyn violinists are off with Ms. Streisand.

The job is also a financial break for musicians like Ms. Zlotow, 29, who
graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston two years ago
and was a finalist for a regular position with the Brooklyn Philharmonic.
She cobbles a living together by playing at weddings, on church jobs and in
concerts with the new-music group the International Contemporary Ensemble.
She is also in the backup band for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

³I¹m making ends meet, barely,² she said. ³But I am surviving.²

Ms. Streisand¹s tour begins in Zurich on Monday. She moves on to Vienna,
Paris, Berlin, Stockholm, Manchester, Dublin and London, where she gives her
final tour performance on July 25. There are three to five days between each
concert, just part of the cushy conditions that make this a plum assignment
for the orchestra players, who left on Sunday.

Pay approaches $3,000 a week, rising to three times that for some principal
players, said Michael Keller, the tour contractor. Travel and lodging are
paid for, and the musicians receive a $65 per diem. (A weekly salary on
Broadway can typically be around $1,500.) The audiences will be huge; the
colleagues, expert; and the itinerary, a tourist¹s ideal.

³It¹s a dream tour,² said Mr. Keller, who is also one of the main
contractors for Broadway shows.

A look at the Streisand effect, which is especially welcome as the size of
Broadway orchestras has declined over recent years, sheds light on New
York¹s freelance system, perhaps the most vibrant in the country, along with
that of Los Angeles.

Shows rely on contractors to help fill musicians¹ chairs. Most are former or
current players with a knack for organizing and making contacts. Music
directors and orchestrators can also have a say in hiring for musicals.
Permanent positions in part-time classical orchestras are often filled
through auditions, but contractors organize substitutes and extra musicians
when needed.

Mr. Keller said he had a database of 2,500 names. He picks dependable,
expert musicians whom he has hired in the past, he added, and often consults
with principal players to fill out sections with members who can blend and
get along musically and personally.

The Streisand orchestra consists mainly of personnel he hired for Ms.
Streisand¹s American tour last fall.

³Had another contactor been given the assignment, I dare say the makeup of
the orchestra would have been substantially different,² Mr. Keller said.

Once in a show or orchestra, musicians often need subs. Most take on
multiple jobs and teaching to make ends meet, and scheduling conflicts are
common. In the summer many take off for festivals. Usually players find
their own subs from a network of colleagues and acquaintances.

Michael Boschen and Keith O¹Quinn are both busy freelance trombonists,
friends and sometime section-mates. Mr. Boschen said Mr. O¹Quinn had often
called him to substitute. When Mr. O¹Quinn was called away on the Streisand
tour, he asked Mr. Boschen to fill in for performances of ³Legally Blonde.²

³I guess he must like my playing,² Mr. Boschen said. ³My experience of
subbing on Broadway is, there are a lot of different reasons people call
you. Personally, I always hope it¹s about the playing first, and the
personality second, and being professional and responsible as well.²

Indeed, personality is often cited as a reason behind a contractor¹s choice,
giving rise to charges of favoritism. Musicians seen as difficult may get
fewer calls. Some suggest that union-minded players suffer.

Subbing is also a chance to establish a reputation, which can lead to a
permanent job. That is how Mr. Boschen said he had been offered a position
in the orchestra of ³The Full Monty.² He said he would have liked to do the
Streisand tour but would have been torn. He had set aside time in June to be
with his daughter, born on May 7.

He said he had tried to waste little time second-guessing why a contractor
had chosen another trombonist over him. ³When I start to feel insecure about
something,² he said, ³I go practice.²

For the tour Mr. Keller tapped many of the musicians in the pit orchestras
he has put together. So nearly the entire violin section of ³Spamalot² ‹
four players ‹ and a trombonist need to be replaced. ³Legally Blonde² is
sending two violinists, a trombonist and a French horn player. Other shows
making their contribution to Ms. Streisand include ³The Drowsy Chaperone,²
³Wicked,² ³Avenue Q,² ³Hairspray² and ³The 25th Annual Putnam County
Spelling Bee.²

The American Ballet Theater orchestra lost a half-dozen of its regular
substitutes to the tour, said Matt Dine, the principal oboist and
contractor. They include two of his best mandolin players ‹ actually,
violinists who double on the instrument ‹ just as the ballet is presenting
³Romeo and Juliet,² which has key mandolin parts.

³It is an opportunity to use people you wouldn¹t normally use as much, which
is nice, and it¹s an opportunity to find new people,² Mr. Dine said.

Jon Taylor, the contractor for the Brooklyn Philharmonic and Westchester
Philharmonic, said he had had a difficult time finding substitutes for both.
³Any number of them have said to me, ŒGee, I can¹t do that concert, I¹m away
with the Streisand tour,¹ ² he said. ³The good thing about New York is there
are terrific players to replace them with.²

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