I’m on strike. I don’t belong to the Musicians Union anymore. Since Covid-19 slammed us in 2020 I have been fully retired from performing or teaching the flute. Even so, I consider myself to be on strike.
It’s been an ongoing annoyance to me when the name of a performing musician is not credited. I cheer when I see a televised opera production or broadcast concert that lists the instrumentalists’ names, and not only those of the conductor and the production staff. I have written letters to the editor when the name of a reviewed musician has been omitted, or credit has been given to the wrong performer. Open the program! And herein lies the problem.
I bought a partial subscription to the Tucson Symphony’s Classic series this season, now that we are slowly returning to in-person concerts. While my husband and I enjoyed the four concerts, the programs did not contain the names of the harpists, the extra musicians, or the substitute musicians. This practice began while I was still playing with the TSO. I was never a contracted player but I was a regular substitute and first-call substitute for most of those 30-plus years. My name would be listed because the program was printed for each concert, with an accurate listing of performers. I was paid at the same rate as the contracted players. I was doing the same work, after all!
One of the ways symphony orchestras appear to have decided they could save money was by printing programs at the beginning of the season and with more than one concert per program. The list contains only the names of contracted orchestra members.
Appeal to the union, right? That does no good if one is a substitute musician. Even though Arizona is a right-to-work state, I spent several years as a dues-paying union member because I wanted to support my fellow musicians. However, there was absolutely no benefit to me. If you are curious, there is pertinent information in these two linked articles.
Appeal to my colleagues? I tried. One orchestra committee member told me point-blank that they had more important issues to address.
To be clear, I never was anything close to a “scab.” I was frequently called in to substitute and, quite frankly, cover the asses of colleagues who wanted to take a better gig, had a conflict with other work or felt they weren’t quite up to the task of performing certain repertoire.
I loved my work, but I’m old enough and wise enough now to love myself more. We won’t be spending our money or our time on many future Tucson Symphony concerts until credit is given where credit is due. While it may not make any difference within the organization, it will make a difference to me. Consider me an audience member, on strike.