The musicians will gather outside Carnegie Hall on Monday for a fair deal with Distinguished Concerts International New York, a for-profit company that holds most of its concerts at the famous venue. The rally will begin at 6 p.m. ET.
The DCINY orchestra formed a union with the American Federation of Musicians Local 802 over two years ago, but DCINY “essentially locked them out and refuses to offer industry standards such as union wages, appropriate breaks, health insurance, pension payments, registration or ongoing payments, job security, master hiring roster and more,” the union said in a statement. .
DCINY operated as a music producer and presenter at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center for over a decade. For many of its choral concerts, it brings together choirs of amateur singers from around the world who pay a fee to perform there. DCINY then hires a professional orchestra, soloists and conductors.
A 2018 bill (read here) shows that Francis Howell North High School in Saint Charles, MO, paid $37,920 to give 48 of its students the opportunity to receive lessons and sing at Carnegie Hall. With an additional $7,900 for 20 VIP customers, the total bill came to $44,240. Such pay-for-play arrangements are not illegal, however.
Closed during the pandemic, DCINY resumed live shows earlier this year and, according to the union, “immediately replaced the full professional orchestra with a handful of musicians. The company also attempted to replace the professional musicians with an amateur high school ensemble. In a recent bargaining session, management tabled a new proposal that would require musicians to audition for positions they’ve already been awarded, potentially allowing musicians to be replaced on a permanent basis. The musicians responded with protests and demands for a fair contract.
Deadline has contacted DCINY but has not yet received a response.
According to the union, DCINY refused to schedule negotiations for several months. “This impasse was finally resolved after Local 802 filed an unfair labor practice charge against the company.” The company has also been accused of a second unfair labor practice, which is ongoing.
“An injury to one is an injury to all,” said Local 802 President Tino Gagliardi. “We need to uphold professional standards, especially when an employer hires musicians to perform at a big, iconic venue like Carnegie Hall. We demand a fair contract for DCINY musicians.
Local 802 Vice President of Registration Harvey Mars, who is also the attorney leading the negotiations on behalf of the musicians and the union, said, “Our demands are simply what every musician in New York deserved. All musicians deserve professional standards. Unfortunately, we believe the company is retaliating against the musicians by replacing the entire orchestra as we attempt to negotiate a fair contract. Shame on them.”
Violinist Tallie Brunfelt, a member of the orchestra and negotiating committee, said, “This fight is not just about our orchestra. It’s about maintaining professional standards for musicians around the world, but especially in a premier venue like Carnegie Hall, which our company uses as a base for its concerts.
Percussionist Andy Blanco, who plays in the orchestra and sits on the musicians’ bargaining committee, said: “While we enjoy the work of playing in this orchestra, it often involves unreasonably long rehearsals with inadequate breaks; intense and physically demanding performance days; and an atmosphere of fear due to frequent retaliation for voicing concerns to management. We have no contract, receive no benefits of any kind, and have no guarantees that we will be hired for future engagements. To address these issues, we came together with the support of Local 802 to negotiate a fair collective agreement that allows musicians to voice our concerns without fear of reprisal.