An important election you didn't know about

Most orchestra musicians don’t pay much attention to union politics. That’s OK: most politics in the AFM is not worth paying much attention to. But there was an election the other day that’s worth noting.

The two largest locals in the AFM are Local 47 (Los Angeles) and Local 802 (New York). Both are dominated by working musicians, and both are interesting politically. What’s particularly interesting about New York, and what distinguishes its political life from that of virtually every other AFM local, is its two-party system.

The older of the two, the Members’ Party, gained control in 1983, and held it through the early part of this decade, largely due to the leadership of former 802 President Bill Moriarty, one of the finest local officers in the AFM’s history. After Bill’s retirement in 2003, things began to fall apart, leading to several years of control of 802 by a newer group calling itself the “Concerned Musicians.” Yesterday, the Members’ Party slate won virtually a clean sweep over the slate run by the Concerned Musicians party in elections for all 802 officer positions.

Does this matter to the average orchestra musician? It might. By virtue of being on of the two largest locals in the AFM, 802 wields a lot of power at conventions and officer elections. At the last AFM convention, Local 802 supported the incumbent AFM president, Tom Lee. As Local 47 supported Lee’s opponent, who was also president of Local 47, the two mega-locals essentially cancelled each other’s votes. That seems unlikely to happen this summer, which substantially raises the possibility of significant turnover on the AFM’s International Executive Board.

802 is not the only large local where power has changed hands recently. The Boston local voted out its incumbent president, and the Nashville local voted out both its incumbent president and its incumbent secretary-treasurer – both of whom also serve on the IEB. Local officers who are also IEB members getting booted out of local office is a rare event in the AFM.

AFM conventions are always interesting events. The one this summer, which is the first one to be held since the AFM moved from conventions every other year to every three years, is showing signs of being especially newsworthy.

About the author

Robert Levine
Robert Levine

Robert Levine has been the Principal Violist of the Milwaukee Symphony since September 1987. Before coming to Milwaukee Mr. Levine had been a member of the Orford String Quartet, Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, with whom he toured extensively throughout Canada, the United States, and South America. Prior to joining the Orford Quartet, Mr. Levine had served as Principal Violist of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for six years. He has also performed with the San Francisco Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, and the Oklahoma City Symphony, as well as serving as guest principal with the orchestras of Indianapolis and Hong Kong.

He has performed as soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Oklahoma City Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, the Midsummer Mozart Festival (San Francisco), and numerous community orchestras in Northern California and Minnesota. He has also been featured on American Public Radio's nationally broadcast show "St. Paul Sunday Morning" on several occasions.

Mr. Levine has been an active chamber musician, having performed at the Festival Rolandseck in Germany, the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Palm Beach Festival, the "Strings in the Mountains" Festival in Colorado, and numerous concerts in the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. He has also been active in the field of new music, having commissioned and premiered works for viola and orchestra from Minnesota composers Janika Vandervelde and Libby Larsen.

Mr. Levine was chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians from 1996 to 2002 and currently serves as President of the Milwaukee Musicians Association, Local 8 of the American Federation of Musicians, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras. He has written extensively about issues concerning orchestra musicians for publications of ICSOM, the AFM, the Symphony Orchestra Institute, and the League of American Orchestras.

Mr. Levine attended Stanford University and the Institute for Advanced Musical Studies in Switzerland. His primary teachers were Aaron Sten and Pamela Goldsmith. He also studied with Paul Doctor, Walter Trampler, Bruno Giuranna, and David Abel.

He lives with his wife Emily and his son Sam in Glendale.

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