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The Many Faces of SCFD

April 12th, 2011 1 comment

By Pete Vriesenga

I posted an announcement and commentary on March 22nd entitled:  Please attend SCFD’s public meeting on March 24, 2011. My hope was to let our community of professional musicians know that our industry is again in jeopardy because of irresponsible decisions of the SCFD board and administrators. Thankfully, many members responded and filled all remaining chairs in the meeting room. Most were members of the Colorado Chamber Orchestra (CCO).

Many Faces

At stake was the fact that SCFD rejected CCO’s application to apply for funding in the upcoming grant cycle. Among reasons given were that CCO often performs in churches and has played benefit concerts (one for the homeless in Denver and another for AIDS infants in Africa). God forbid if CCO carried through with such good deeds in its past, and what a sad testament of just how silly SCFD policy [or lack thereof] has become.

There is also the fact that almost every other orchestra in town performs exclusively in churches. Homepage photos of the Arapahoe Philharmonic (at South Suburban Church) and Boulder Symphony (First Presbyterian Church) provide just two examples of SCFD’s latest double standard. Additionally, the Boulder Symphony’s rent agreement with First Presbyterian has musicians performing  Sunday worship services for free, including the the Glory of Christmas. According to BSO’s own press release, this is “a musical event of worship and praise celebrating the birth of Christ” that is in fact a “benefit for the Glory Community.”

SCFD officials also expressed concern that CCO’s outreach programs in Douglas County potentially benefit some students who reside in Douglas County, but live in specific areas that don’t pay into the SCFD District. At the conclusion of the March 24 meeting I reminded the SCFD board that this was yet another, serious double standard. I pointed to SCFD’s “FREE Holiday Performance Opportunity at the Park Meadows Mall” that was staged in 2003 and 2004. Prior to a the passing of a 2004 Election Referendum, Park Meadows Mall was similarly situated in a non-SCFD tax area. The difference between then and now is that SCFD was event coordinator and used public resources for their political goal of luring the Mall into the District in advance of the election.

Shame on the SCFD board, not only for stating the opposite view with CCO, but for allowing students to become victims of SCFD/Douglas County politics.

I could go on, and I will.

Lone Tree Symphony’s taking much, giving little

February 6th, 2010 No comments

Every summer, residents of Lone Tree, CO and neighboring communities enjoy a free concert by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. These concerts are presented in Sweetwater Park by the City of Lone Tree, but this coming summer the Lone Tree Symphony Orchestra (a volunteer community orchestra) will replace the CSO. A CSO file photo still adorns the Lone Tree Summer Concerts website, but now accompanies a July 24 listing for the LTSO.

Of course the City of Lone Tree should support their local orchestra, and by all accounts they heavily support the administration. Past Minutes of the City of Lone Tree Arts Commission show that the LTSO was in line to receive $35,000 in city support for 2010, and $45,000 the previous year. All metro-Denver residents should take a bow for YOUR hefty support through the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). According to SCFD’s 2008 annual report, $76,856 was paid to the Lone Tree Arts Commission that year. The report also shows that LTSO received another $7,000 that year in direct support from SCFD.

Commission Minutes also reveal that “Each member of the LTSO pays annual dues of forty dollars” to play in the orchestra. The Lone Tree Arts Commission should net additional savings by removing costs for professional musicians, but this assumes that LTSO volunteer musicians are willing to take on the additional workload. According to Commission Minutes, the LTSO will be “working toward increasing visibility and the number of performances, while working with schools, various groups and boards and the general community.”

What protections are there for an LTSO volunteer who is injured on the job? Do Lone Tree residents recognize and accept new liabilities that now fall on them? I seriously doubt that City officials ever discussed such matters among themselves, let alone with their constituents.

The coup de grâce of public support is a new $17 million home for the LTSO, which would be the envy of any professional ensemble. Funding for the Lone Tree Cultural Arts Center was narrowly approved by voters in 2008 and is scheduled to open in 2011.

With all of these public funds that are exchanging hands, one would assume that Lone Tree officials and orchestra administrators have at least taken the time to read the conditions of funding that are mandated in SCFD’s Tier III grant application. Apparently they haven’t, because #22 (Assurances) of the Tier III Application states: “The applicant pledges that they will comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act“ Beyond the obligation to Minimum Wage, the FLSA cites clear prohibitions against replacing professional employees with unpaid workers.

Looking for answers, I contacted LTSO board president John Nemcik. John immediately took offense after realizing that I was speaking on behalf of the Musicians’ Union. John said he grew up in Pennsylvania, and proceeded to blame Unions for the loss of jobs in the region. I responded by asking what jobs he’s creating [or taking away] in context of the upcoming LTSO Season? I’m still waiting for his answer.

I asked John if he had any plans, now or in the foreseeable future, to compensate his musicians? His response was an immediate and resounding NO. I asked if he was aware of SCFD’s Fair Labor Standards/Minimum Wage requirements that LTSO must follow in the example of the July 24 concert. Needless to say, John had no understanding of the requirement, nor did he voice any change of mind.

LTSO is just one example of labor abuse that occurs in our community on a daily basis, and we all share responsibility for allowing this to happen. We must continue to pressure SCFD to enforce their own FLSA provision, but I have yet to see that happen and frankly don’t expect to. These self-serving examples of ignorance and abuse will only worsen until musicians and performing artists everywhere take a very simple stand:

Click your heels three times and tell yourself that you will no longer accept your pre-classified status as a “volunteer.” If that happens the LTSO will become a professional orchestra by 5:00 PM on Monday. Then, take a moment to reflect on the hard-won labor rights & protections that many generations before us have fought for.

“Canned Cleopatra” opens to over 300 protesters

April 1st, 2009 No comments

ballet juke boxHundreds of musicians and their union brothers and sisters formed picket lines and distributed leaflets in front of Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, in protest of Texas Ballet Theater’s canned music policy. Demonstrators inflated a giant rat balloon to draw attention to musicians’ concerns. Demonstrations were held Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 27, 28 and 29, 2009 prior to the start of the company’s Cleopatra performances.

The ballet company outsourced its orchestra pit during last weekend’s performances of “Canned Cleopatra,” replacing musicians with a recording it made in China. Company artistic staff traveled to Shanghai in June 2008 and paid the Chinese government $30,000.00 for a recording of the Rimsky Korsakov score of Cleopatra. The ballet company cheated its patrons with canned music this season and says it intends to replace musicians indefinitely, including shows planned next season at the new $400 million Dallas Center For the Performing Arts.

“Over three hundred musicians and members of other area unions stood outside Bass Hall last weekend,” said Ray Hair, president of the musicians’ union, and a trustee of the Tarrant County Central Labor Council. “We sent a strong message to the ballet company and the arts community. When you hurt professional musicians, there are consequences.”

A Dallas Morning News/Fort Worth Star-telegram review of Friday’s performance criticized the musical accompaniment as clumsy and hamstrung. “…the progression seemed hurried. Raw, rough-hewn, taped music barged forward, when a more caressing tempo was needed to mirror the emotions…”

canned-weddingLabor Council President T.C. Gillespie predicted dark days ahead for the ballet company. “The protest was a huge success. We had tremendous support from patrons who were saying they wouldn’t return to hear canned music. It’s obvious the company is on its knees from poor attendance and the high number of ticket giveaways. If they crawl over to the Winspear, we’ll take our show on the road and protest fake ballet there, too,” he said.”

Click here for additional information from the Dallas-Fort Worth Professional Musicians Association.

Ballet is not dead … it just smells funny

March 26th, 2009 No comments

ballet juke box

an interview with Tom Jensen

It defies all logic and reason how a performing arts organization could even think of presenting classical ballet on the stage of a $400 million facility in a major population center… without orchestra. Sure enough, this very silly show opens this Friday evening, March 27, amid protesting musicians and 50 area labor unions who are uniting to fight this fraud and injustice. The press release from Dallas AFM Local 72-147: Musicians to Protest “Canned Cleopatra” Shows should be a wake up call for all of us.

Are audiences letting go of standards established by Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky, not to mention brilliant collaborations between George Balanchine, Igor Stravinsky and Paul Hindemith? Is it really true that a $100 ticket only buys half a show? Is public investment for a performing arts center more important than the 3 or 4% of budget that it takes to stage an orchestra?

Tom Jensen, conductor and contributing author for the “Conductor’s Corner” of the Hospitality Suite offers unique insight into these questions. Tom was music director and conductor of Colorado Ballet for seven years. He was also a featured conductor with both the Joffrey and Nashville ballet companies. Esprit De Cours among dancers and musicians was as good as I’ve ever seen. Tom would invariably bring a case of champagne to share with all of the performers on closing night. This was the polar opposite of what is now happening to Texas Ballet Theater as there was logic and longevity to what we were doing. There was also innovative marketing.

Vriesenga: Tom, how did you get into this strange business?

Jensen: As a musician, I always found ways to promote my art. And it got me into broadcasting.

While in San Antonio conducting the youth orchestra, I was a frequent guest on WOAI, a talk station. I was kind of a Sam Levenson type (do you remember Art Linkletter?) talking about kids and education and fun stuff about young people — I started my future stand up routine on that station. It really made the youth orchestra better known. Later I would start doing stand up comedy.

My early days as music director with the Colorado Ballet were fun and a bit “heady” as I was working with great musicians, talented dancers and was about to fall in love with my ballerina wife — it was 1983.

At the same time I was developing a radio broadcasting career.

But it was the creativity and latitude that the Ballet Company gave me that was really fun.

Vriesenga: When did you first begin to blend marketing with your role as music director?

Jensen: Around 1985, I got the idea to auction off the overture to the Nutcracker at a ballet fundraiser. Eyebrows were raised “how could you demean this family treat with a bit of show biz at the beginning?” the founders of the company asked me.

The final bid was for $3,500 — we were off to the races!

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen

The next year it was decided early on that every overture would be sold. Opening night went for $10,000 and the company’s name was added to the marquee and a speech was given before the start of the ballet, with the CEO or other VIP conducting the overture… (the overture stands alone from the first act — to me, this was a natural fundraiser).

For the remainder of the run, the overture went for $5,000, or an equivalent of in-kind work for the Company. Weatherman Ed Greene conducted — and I got to do the weather in my white tie and tails on the evening news; Denver Bronco’s receiver Vance Johnson conducted — spiking the baton when he finished; and assorted CEOs got conducting lessons as well — I was crankin’ ’em out throughout the run. A lot of people had fun and a good time, we raised money while awareness of the Colorado Ballet increased with free publicity.

Vriesenga: In the mid-80s you picked up another radio gig, which brought a “unique” cross-marketing relationship to Colorado Ballet. How did that go over?

At the time I had a talk show on KOA Radio, and then got a wild idea for promoting the ballet’s triple bill on Valentine’s Day. My program was broadcast from an outdoor hot tub in front of a lingerie store — it was February and freezing, but the bit was cute: if you got in the hot tub with me, you would get a gift certificate for lingerie from the store, and we would call your girlfriend and ask her if she wanted comp tickets to go to the ballet. Better still, if there was a person you had never dated, but you wanted to ask her (him) out, the idea was that no one would turn down a romantic evening at the ballet — and that was the hook for radio listeners to tune in: would a person being called from a radio show “stiff” a person asking for a date? It was a blast and we generated a lot of free press for the production.

Vriesenga: You were doing commercials and voice-over work at the time. Any television?

Jensen: I got a stint doing movie reviews on KCNC Television. Well, I wanted to do more than movies, so I had a chance to do a taped stand up with dancers from Copellia, interviewing the doll — she didn’t talk too much. It was a fun departure from just doing movies. And it was different exposure for the Company — ballet talk during a regular movie segment, we were reaching a TV audience that may have not known about Colorado Ballet.

Vriesenga: I applaud your work to bring other performing organizations into your world of creative and cost-effective marketing. I’ll never forget my early morning experience in a Colorado Springs grocery store. Please share some of these stories.

Jensen: Promoting the arts in a unique way became a signature of mine. I had John Moriarty, music director of the Central City Opera, as a guest on my show. Instead of an interview on the story line of their current production (an idea that bored me…) I offered free tickets to anyone that could call in and sing a famous aria that would impress my guest. A guy called in and sang something from Puccini, and John was blown away — turned out the guy was calling from his cell phone in his farming “tractor cab” while plowing the back forty outside of Limon.

John was laughing hysterically and collapsed on the floor. The guy won the tickets and it was a great way of getting press for the Opera.

Mel Torme was a guest on my show – the “velvet fog,” at least I think that was his nickname. We were publicizing his concert and I decided to give away tickets to the best Mel Torme impersonation. A caller sang one of Mel’s tunes, and was so bad that it was cute — he got the tickets.

Your “grocery store” reference takes us back to the time when I conducted a 24-hour marathon concert/fundraiser for the Colorado Springs Philharmonic. The orchestra was trying to gain new footing after the demise of the Colorado Springs Symphony. It was a chamber orchestra performing for an entire day and through the night in the produce department of a King Soopers store (it takes guts to play next to a pile of tomatoes) — “Can I have a price check on a cellist?”

The idea was to bring the orchestra to the people and bond with the community – hence the grocery connection. That event was covered by CNN, NBC, Fox News and the AP Wire. We started a fundraising event that eventually raised a million dollars. And, I lost 10 pounds. By the way, thank you Pete, for volunteering on bass trombone for the 3:00 – 7:00 AM shift. Hopefully you weren’t violating any union bylaws?

It all comes down to this: The arts have to do engaging things to promote, and we have to do it in a way that will catch the interest and appeal to the general public who may not think of a production, whatever it is, as an activity in which to participate.

National Recording Disagreements

March 22nd, 2009 9 comments

After demonstrating its muscle and ability to shut down the recording industry, the AFM emerged the victor by November of 1944 with first-time agreements with Decca, Capitol, RCA and Columbia Records. The structure and framework for these National Recording Agreements still exist today, but that moment in 1944 may have been the last point in time for meaningful “agreement.”

At that time the AFM rightfully claimed to have an agreement with “the recording industry” because those four labels were in fact the only notable companies and employers in the business. Six decades later we now have a variety of national recording agreements; the most prominent being the Sound Recording Labor Agreement (SRLA) that is signed by six recording labels: Warner Brothers, Atlantic Recording, Sony BMG, Universal Music Group and EMI Music. But the difference from 1944 to now is the entry of thousands of new recording labels who are not signatory. The premise of the SRLA as a “National Agreement” no longer holds water, but it is in fact a Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The SRLA is periodically ratified by a relatively-small group (1,000?) of musicians. Appropriately, AFM members honor and respect this bargaining relationship that exists between these six signatory labels and the members of the bargaining unit. Furthermore, musicians who accept substandard wages or benefits from these employers should be fined and/or expelled from the AFM. This is a fundamental principle of labor solidarity.

Unfortunately, resolving the existing conflict and disagreement over recording policy is not so simple. Musicians who make up the SRLA bargaining unit somehow draw the conclusion that the SRLA, though signed by only six companies, is also a universal minimum or “scale” that applies to the entire industry, irregardless of the employer. Their reasoning is that the recording industry differs from live performance because recorded product is an international commodity that readily moves to cheaper markets. Sadly, we live in a time where all industries, from heavy industry to candle-making, are seeking cheaper labor.

The  only solution is to build solidarity and support throughout the AFM while growing our membership, but we are doing exactly the opposite by promoting dubious, protectionist policies. Complex collective bargaining agreements are being thrust upon AFM members who have no say in the matter whatsoever. AFM members have been threatened with expulsion and fines (up to $50,000) for violation of bargaining structures that simply do not exist elsewhere in organized labor. It should come as no surprise that untold numbers of young musicians opt against joining the AFM for needless fear of reprimand.

Giant signatory recording companies have benefited most from this arrangement because the AFM is obligated to either turn away or beat down their competition. I wrote about this very subject in 2004 in a piece titled A Great Deal for Media Giants.  These companies have manipulated the AFM into defending and strengthening their monopolies, which would otherwise violate anti-trust laws if attempted on their own.

Once again, I refer to a textbook that was given to me as an attendee of a special AFM training course offered by the George Meany Center for Labor Studies (class of 1998). There is a wealth of enlightening material in this book that I shall refer to in the months to come, but for now I call your attention to the following Exhibit:

TYPES OF BARGAINING STRUCTURES IN THE UNITED STATES

Union(s) —————————————Employer(s), Worksite(s)

  1. One local union — Single employer, One worksite
  2. One local union — Multiple employers, multiple worksites
  3. Multiple local unions of same national union — Single employer, multiple worksites
  4. Multiple local unions of same national union — Multiple employers, multiple worksites, same industry
  5. Single local unions of multiple national unions — Single employer, one or more worksites

The structure of AFM National Agreements (multiple locals – all employers, all worksites) doesn’t exist elsewhere in Labor because it violates even the most fundamental tenets of union democracy.  The only way to create an agreement that covers all employers is to establish representation for all AFM members who work in that industry. The AFM attempts to correct this imbalance through Promulgated Agreements that are established by the sole authority of the AFM’s International Executive Board (IEB), but this system has its obvious pitfalls. The IEB is an elected body that is credited for implementing popular agreements, but must also take hits when they rankle the ire of any one segment of the membership.

The controversy du jour is a promulgagted videogame agreement. This has triggered an unjust attack at AMF president Tom Lee , ripe with sensationalist drama that has been pitched to the press on a weekly basis. If that’s not enough, this dispute has led to two class action lawsuits filed against the AFM.

Robert Levine, president of the Milwaukee Musicians’ Association and host author of the AFM Observer has written extensively on this matter. Among ongoing and colorful debate is a discussion thread titled Is suing the AFM wrong? Robert further expresses his views in a recent article titled New Democracy Battles in Musicians Union that was published in the Jan/Feb ’09 issue of the Union Democracy Review.

These “recording wars” are indeed a battle, but with all due respect to Robert Levine, they have little to do with union democracy. Among the unfortunate turns and twists of this story is the fact that recognized bargaining structures wouldn’t allow for any of this in first place.

Musicians to Protest “Canned Cleopatra” Shows

March 20th, 2009 No comments

Ballet Company Replacing Musicians with Recordings it Made in China
Company outsourced culture, is an artistic fraud and consumer rip-off, Musicians say

Brothers and Sisters:

In June, 2008, the artistic staff of a Fort Worth ballet company traveled to Shanghai, paid $30,000.00 to the government of China and killed the jobs of our members. Join with us March 27, 28 and 29 as we converge on Bass Hall in Downtown Fort Worth to protest one of the most deplorable acts ever staged in the history of classical ballet theater.

Download News Memo

Message from AFM President Tom Lee

Dear Local Officer,


I am writing to advise you of Local 72-147’s forthcoming demonstration on March 27, 28, and 29 in Fort Worth against the Texas Ballet Theater and invite your Local’s members to join the demonstrations.

In September of 2008, the Theater dumped the Fort Worth Symphony and Dallas Opera orchestras and has used canned music instead. Then in February 2009 the Theater announced that it would open its 2009/2010 season in the new $400 million Dallas Performing Arts Center to an empty pit.

On March 27, 28 and 29, the Theater will present Cleopatra, with the Rimsky-Korsakov score piped in with a recording made in China. This action simply must not be allowed to go unchecked. It is an insult to musicians and audiences in the Dallas Fort Worth community and if we do not show our opposition to it this could motivate other companies across North America to do the same.

I have provided three links below courtesy of Local 72-147. These links provide more information on this matter.

Message to Texas Ballet Theater Employees, Patrons and the Public

Memo to Membership

Local 72-147 Information Page

I look forward to your support on this matter.

Sincerely,
Thomas F. Lee
President

the Art of federal stimulus

March 10th, 2009 No comments

This mornings email blast from the Colorado Council on the Arts (CCA) contained disturbing news about anticipated stimulus grants. We should be very concerned that 1) only a handful of employers are even eligible to apply for these funds, and 2) if utilized, may only enhance a travel getaway for musicians who summer in Colorado.

The opening paragraph was very promising: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Public Law 111-5 (“Recovery Act”) recognizes that the nonprofit arts industry is an important sector of the economy. The National Endowment for the Arts is uniquely positioned to fund arts projects and activities that preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn. As part of this important investment, the Arts Endowment has designed a plan to expedite distribution of critical funds for the national, regional, state, and local levels for projects that focus on the preservation of jobs in the arts.

I’m a supporter of the stimulus bill and also the NEA. But like most Americans, I want to know how federal stimulus funds will be disbursed in my industry … how will these funds affect my community?

The CCA email continued: “the National Endowment for the Arts has announced a deadline of April 2 for direct one-time grants to eligible nonprofit organizations as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Applicants for these grants must be previous NEA award recipients from the past four years. A list of Colorado applicants eligible to apply for direct NEA funding is included below:”

  • Arvada Council for the Arts and Humanities, Inc., Arvada CO
  • Aspen Ballet Company & School, Aspen CO
  • Independent Films, Inc., Aspen CO
  • Music Associates of Aspen, Inc., Aspen CO
  • Boulder County Arts Alliance, Boulder CO
  • Colorado Music Festival, Boulder CO
  • Frequent Flyers Productions, Inc., Boulder CO
  • International Tap Association, Boulder CO
  • Naropa University, Boulder CO
  • Shakespeare Theatre Association of America, Boulder CO
  • National Repertory Orchestra, Inc., Breckenridge CO
  • Colorado College, Colorado Springs CO
  • Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs CO
  • Sprinkle Art Inc., Colorado Springs CO
  • City of Delta, Colorado, Delta CO
  • Central City Opera House Association, Denver CO
  • Clyfford Still Museum, Denver CO
  • Colorado Ballet Company, Denver CO
  • Colorado Council on the Arts, Denver CO
  • Colorado Symphony Association, Denver CO
  • Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Denver CO
  • Denver Film Society, Denver CO
  • Denver Office of Cultural Affairs, Denver CO
  • International Institute for Indigenous Resource Management, Inc., Denver CO
  • New Dance Theatre, Inc., Denver CO
  • PlatteForum, Denver CO
  • Su Teatro, Denver CO
  • University of Denver, Denver CO
  • Western States Arts Federation, Denver CO
  • Fort Lewis College, Durango CO
  • National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, Erie CO
  • Arts Alive Fort Collins, Fort Collins CO
  • City of Fort Collins, Colorado, Fort Collins CO
  • Fort Collins Museum Foundation, Fort Collins CO
  • Art Mobile of Montana, Grand Junction CO
  • University of Northern Colorado, Greeley CO
  • City of Lakewood, Colorado, Lakewood CO
  • City of Littleton, Colorado, Littleton CO
  • Littleton Center for Cultural Arts Foundation, Littleton CO
  • Anderson Ranch Arts Foundation, Snowmass Village CO
  • Emerald City Opera, Steamboat Spring CO
  • Bravo! Colorado at Vail-Beaver Creek, Vail CO
  • Among the three employers of musicians, Colorado Music Festival and Bravo! Colorado at Vail operate as summer festivals that import musicians at significant public expense. Consider qualifying criteria of each:

    The Colorado Music Festival (Boulder, CO) offers a base bay of approximately $270/week (4 rehearsals and 2 concerts), which is well below prevailing wage in this industry. Directly relevant to this discussion is the fact that cost of living in Boulder is higher than in three of the five burroughs of New York City.

    The statute specifically states: “Compensate all professional performers and related or supporting professional personnel on Arts Endowment-supported projects at no less than the prevailing minimum compensation.”

    In my view the Colorado Music Festival was ineligible to apply for NEA funding initially, and therefore has no place on a short list of employers eligible for stimulus funds.

    I strongly advise that CMF does not apply.

    Bravo! Colorado at Vail-Beaver Creek is a product of philanthropic largesse. The Summer ’09 festival will feature the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic as orchestras in-residence. They’re invited back because they bring extraordinary levels of funding to the table. Simply put, this is pay to play.

    Importing three major orchestras for the exclusive benefit to one of the wealthiest communities in the world is certainly defendable as a commercial venture, but not when drawing on scarce pubic funding such as the NEA or the CCA. The prerequisite as stated by the NEA is “to fund arts projects and activities that preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn.”

    Let’s accept for a moment that Bravo! experienced a decline in contributions. The Vail community can still satisy their ‘discriminating’ musical taste by importing just two ensembles. And, they can just as easily take the family for a short drive to experience and support a wealth of entertainment and artistic offerings that exist in their own regional community. Their recreation-based economy would suffer greatly if not for large numbers of Colorado residents who support them.

    Similarly, I strongly advise that the Bravo Festival does not apply.

    President Obama has assured transparency with this program so the public can follow and track how these dollars are spent and review jobs created. I anxiously await the report.

    Pete Vriesenga

    Conductor’s Corner – Tom Jensen

    March 8th, 2009 6 comments

    tomjensen

    My name is Tom Jensen and as a conductor I have cultivated a relationship with the Denver Musicians’ Association for the past 25 years. I appreciate the opportunity of this forum to share ideas and thoughts to better foster an advocacy for the arts that is not just lip service, but rather a place to get things done. I hope to illustrate positive concepts concerning, among others, management/union relationships; funding possibilities; community visibility; and musical relevance with respect to educational outreach.

    For the past 23 years I have participated in a unique program called “Inside the Orchestra” which has been sponsored by the Junior Symphony Guild.  We hire anywhere from 15 to 34 union musicians for our programs and produced over 80 concerts this season.  Audiences sit in, and are surrounded by the orchestra– hence the name. Many of the players have worked with me for most of my tenure here in Denver– developing working situations that have spanned a quater of a century.  The goal of the JSG is to expand and grow– this year alone we added more programs than ever before, increasing our fall season by 31% over last year’s (seeing close to 25,000 children) and we hope to continue to thrive even in this current economy.

    That said, I recently had an interesting conversation with national union activist Chris McKeever.  Over a couple of “sparkling beverages” I mentioned that we had just finished a successful concert run, but even with our new collective bargaining agreement, we still had musicians arriving late for rehearsals and performances.

    Chris  laughed and said that musicians really aren’t union people.

    Thoughts?

    Larry Baird

    February 20th, 2009 No comments

    larrybaird-moodybluesDays of Future Past, the second album released by the Moody Blues in 1967, featured classic hits such as Tuesday Afternoon and Nights in White Satin. At the time, record executives were concerned that a rock concept album with full orchestral scoring could backfire, possibly damaging both rock and classical markets. They were quickly proven wrong as the album soared to the #27 spot in the United Kingdom, and then to #3 in the US.

    Original orchestrations by Peter Knight were recorded by studio musicians from various London ensembles, and later billed as the London Festival Orchestra. But it was not until 1992 at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado when the Moody Blues performed with live orchestra for the very first time. The Colorado Symphony Orchestra, conducted by DMA’s own Larry Baird performed the highly-celebrated 25th anniversary of the album release. Larry recreated orchestrations for Tuesday Afternoon, Late Lament and Nights in White Satin. All of the other orchestrations on the album (as well as thirty-plus original orchestrations since then) are all Larry’s creations.

    Larry has established a worldwide reputation as an arranger, orchestrator, and innovative composer of contemporary music. He’s an accomplished keyboardist, saxophonist, oboist, vocalist and producer. His diverse background, talent and experience, make him the obvious choice to handle the heavy responsibilities of ‘Orchestral Music Director/Conductor/Arranger.’

    He’s right at home in this capacity with name acts, including songwriting superstar Michael Bolton, Brian Wilson, Al Jarreau, RCA recording artist John Gary, and as an arranger/conductor for rock ‘n’ roll recording artists Flash Cadillac. He has also been conducting shows for, and working with former Styx keyboardist, vocalist, and songwriter, Dennis DeYoung, as well as legendary British producer and songwriter, Alan Parsons.

    Presently Larry is working with the renowned ’70s progressive rock band Kansas. He arranged and conducted their CD, Always Never The Same, recorded at historic Abbey Road Studios in England with the London Symphony Orchestra. Larry’s latest arrangements premiered February 7 in Topeka, KS  for a show that launched their 2009 tour. A DVD release of the event will celebrate the band’s 35-year career.

    If that’s not enough to keep him away from his Colorado home, Larry is also  Orchestral Music Director/Conductor/Arranger for the chart-topping band Three Dog Night. This amazing band earned its place in history with over twenty Top 40 hits, and three that have gone all the way to Number One! Larry recently recorded the CD, Three Dog Night with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Larry Baird at Abbey Road Studios. The band, with Larry Baird conducting, performed with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra on January 3rd, 2009, at Boettcher Concert Hall.

    Despite his touring schedule, Larry often looks first to his home community. For more than two decades he has been involved with the Colorado Make-A-Wish Foundation as Music Director for their annual Celebrity Golf Invitational hosted by former Entertainment Tonight’s Bob Goen.

    larrybaird-awardThe marriage of rock and symphony orchestra has generated a global industry for four decades. Larry Baird is a leader and influential force in this economy, evidenced by the fact that he alone has conducted hundreds of performances with more than 250 symphony orchestras worldwide. The Denver Musicians Association proudly recognizes him for his accomplishments.

    John Kuzma, His “small part” for the community

    July 1st, 2008 No comments
    Montview Christmas Concert - John Kuzma, Conductor

    Montview Christmas Concert - John Kuzma, Conductor

    Published in The Denver Musician, Summer 2008
    By Pete Vriesenga

    Religious Organizations are the nation’s second-largest employer of professional musicians – second only to Performing Arts Companies (Bureau of Labor Statistics). I have been a beneficiary of these work opportunities over my career, as have professional musicians around the world who are impacted by the remarkable history and musical influence of the Church.

    I thank our local community of churches for the enormity of great music they produce, and also take this opportunity to highlight one very fine example: Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church in Denver, and music director John Kuzma.

    John learned early on that the church was a place for fine music when he joined the boychoir at St. Lawrence Church in Cincinnati. They sang every day except Saturday, drawing on the repertoire of the likes of Mozart, Franck, Haydn and Palestrina. They also premiered original compositions by St. Lawrence Music Director J. Alfred Schehl.

    By the sixth grade, the sum of this musical experience had John convinced he would become a church musician. He went on to study at the Cincinnati Conservatory, the Eastman School of Music, University of Illinois, and in Copenhagen as a Fulbright Scholar. He has been Montview’s Minister of Music since 1987.

    “Throughout history, churches have supported music, and in some cases the finest musicians of their day were in the church’s full time service,” says John. “Without thinking very long, I can name Bach, Buxtehude, Palestrina (who had an apartment inside the Vatican walls), Vivaldi, the Gabrielis, Mozart (for a time), Franck, Messiaen, Distler, Langlais, etc. And then, there is the enormous body of chant, by any standard the most remarkable collection of single voice music ever conceived, written by fine musicians inside monastery walls, whose names are lost in antiquity.”

    Montivew Boulevard Presbyterian Church, with its rich acoustics and fine pipe organ, is a beautiful space to present great music. But Montview is much more than a beautiful building. John points out how the Montview congregation has long supported fine music “We have been blessed by excellent leaders who preceded me: Ernest Remley, Lucille Holm, Austin Lovelace, David McCormick, and Jerrald McCollum. Barbara Hulac, our extraordinary organist, remains one of the best anywhere, and we are sincerely thankful for the work and dedication of musician’s contractor Marsha Whitcomb. This remarkable support for music reflects years of high vision in deciding to build a sanctuary of high musical ambition, building fine pipe organs, hiring talented staff, encouraging programming of high quality, and raising enough money to pay for all this.”

    Montview’s 100-member Westminster Choir is a mainstay in music programming, as are approximately 75 children and youth from Montview’s varied choirs and music programs. Choir members include a wide range of professionals, many medical doctors, a few PhD’s, and one congresswoman. Diana DeGette, most Thursdays, comes directly to choir rehearsal from the airport (after serving in Congress), and finds time to host a brunch now and than for her friends in the Alto II section. Selfishly, and for the political interests of the AFM, I found myself lobbying Ms. DeGette for the entirety of the rehearsal break in April. DeGette is Vice-Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee that will be hearing arguments for the Performance Rights Act (H.R. 4789).

    How fitting that our representative in Congress just happens to be a member of the choir. Montview’s music program is a product of personal gifts and contributions that have great community purpose. This is a genuine grassroots effort that has fostered community gatherings for a century. Accessibility to our government that seeds genuine outreach to the community is certainly consistent with Montview’s music program, as I expect it is with the broader mission of of their church.

    It’s no small coincidence that anyone can simply walk into this beautiful setting to enjoy great and inspiring music. For that, the DMA and our community at large owe our gratitude.

    Marc Shulgold of the Rocky Mountain News said it best: “I’ve always felt comfortable when I visit Montview, up the street from my Park Hill home. The lure, to be honest, is usually a favorite musical work: a Bach cantata or full-length concert pieces by Orff or Dvorak, all led expertly by music director John Kuzma.

    Come Christmastime, there’s an added pleasure for this “non-believer” in hearing melodies of the season within such an inviting venue. As I listened to Montview’s three choirs – encompassing pre-teens to senior citizens – I felt close to the spirit of the season.

    A suggestion: Set aside your shopping lists. Forget all the fuss over “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays.” Take a breath, and listen to the music – really listen. That’s what I did.” when I visited Montview last Sunday.”

    John Kuzma

    John Kuzma

    “While art has a toughness over centuries, it can be fragile in the short term. Art which aims at the highest standard has always been supported by relatively few people of high vision, who experience life changing power and transcendent insight through music. I believe we are doing our small part in this effort at Montview Church.”

    .John Kuzma