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Boulder’s ‘pay-to-play’ orchestra lands another gig

May 1st, 2011 No comments

The Cherry Creek Chorale has provided welcome employment for DMA members for many years. These productions are costly and we are forever grateful for CCC’s efforts to stage such events and hope they can continue into the future.

But, as stated in CCC’s 2011-12 Season Flyer, CCC has engaged the Boulder Symphony Orchestra (BSO) for concerts scheduled on October 14, 2011 and May 18, 2012. Sadly, freelance musicians are again learning the hard way that they cannot possibly compete against two publicly-funded organizations that choose to pool their resources in this manner.

Under the baton of Maestro Devin Hughes, the Boulder Symphony has hit the ground running by

Maestro Devin Hughes

Maestro Devin Hughes

undermining the local industry with their SCFD-funded ‘pay-to-play’ business model. The BSO’s new home at Boulder’s affluent First Presbyterian Church is yet another creative collaboration. This deal is paid for entirely by the musicians who now perform free for Sunday services as well as three performances of Glory of Christmas. Additionally, BSO musicians must pay $25 per concert set to play in the orchestra, all of which applies to BSO’s necessary match to obtain SCFD funding in the first place.

I met with Maestro Hughes this past December over a cup of coffee. I tried to explain why it is improper for BSO to use their tax-exempt status and public funding in a manner that unfairly competes against an established industry. I reminded Devin that his actions, also the BSO board of directors, are putting professional musicians out of work while damaging an economy that otherwise fuels our cultural infrastructure and provides a welcome tax base.

Maestro Hughes had little comment except to boast of the great job he’s doing.

A Little Transparency, Please

May 1st, 2011 No comments

The Lone Tree Arts Commission was established by the City of Lone Tree in 1999 to promote public awareness of fine and performing arts within the City. Funding for the LTAC comes in part from the City of Lone Tree, and also from the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District which provides approximately $75,000 annually. The Lone Tree Symphony, for example, receives more than $40,0000 annually in grant awards from LTAC. With additional funding from Douglas County SCFD, 80% of Lone Tree Symphony’s annual budget now comes from “government grants.” Government support for symphony orchestras as a national average is is just 4%.

Taxpayers in the SCFD District have a right to know how these funds are spent when unusual amounts and percentages are passing hands. Lone Tree residents especially have a right to know how these funds are spent. They voted for a tax increase in 2004 so they could join in the SCFD Tax District, and they voted for another tax increase in 2008 to fund the new $20 million Lone Tree Arts Center slated to open this Fall.

So, the $20 million question: Are Lone Tree residents better off after these two tax hikes, and do they know where this money is going? The Colorado Symphony performed annual concerts in Lone Tree’s Sweetwater Park before these tax increases. Now, with added funds in City coffers, the ‘pay-to-play’ Lone Tree Symphony has now assumed the gig. Count one strike against the notion that residents are better off.

Answers and accountability to these questions are typically noted in Meeting Minutes of the Lone Tree Arts Council, but these documents are not as accessible as they should be. In fact, they’re not as accessible as they were in the past. Click here to see Meeting Agendas and Minutes of other areas of Lone Tree city government such as City Council, Planning Commission, Youth Commission, etc. All are perfectly up to date, except for the Arts Commission. Suspiciously, all records stop after January 13, 2010.

My personal conspiracy theory suggests that LTAC is responding to my February 5, 2010 commentary Lone Tree Symphony’s Taking Much, Giving Little. That story raised a bit of a fuss between myself and Lone Tree City Officials, to put it mildly.

With the hope of putting my theory to rest, I sent an email inquiry last week to the Lone Tree Arts Commission, asking for an explanation for this 15-month lapse? Following proper protocol I used the contact link at the bottom of their LTAC webpage, but my email bounced back with a notice:“This account has been disabled or discontinued.”

Maybe they’re just uncomfortable.

Im In! – for AFM International Executive Board

June 12th, 2010 No comments

Dear Friends and Delegates,

Pete Vriesenga

Pete Vriesenga

I write to you today asking for your vote and support for my candidacy for election to the AFM’s International Executive Board. Most of you know me as president of the Denver Local since 1995. Many also know me as an AFM officer who stands up and speaks up with researched opinions, openly and respectfully.

Historically, the IEB is a rather silent and elusive body. This does not make for healthy democracy. Always in the 11th hour prior to a Convention, the floodgates of pent-up sentiment suddenly break loose in the form of communications by the truckload. My apologies for adding to your pile, but I am committing to you now that I will listen, research, and then report while taking early positions on these critical matters.

Our bad habit of sweeping controversial matters under the rug extends well beyond the IEB. As a member of the former AFM Futures Committee (2003-05) I faced a wall of resistance against my modest proposal for a joint venture recording agreement. AFM orchestras with $100 million budgets were already adopting this model, but extending this same right to Indie musicians and small touring bands didn’t sit well with established interests. My remaining option was to present a Minority Report on the subject at a meeting of the full committee in Las Vegas. Absolute silence followed … not even one question was asked.

Persistence ultimately paid off. My resolution for Joint Venture recording was adopted unanimously at the 2007 Western Conference. Months later, with support of the Conference and multiple Locals, my Resolution #75 passed at the 2007 Convention. This historic passage for Joint Venture recording paved the way for AFM’s Freelance Services Division to now present you with an online distribution system for member recordings.

The AFM is strong and it’s here to stay, and we would be doing our union and membership a disservice to pay too much attention to those who believe otherwise. I don’t buy into the personal attacks or the doomsday view of our future that is so pervasive in AFM politics.

Yes, I do jump when a committee chair or member of one of our major bargaining units calls on me for assistance.  But, I also respond in the same manner when I receive a call from a member who hasn’t played a gig in months. As taught by the George Meany Center for Labor Studies, strong and vibrant unions extend equal respect to their most distinguished and most humble citizens. This directly contrasts much of the chatter and division that we hear about working musicians, small vs. large locals and who pays more dues. This is a core principle that I live by because it translates to strength and unity among all members who are called upon to stand together.

I would be honored to have your vote.

In Solidarity,

Pete Vriesenga
President, Denver Local 20-623

Campaign Brochure

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Special Election for Denver City Council, District 1

April 13th, 2010 No comments

A special election is being held in Denver’s District 1, to fill the unexpired term of City Council member Rick Garcia who accepted an appointment to HUD. There are a total of 10 candidates in the race, and Susan Shepherd received the Denver Area Labor Federation (DALF) endorsement. DMA member/IBEW Local 68 president Ed Knox  participated in the DALF Candidate interviews, and confirms hat Susan Shepherd presents herself as the strongest supporter of our issues.

Susan K. Shepherd has received the endorsement of the Denver Area Labor Federation. Ballots must be received by May 4, 2010. If you’re a resident of District 1, please get out and vote!

I am proud to stand up for ALL working families in Denver City Council District 1. I am pleased to be endorsed by the Denver Area Labor Federation and the Teamsters Local 17. Having campaigned for political leaders like Joanna Conti against divisive figures like Tom Tancredo and having championed progressive causes like raising Colorado’s minimum wage, I am ready to serve my community in a meaningful way as the representative of District 1 on Denver’s City Council.


Susan K. Shepherd
Candidate for Denver City Council District 1

Contact information:

Susan Shepherd
2126 Grove St.
Denver, CO 80211
Phone: 303-960-9783
Website: www.shepherdfornorthwestdenver.com
E-mail: skshepherd68@yahoo.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com Shepherd for Northwest Denver

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Open Letter to Senator Bennet regarding healthcare

August 11th, 2009 2 comments

August 11, 2009

Dear Senator Bennett,

I am writing to ask you to please support health care reform in the United States.

I recently visited the emergency room at my local hospital with a possible case of appendicitis that turned out to be diverticulitus, an infection in the lower intestine. Fortunately, I did not need surgery AND I have health insurance. However, I have not seen my final bills from visiting the emergency room, so it will be interesting to see what my insurance covers or not.

I’d like to tell you my personal story about health insurance, because it surely demonstrates that the current system of health care in the US is not working to the benefit of the people of this nation.

I have been a professional musician and teacher all of my adult life. As a member of various orchestras and the musicians union, I have had health insurance up until the spring of 2003, when the Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestra went into bankruptcy, and all the musicians of the orchestra (75 people) including myself lost our health insurance.

At the time, I was not making enough money to buy health insurance, so I went on what I call the “Denver General” plan. As a resident of the city and county of Denver, I can go to the Denver General Hospital Emergency room and they will treat me and charge me on a sliding scale (my mother also used this “plan” until she was eligible for Medicare).

In 2007 I got married. My wife then tried to add me to her health insurance plan that she has for herself and her children. Her company is Humana, and the following events seem like they an episode from Michael Moore’s film “Sicko”.

A nurse from Humana came to our house and took blood and urine samples, weighed and measured me. Several weeks later I received a letter from Humana. Two doctors in Minnesota who I never saw or met with looked at the test and measurement results from the nurse. These doctors determined that I am obese (I am 20-25 pounds overweight). With this information, Humana determined that while they could insure me (for a hefty price), they would try to tie anything that was wrong with me to my weight and therefore avoid letting me use my insurance benefits because of this “pre-existing condition”. There was also no possibility of having a new assessment after losing weight. I am permanently blacklisted with a “pre-existing condition”.

There was one piece of seeming good news: I could get some sort of affordable insurance through the state of Colorado called Cover Colorado, which is administered by PacificCare. This insurance is relatively affordable ($160.00 a month) and they could not turn me down for a “pre-existing condition”.

It is also a program that is subsidized by Colorado tax-payers. Can you say “socialized medicine”?

On the surface, Cover Colorado looks like a good thing for me. But actually using it has shown a number of absurdities. For starters, I can’t make an appointment with my doctor until I get permission from the Cover Colorado nurse who rarely calls back on the same day, and in one case didn’t call back at all. This is another person who I have never seen or met!

This spring I got permission to see my doctor for a persistent cold and/or flu. My doctor ran a test to see if I had a bacterial or viral infection, since he did not want to prescribe anti-biotics if they weren’t needed. Cover Colorado refused to pay for this $35 test! So the next time I saw my doctor later in the spring, he went ahead and prescribed anti-biotics without the test, and Cover Colorado was happy to pay for the drugs, even though there was some question as to whether I needed them.

The Cover Colorado plan is heavy on administration, and it’s approach to good health is random at best, and financially wasteful as well.

I am 49 years old, and I teach part-time at Red Rocks Community College and am Vice-President of the Denver Musicians Association. Sir, we badly need health insurance and health care reform. The United States is the only developed nation that does not have some sort of universal, public health care.

Please vote for a health care plan that will give me and millions of Americans who have either no insurance or inadequate insurance the right to good and safe healthcare. It is morally and ethically correct, it is the humane and fiscally responsible thing to do.

Supporting health care reform is a clear indicator of whether you as our elected representative stand for us, the people of this nation, or if you are a lackey of the insurance and medical industry, and only interested in your own re-election with funds from these industries. And if you don’t vote for and support universal health care, please put your money where your mouth is, and refuse to use the health insurance plan that you receive from the government as a government employee, funded by the taxpayers that you represent. And plan on not being re-elected if you don’t do the right thing.

Do the right thing, stand by the working people of the United States.

Hopefully,

Thomas A. Blomster

1820 Race Street

Denver, CO 80206-1116

303-322-1764

Blomster@ecentral.com

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“engaging” at Engagements

March 28th, 2009 No comments

tomjensenIt occurred to me, after finishing my Tiny Tots– “Inside the Orchestra” run with the Junior Symphony Guild (we saw 8,000 kids), that we, as musicians, have a difficult time interacting with the audience after concerts. Over the years I have learned to elicit comments from shy and timid preschoolers with questions like: “What did you like the best (besides me)?”

And it is equally important talking to grownups after a performance as well. I remember being at a reception recently, observing musicians awkwardly looking for punch and cookies and making conversation with patrons. Now patrons want to talk to artists– and sometimes the intimidation factor can be offputting for them. They want to be a part of the discussion, but don’t want to appear to be ignorant of the art form. I remember an adult asking a bass player about his “cello.” He replied: “No, it’s a bass!” One might instead say: “Yes, it looks like a cello, but it is bigger, it is a bass.”

But more importantly, it is advantageous to make audience members feel good about themselves. We do have an adrenaline rush after a performance and may want to discuss our work, but it is important to realize and recognize the validation of the people who come to see and hear us work. So, in the spirit of things to think about the next time you are choking down a brownie after a show– try these out for size:

“So, you are new to the Philharmonic Board of Directors– how did you decide to become a part of our organization?” Or….

“Bruckner is pretty heavy stuff, this was my first time playing this piece– did you know this symphony before you came? What did you think of it?” Or…

“Thanks for the kind words about my contra bassoon solo “(substitute your instrument here). ” Usually nobody remarks about it– did you study a woodwind instrument, or are you a vacuum cleaner salesman?” Or…

“What did you think of the concerto? I loved the way she plays the end– it was really fast, a virtuoso moment.”

Adults like to be asked questions– not too hard, but talking points that draw them out– it may be a future donor with whom you are conversing… and that’s always important.

So next time you are exhausted after playing two hours of Strauss waltz offbeats on your viola, take a moment to think of a fun question to ask a person who paid to hear you perform– try not to focus on the carpal tunnel stuff going on in your neck and shoulder.

Remember, it’s “showbiz.”

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