DMA Election Forum

The Denver Musicians Association is preparing for its triennial election. Mail ballots will be delivered on March 3rd and must be mailed back by March 25th.

This is a difficult time for our industry, but we are thankful to have outstanding and dedicated individuals who are now running for elected office. I encourage them to share their viewpoints and participate in any discussion that may follow.

“All Politics is Local” – Thomas “Tip” O’Neill

  1. Ed Knox
    April 11th, 2009 at 09:10 | #1

    I share Mary’s frustration regarding the blurred lines. I am very hopeful that when there are Union Players on stage with non-union players, that they – at the very least – use the opportunity for ‘Organizing.’ Think about it for just a moment. How wonderful it would be if all performing Musicians had a steadfast minimum for which they would perform!

    So, I ask everyone who reads this post to consider UNION PRIDE. Where is it? Is it lost? Do you have it? Did you take it? Has it been stolen?

    When folks ask about your Musical activities, do you proudly tell them that you are a Member of the Denver Musicians’ Association? Do you remember that the DMA is a LOCAL UNION of the American Federation of Musicians? Do you direct others to our website? ( Do you know some of the benefits of Membership? Can you tell others about the benefits of Membership?

    Just a few ponderings for everyone.

    Please do YOUR part to promote not only our industry, but our Association as well.

  2. March 25th, 2009 at 09:53 | #2

    Yes, Mike, the CMF orchestra pay scale would be on top of my agenda. In the past 2 1/2 years, I’ve already raised this issue with the DMA Board of Directors at two meetings.
    This spring, it’s time to gather input from BPO members and local CMF musicians/subs/extras to get ideas and formalize a strategy on how to proceed.
    Long range goal: CBA at/or above DMA scales
    This summer, start discussions w/CMF musicians about scale and a CBA.
    Short range goal: The union needs to approach CMF management with the requirement that local musicians used as “subs or extras” be paid minimum DMA scale for rehearsals and performances; also, travel/per diem for their regional run outs.
    Go Rockies! 2wks

  3. Thomas A. Blomster
    March 25th, 2009 at 09:50 | #3

    Michael, the situation with the Colorado Music Festival is one which I have already spent time addressing with the board and is a VERY high priority for me. I find the pay scale and working conditions of the CMF unacceptable, and you are quite right that the CMF is sucking up all kinds of funding, especially in Boulder county. This has a serious impact on the Boulder Philharmonic and other Boulder arts organizations as well.

    Over a year ago I attended a DMA board meeting to discuss the CMF situation. At the time I wanted to at least bring a stop to the CMF advertising with the DMA and in the International Musician. I believe the agreement at that time was to advertise the CMF with the DMA, but to clarify that there is no collective bargaining agreement.

    Here is what I would like to see happen whether or not I am elected vice president of the DMA:

    1. The DMA stops accepting work dues from the CMF and stops allowing the CMF to advertise in the IM. The dues money comes to the DMA in a large bulk check at the end of each summer season (sometimes late, I understand) and it comes with no information ie: how much work dues was taken out of any musicians check. As I understand it, it is also illegal to collect work dues without the musicians agreeing to such collection in writing. More importantly, accepting these work dues puts the DMA in a poor position to do anything, especially given the sub-standard pay at the CMF.

    2. As soon as the DMA terminates it’s illegal relationship with the CMF, we begin a campaign for a collective bargaining agreement. Given the history of the CMF and it’s current music director, this will not be easy (see article and my post on the blog at: I think that we will need a multi-pronged approach that includes pressure from the Boulder community and also on a national level. Much of this will include a massive education effort on the part of the DMA for both the musicians involved and for the community and management that supports the CMF. This should include a campaign within the AFM that would bring pressure on the CMF musicians from their home locals. There are national and local bylaws in regards to undercutting our fellow musicians. Also, most of the CMF musicians are currently or will be involved in negotiations with their home orchestras. How can they argue for better pay in their home local when they are willing to play for next to nothing in Boulder?

    The education effort with the Boulder community should focus on how the CMF and it’s oversized budget are damaging to the overall health of the arts in Boulder county, the metropolitan/front range area, and statewide.

    I don’t think this is going to be an easy walk in the park, but it needs to happen. If we can be successful in organizing the CMF, it will be the first step towards rectifying the problems with various other music festivals in the state (including Bravo Vail).

    By the way, the situation with the CMF, and also the Ft. Collins Symphony, Greeley Philharmonic, and Cheyenne Symphony are all reasons for the creation of the expanded VP position at the DMA. With a more active VP, the DMA will be able to better spend time organizing these non-union orchestra.

  4. Michael Allen
    March 25th, 2009 at 08:21 | #4

    I wonder if the VP candidates could each write on the subject of the Colorado Music Festival? This is a situation ripe for a long overdue CBA.

    As we all know (and as long as we are talking about improving scales and pension), AFM musicians come to Colorado from all over the country for 6 weeks every summer to “get away from the grind” of their own orchestras and play for well below the prevailing local scale. By the way, this group also includes a number of 20-623 musicians.

    The CMF also sponges up funding from SCFD, CCA, NEA as well as significant corporate and individual donor dollars while paying its musicians with a token and a view of the Flatirons. Meanwhile, the Boulder Philharmonic (that does have a hard fought CBA) struggles to make ends meet.

    Mr. Gray? Mr. Blomster? Thoughts here on the last day to vote?

    Damn – wish I had thought of this earlier. Whoever wins can expect for me (at least) to hold their feet to the fire on this one.

  5. Ed Knox
    March 20th, 2009 at 13:21 | #5

    @Nikki Tsuchiya

    Nikki, I have been a fairly active Member in DMA for around a dozen years. I can tell you that our Board Members are ALL dedicated to the collective interests of we rank-and-file Members and to our industry. You are apparently repeating rumors that are unsubstantiated, and I strongly suggest that you attend the meetings yourself so that you will then know whether or not the Board Members are in attendance at the General Membership meetings. You might not have – as of yet – started receiving our e-bulletins and the DMA Newsletter that is sent out regularly, but in the printed version that is mailed to us all, there is a report in every issue which includes the list of attendees of Board Members at all Board meetings. The minutes of both the Board meeting and the General Membership meeting are included so that those of us who are unable to attend the General Membership meetings are able to keep abreast of the Local Union goings-on.

    At every General Membership meeting, there is a log-book where we sign in. Several times during each meeting, we in attendance hear friendly reminders to sign in. Among other things, this roster is kept in order to substantiate when we do and when we do not have a quorum present. This is a historical document, and is available for you to see.

    Please take a moment to thank those who take time away from their families for the purpose of doing our work.

    Ed Knox

  6. Thomas A. Blomster
    March 11th, 2009 at 10:49 | #6

    Hi Mary,

    Let’s start with an overview of the labor movement in the USA. For the past 30 years the percentage of workers who are union members has shrunk to under 10%.

    Next, there are far more musicians than there are gigs. Many of these gigs pay, but they don’t pay scale, or they pay just short of scale.

    I understand that for a young or new player in the area to start working and get their foot in the door, non-union gigs can serve as a beginning. Community orchestras can serve as a place to keep your chops up after school.

    Here are some ideas on how to deal with these situations:

    Awareness and education is a priority. Many musicians who belong to the DMA don’t actually know what scale is, so when a group pays a little bit below scale, they accept it. So our members need to understand and know what scale is for a given situation. Those scales are posted at in the members area (if you need a password for the members area, call the DMA offices at 303-573-1717 and they will set up a password for you. It’s a great resource).

    If a gig is not paying scale or worse yet, the employers claim they are paying scale and aren’t, make that phone call to the DMA and make an anonymous report on the situation so that the DMA can collect information towards negotiating a master agreement or scale. The more folks the DMA hears from, the more it empowers the union to take action.

    A way that the DMA can help is that the advertisements that appear in the weekly e-letter should be catagorized as either union or non-union. I did meet with the Board of Directors a couple of years ago to discuss this issue, and for a short period of time, orchestras listing vacancies were identified as being union, non-union, or community. I am not sure what happened to the union versus non-union designation, but will see if we can’t reinstitute that. I question if we should let any non-union group advertise opening with the DMA, so I’d be happy to hear from any members on this subject. While I understand the community building aspect of letting non-groups advertise openings with the DMA, I wonder if we are hurting the union cause?

    There are several groups in the region that are paying below scale, including the Colorado Music Festival that Pete talks about in his posting regarding the Arts stimulus package. One of the goals of the DMA in creating a part-time paid position of vice-president is to free up some of Pete’s time so that he can actively organize. In addition to actually organizing a group and getting a Master Agreement in place, the DMA and it’s members can make phone calls, write letters or emails, and meet with funding organizations like the Colorado Council on the Arts and the SCFD and put pressure on these funding groups to follow their own rules (like WHY is the CMF considered eligible for this Arts stimulus grant when they are clearly in violation of the requirement to pay prevailing wage).

    Another way that we can all educate ourselves about the financial conditions of any arts group is to use, where you can look up the IRS 990 for any non-profit group. Even though much information can be hidden in a 990, it will give you an overview of the financial health and spending priorities of a given arts group. Non-profit arts organizations depend on a lot of volunteerism, and unfortunately, this allows for quite a bit of abuse in terms of financial responsibility.

    Finally, over the past several years I have had discussions with both our local union folks and some national union figures about the need for an educational workshop on the purpose of the AFM for young musicians who are in college or getting ready to graduate and enter the work force. At this time, most young musicians are terribly ignorant about the benefits of the AFM, and most universities are anywhere from apathetic to anti-union, so we need to make a national push to educate.

    To sum up, there are many things that we can do to empower ourselves, both individually, and as an organization. I want to stress that the active participation of the membership can make all the difference in the world. Taking the time to contact the DMA or make that phone call or email to our politicians or public funding groups can make all the difference in the world.

    OK, that’s enough for this morning. Please feel free to contact me if you have further questions, observations, or ideas!

    Thomas Blomster

  7. Mary C. Jungerman
    March 10th, 2009 at 20:12 | #7

    Hi, Thomas,
    I can’t come down for your campaign shindig next week, but I do have one issue I’d like your take on concerning the free lance/union scene around here. It concerns the blurred lines between union and non-union work among orchestras, church gigs, etc. throughout the front range area. It does seem like nearly everyone plays some of each, and I’m not even sure which orchestras are union anymore. Players I know (or think I know) to be union seem to be contracting in situations where it’s not clear there’s any union presence, etc. Perhaps this is something the union just can’t do anything about, or there are separate contracts with the union which have been negotiated, etc. But I’m also convinced that people are contracting both union and non-union folks for the same gigs, and this blurs the lines even more. There’s such a range of work and types of gigs, and now, lack of money for people producing concerts, that it feels hard to even bring this up right now.

    I don’t like the feeling that I’m not living up to my union responsibilities if I play with non-union folks or for gigs where I’m not sure of the union connection, but so many of the top freelancers are at some of these gigs, and, honestly, there’s not so much work around that people can be too choosy sometimes.

    I’d be interested in your take on our responsibilities as union members in this fluctuating situation, and your ideas as to what the union can and should be doing to clarify everything and make union membership seem more important, particularly for CU students who can do lots of gigging around in groups that have no union contract and not pay the dues, etc.

  8. jim gray
    March 9th, 2009 at 14:06 | #8

    March 5, 2009

    Dear Musicians,
    I’m writing to ask you to vote for me for Vice President of the Denver Musician’s Association. Since most of the workload will be overseeing Contract Bargaining Agreements, I would like to share some of my goals and ideas.

    Work towards a livable wage: $120-140/service and pension 8-10%

    We need to do more than just protect the jobs we have now; we must try to create new work in the area. This can come from the union, but we also need ideas, observations and input from every member.

    Promote the DMA and our membership: Run numbers demonstrating the economic multiplier effect money spent on the arts has on the community. Share this information with the press, government agencies, post on DMA website, blogs, etc. (The last time I saw numbers showing the multiplier effect of arts dollars was during Little Mermaid; they were specific and they were huge.)

    If you have an area of expertise or happen to research a subject for yourself, share it with the membership. Ex: Thank you Marti Henry for your input on instrument insurance in the winter edition of the Denver Musician. Thank you Pete for creating ‘The Hospitality Suite’.

    We all have ideas. Let’s not just waste them chatting in the hallway. The union should be a conduit for these ideas (and yes complaints) to performing groups, arts management, and members. Let’s encourage creativity and input from all our members and put those ideas to good use.

    Research and share what might be working for other arts organizations and unions. Ex: New York is trying to create a recording enterprise zone. We could work with the Mayor, Governor, IATSE, DPAC, DCPA, etc. to create a Broadway enterprise zone, building a favorable work environment for the development and staging of theatrical productions. The Theatre League already likes Denver and Seattle; maybe we can get them to like us a little more.

    Well, that’s a handful of ideas that I’ve had recently. With the economy steaming downhill, it’s going to be hard to enact some changes in the short run, all the more reason to ‘think outside the box’ looking to the future. Let’s work together to build a stronger, healthier musical scene in Denver.

    All the best to you and your family in these difficult times.
    Jim Gray

  9. Nikki Tsuchiya
    March 6th, 2009 at 22:56 | #9

    Dear Members,

    I am a new member and as such, am concerned as I understand that some of the current sitting board members have not been working on our behalf, not even attending meetings for the past several months. As a dues paying union member, I would like to know if they have been getting paid for doing nothing for several months? Now we all know that the Board is primarily a volunteer position and the pay does not even begin to cover the time and effort involved in being a truly active board member. However, folks presumably run for such positions of their own choosing. If they are unable for whatever reason to fulfill their term, I think it’s only fair to resign and let someone else do the work and collect the pay. I hope the current crop of board candidates have not only an agenda but some time to try to put their agendas in action. I also hope the elected officers will assert some real enforcement of the standing rules. Otherwise, what are we doing this for? Unfortunately, I cannot be at the Meet the Candidates gathering but these are some issues I’d ask them to address.

  10. Lloyd Bowen
    March 5th, 2009 at 13:28 | #10

    I have been a member of our Local since 1948 and have also been active as your vice-president, a board member for several terms, and worked on many committees helping to foster good working conditions. These include the MPF committee and volunteer efforts to organize promotional functions such as our DMA Annual Ball.

    There was a period of time when we had luncheons at the union for senior members, which were all very well attended. Perhaps we might consider having them again. …but back to music: Music is my life, and working with you and for you in the future is something I look forward to.

    Lloyd Bowen
    Candidate for the DMA Executive Board

  11. Thomas A. Blomster
    March 1st, 2009 at 16:44 | #11

    Reminiscences and Preamble for Vice-President Candidate Thomas A. Blomster

    Recently I participated in a performance of the 4th Movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The performance brought together the combined forces of the Littleton Chorale, the Colorado Chamber Orchestra, Chapparel High School Orchestra, and a number of high school choirs as part of the Littleton Choral High School Choral Festival, an annual event. This year was the first time that we included a high school orchestra as part of the CCO’s educational mission Side by Side.

    Because of the logistics of putting this festival on in one day, for me it ends up being several hours of frantic effort that results in a wonderful experience, especially for the young musicians involved. Our goal is to give these young musicians a good musical experience that they won’t forget, one that will inspire their continued efforts.

    As I sat counting rests and listening to this powerful work of music I had a number of thoughts and memories. The first time I ever performed Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was as a child. My father and I sang in the chorus for a performance with Dr. Antonio Brico and her Brico Symphony (now the Denver Philharmonic). Even though I was singing soprano in the choir, my favorite part of rehearsals was watching and waiting for the percussion to come in. This was also when I first met Carol Michalowski, a longtime DMA member and violinist/contractor who recently died. Carol was quite a character and presence in the Denver and Colorado music scene. As a high school student, I worked with and for Carol in the Jefferson Symphony with T. Gordon Parks and also with Nicholas Laurienti and his Denver Opera Company, who I contracted for years later. (Nick was a genius at selecting dates when everyone was already working!)

    As the beauty of Beethoven’s music and the powerful message of humanity with Schiller’s Ode to Joy filled my ears, I was once again amazed at the democratic process of performing with an orchestra, chorus, and conductor. It never fails to astonish me that all these people with different ideas, attitudes, religious and political beliefs can come together in an environment of respect and humanity.

    We are in a time of difficult economics when tough decisions and priorities have to be made. I think that more than ever, music and the arts are important to all of us, and that we must make a priority of keeping the music going, and making music accessible to all.
    If elected vice-president, I want to make sure that the need and value of professional musicians in our society is understood. I know that unfortunately some compromises may be needed for the current economic climate, but I also want to insure that these are short-term compromises, and that they lead to a healthier environment for us as performers and teachers.

    I am open to any questions or ideas you might have, whether general or specific in nature. Please feel free to contact me. The DMA is a democratic organization, so we need to hear from you so that fair representation may take place.

  12. Thomas A. Blomster
    March 1st, 2009 at 16:31 | #12

    Dear DMA members,

    This is a heads up that you will be receiving a postcard in the next couple of days inviting you to a “Meet the Candidates” open house at my home on Wednesday, March 11 from 4 to 8 PM. The gathering is being hosted by Vice-Presidential candidate Thomas A. Blomster and Board candidate Lloyd Bowen. We will have an assortment of beverages and snacks, and we hope that you will stop by and meet and speak with Lloyd and Thomas. We want to stimulate your vote!

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