BE MORE CHILL Orchestrator Charlie Rosen Speaks Up Against Local 802 Union
Be More Chill officially began its Broadway run last week, and while the show is already celebrating an exciting milestone, conflict as has arisen between the show and Local 802, the union for professional musicians. Orchestrator Charlie Rosen just took to Facebook to explain why the union has prevented him from performing in the pit as Guitar 2 & Ukulele. He writes:
A lot of friends and colleagues have been calling and texting me asking what happened and asking me to fill them in on rumors they've heard, so I'd like to publicly set the record straight. It is with an extremely heavy heart that I am being forced to announce that I will no longer be playing in the pit of Be More Chill unless and until my Union changes its rule discussed below.
The new president of 802 Adam Krauthamer has decided to start enforcing some long overlooked language in the collective bargaining agreement mere days before said CBA is set to be renegotiated. This language states:
(a) (i) No Orchestrator of a given production may serve as Orchestra Contractor, Supervisor Copyist, Copyist or Instrumentalist on that production.
I'd like to begin my thoughts on this first with the narrative of how this language was enacted in my situation. 2 hours before the invited dress rehearsal of Be More Chill, the band was asked to meet with Adam Krauthamer in the orchestra room of our theater so that he could inform us as a group, without warning, that my filling the chair as the Guitar 2 player on Be More Chill was in violation of the CBA and that I cannot legally be allowed to play the show.
All parties agreed on the hiring of us as musicians, and were aware of the archaic language without much concern for it's enforcement on the unions end, as that precedent had seemingly been set. This all took place many weeks after the finalizing of the deal between the whole creative team and the signing of all hiring slips. There are, and have been, countless examples over many years of other orchestrators performing, and subbing on their own shows before me, and to try and retroactively change this to affect me simply serves to spread the optics to both my union and non-union friends, peers, and collaborators that the union will only attempt to strong arm their way around the gigs they can and can't do without any basis in the reality of situations or sensitivity as to the why or how. Instead of searching for a solution moving forward, I was called out in front of my band the result of which could have put the production at a disadvantage and the music at harm while not attempting to find a solution to enforce the language while protecting a member and future precedent.
This language has absolutely no place in the 2019 climate of musicians as the job of orchestrator continues to shift and morph in the modern music industry. Adam Krauthamer's choice to begin to come down on this archaic provision only serves to hurt his own Local 802 members like myself, and other orchestrators in 2019 theater season who contribute to their pits by contributing their playing. I so far have not been given any musically sound reason as to why this clause exists. This old language completely overlooks us musicians who gained our musical vocabulary in real time from playing in bands and other pop formats as opposed to the traditional pen and paper only approach, and have other voices and perspectives about orchestrational processes from experiencing the music from the "inside" of the ensemble. I gain much more insight about how the music plays down when I'm performing my orchestrations in real time, and it allows me to contribute to the creative process in a new way. In no way does it hinder my ability to play, supervise, music direct, or orchestrate a piece of music. In fact, it is a complete natural and beneficial part of my process!
On a personal note, this affects me as a musician and a freelancer in a way that can't be overlooked. I had been planning my life around playing this show and have said no to countless other gigs and opportunities so that I could dedicate my prime gig hours to being there for the show. What particularly feels counterproductive is that this was a deal that everybody had already agreed on, and signed off on. I feel that the confrontational and tactless way in which this situation was handled is indicative of a bigger problem of an administration choosing battles that only hurt their members and bringing atom bombs to ant hills. It continues to show the nature with which the battles they choose are out of touch with the current climate in the scene. As somebody who is constantly doing their best to employ as many other musicians as possible for projects both large and small and attempting to revive and continue the line of large ensemble music as a whole, I am fully prepared to be the biggest union flag waver there could be, but the déclassé and uncommunicative way that this situation has been executed makes any young musicians like myself only more weary of the bullying of which the union is capable.
SO I BEG OF ALL UNION MEMBERS TO MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD. We as members have the power to change the state of things. Please join me in a chorus of voices. There is a membership meeting planned to discuss the Broadway CBA on Wed. 2/27 (https://www.local802afm.org/event/membership-meeting-2/) and I was hoping you would attend and/or e-mail Adam and express your desire to overturn that rule, if you agree it should be overturned.
I hope this status doesn't come across as too inflammatory, I would like for it to serve as a catalyst for discussion about the union's place in all of our lives as musicians in 2019 and how we can improve it.
The Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802 American Federation of Musicians represents over 7,500 highly-skilled musicians who drive New York City's thriving cultural and tourism economy, which brings over 58 million visitors each year. Its members - who perform on Broadway, at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and Radio City, on late night TV shows and in other televised bands, as well as in hotels, clubs, festivals and venues across NYC - are protected by collective bargaining agreements ensuring proper classification, fair treatment and a living wage. www.local802afm.org