|Numinous The Music of Joseph C. Phillips Jr.
The Numinosum Blog
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2012
"The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is Reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall."-Thomas Paine, introduction to The Age of Reason (1794)
As noted in an earlier post or reading here or here, our performances at BAM's Next Wave Festival last week were a resounding success; great, enthusiastic and sold-out crowds all three nights, beautiful and dynamic performances by the musicians, and incredible appreciation of our performances from BAM. One organization that was not happy with our performances however was the Local 802 Musician's union. If you came to the performance you might have been greeted by the below fliers that their members were handing out or might even have spotted the 'rat.' I've really thought over the past few days about whether I should actually respond to the union's false and misleading accusations leveled at me and Numinous or just let the incredibly supportive reaction from audiences, BAM, and musicians speak for themselves. In the end, while I have strong opinions about everything that went on especially the tactics employed by the Union such as the disingenuous fliers and the negative posting on my own Facebook page and BAM's Facebook Event listing, I've decided that I will respond, not with my opinions of the situation, but rather with facts and reason and you can decide for yourselves if "Numinous Music Unfair to Musicians."
Claim: "The Loves of Pharaoh is being played by musicians who are not under contract..."
Fact: Despite the rhetoric of the two union representatives confronting me at a rehearsal a week before the shows that our performances "had" to be under contract, I had no legal obligation to be on a union contract. The agreement between BAM and Numinous paid the musicians a fair wage for performances and rehearsals and was actually based on union rates. No actual Numinous musician complained nor had any issue with the arrangement. Ironic since I was actually happy that because of BAM and the Festival I was able to pay decent wages to everyone. The contract the union initially wanted me to sign a week before the shows was for several thousand dollars more than what BAM and I agreed was already a fair wage for performances and rehearsals (again, based on union rates). This extra money was supposed to come from me, just days before the performances or the union was going to "stop the show."
Claim: "...[musicians] who are not receiving pay and benefits that are the standards upheld by Local 802 AFM to ensure fair living for musicians in New York."
Fact: The pay issue I addressed above: the pay was based on union rates. And although I had no obligation, I did offer to find a way to pay into those Numinous member's pension/health care funds (despite that this would have had to come out of my own pocket since the agreement with BAM had a fixed budget), however I was told by the union that that was not possible without a union contract; and said union contract would bind me and Numinous to union rules and regulations in the future, limiting my performance possibilities with Numinous, which I was not going to do and will not do.
Claim: "Do not patronize The Loves of Pharaoh."
Fact: After being repeatedly threaten by the union the week leading up to the show that they were going to stop the performances if I did not sign the contract, after speaking to several legal consul on this, the only leverage the union really had was to pressure the six union members not to perform with Numinous or they would be brought up on charges of violating the union by-laws and possibly thrown out the union (although almost ALL union members regularly participate in non-union performances and ensembles throughout the city with little to no reprisals), which they did, resulting in me losing four members of Numinous Thursday evening, the day of the premiere (fortunately I was able to find one non-union replacement just before the performance started and three more for Friday and Saturday's performances; two people quit the union the night of the premiere and performed the shows); those union members who did not perform, who put in countless hours of preparation for the shows, sadly lost out on a good paying performance.
Claim: "This is not a labor dispute with BAM."
Fact: I can not speak to any previous issues the union may have had with BAM, but I do know that in the 12 years I've had Numinous, we've been ignored by the union until the week before these high-profile performances.
Those that know me personally or who have performed with me know that I'm the last person that would be "unfair to musicians" and while I was sadden by the added stress that this situation burdened myself and the other musicians with as we were preparing for the performances, it did not dampen or wilt our excitement and our resolve. The commission from and invitation to play at BAM and the Next Wave Festival is a wonderful honor and opportunity, one that represents the next higher level of profile for myself and Numinous and one that any musician, composer, or group would gladly accept. I was not going to let the union or anyone else deny us this chance, nor dim our future. And the fact that the shows were incredibly successful artistically and everyone was pleased, brought a tremendous amount of satisfaction to all of us involved.
These will be my final and only public words on this subject, since I'm interested in moving on and continuing to work hard to create wonderful (and well-paid) performance opportunities for Numinous. Thank you for reading my position on this and I will leave you with a few words from musicians and audience members to speak for themselves:
The only course [the union] found was to slander and seek division, rather than build solidarity, and...whose only resort was to yell out from balconies and attempt to soil the reputation of a non-union band. If they had any hope of gaining membership or solidarity from any of the folks performing then they clearly wasted the valuable opportunity by handing out those fliers with that kind of language.
...great experience, totally honored to have been there!
I have collaborated with Joe Phillips since 2008. I think Joe Phillips is an incredible composer, leader and hard working individual. I have never felt abused or exploited when working with him. I fully support him and his work and am happy to be part of Numinous Ensemble.
[The union's] actions only succeeded in alienating musicians from the Local 802; their attempts at solidarity without knowing the facts did nothing but create hostility between the ensemble and Local 802. Furthermore, Numinous is an ensemble with a long history, not just some "pick-up" gig - and to barge in (at the last minute) and challenge that - "break up the family", if you will - did more harm than good. I was considering joining Local 802 as I am very pro-union in general, but after this experience I will stay as far away from it as I possibly can.
Thank you so much for offering us all this incredible opportunity to play your beautiful music and in such a rare and exciting context. I am honored by your invitation and inspired by your perseverance in the face of all the stressful and unexpected last minute changes.
I attended last Friday’s performance and was surprised to find a union rep handing out fliers at the door...As a long time union member as well as a professional colleague and friend of Joe Phillips I was surprised and offended by the action taken by the union...Most of his ensemble has been playing with him for years and his loyalty to his players is well known among musicians. The fact that his ensemble was poised to make an auspicious New York debut of an important original concert piece of Joe’s makes this all the more disturbing and sad.
UPDATE: Because of all of the fall-out from supporters, now NOT unfair. Not that there was any doubt nor was I told this from the organization nor is it found anywhere online (some friends asked about it and was told, and let me know), but hey...
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 8:51 PM
To all things that create a sense of wonder and beauty that inspires and enlightens.