Friday, December 02, 2005

Traveling and Local Theatre Musicians: An Ongoing Dilemma

It is a beautiful sunny day in Denver; nearly 60 degrees. The weather has generally been warmer than usual (as it is most places now, during this time of global warming!) with many sunny days over the past five weeks. It has gotten below freezing occasionally, but no snow has made it to the east side of the Rockies yet this season.

After tonight's show, I've got two more days and four more shows to go in this city. Our last two shows are on Sunday. Then on to Cincinnati for four weeks (32 shows = eight shows a week).

The show's run here has been fun because for the first time, our little 12-member touring orchestra in "Phantom" has been augmented by local musicians. The violin section has been expanded from two to five; viola and cello have been doubled; the addition of oboe/eng. hn to the woodwind section; and most importantly (for the horn section) two trumpets!

Since we two horns are usually the only "live" brass (the bass trombone and two trumpet parts are synthesized in our pared-down "tour" version -- ugh!!) the addition of the two live trumpets makes our job a LOT easier. The brass chords are now filled-in nicely, and the horns are not as exposed.

It is a joy to play with these people (who are all excellent musicians) and to experience a more expanded orchestration of the "Phantom" score. I wish we could do this in every city.

But the situation in Denver is an unusual one, because of the strong local musicians union and their arrangement with the local theatre. It is amazing that both local and traveling musicians have been equally accomodated during this run. This should be a model for every theatre we play in!

Awhile ago, I told the lead trumpet player that going back to our usual pared-down orchestration in Cincinnati will feel like watching a black and white TV rather than color.

The situation with "traveler" and "local" musicians is a tough one, and not as easily solved as it has been here in Denver.

There can be a conflict of interest. Many local musicians think that traveling ones take away their jobs whenever Phantom comes to their town. When I played shows in Sacramento, I never begrudged the traveling musicians their jobs. It's THEIR gig, after all! (I had enough work otherwise.)

Touring musicians sacrifice everything to go on the road; they don't have a "life", per se. They EARN their money. Locals who have a home don't understand this.

In the largest US cities, the AF of M touring contract protects local players by establishing high "minimums" in the theatres, which displaces many of us touring musicians. We are laid off in these cases.

So in effect, the musicians union that I pay dues to turns around and puts me out of work in some cities! I have been on both sides of the fence, and understand each viewpoint. It is a tough call.

I didn't intend to go into such detail about this when I first started today's entry, but perhaps some people will find it interesting, after all!

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