The Music Will Play On

May 27, 2020

Dear Local 72-147 Members,

I address you now as we all address one of the greatest crises in our union’s history, and in fact, in our nation’s history. We musicians are affected by COVID-19 in an especially personal way. As we were among the very first to feel the economic burn that gathering restrictions and social distancing reeked upon our complete industry, we have sustained a blow at our very core. Beyond the very real economic affects of the shutdown and the dangers to public health, we are further made to stop doing that which brings us life. As we now are kept from coming together to make music in groups, and share that collaboration with our audiences, we wonder when our work, our livelihoods, our mission will be allowed to return. And yet I am seeing our music survive and sing through the void, and our union stepping up to the challenge.

Legislative Advocacy at the time of Crisis

From the moment that the shutdown of the entertainment industry became a previously unimaginable reality, the AFM came together through an immediate campaign to have legislation introduced, which would provide relief for working people in the entertainment industry – every bit as crucial to the economy as the cruise ship, airline and travel industries. After the Families First Coronaviris Response Act was signed into law expanding paid leave and unemployment benefits, mandating paid sick leave and free coronavirus testing, most gig workers in the entertainment industry were still not provided for. After a renewed campaign from the AFM Legislative Department and a letter writing campaign by our members across the nation, unemployment relief was extended to independent contractors for the first time through the CARES Act, signed into law on March 27. Also included in this legislation is added support of the arts through increased funding of the National Endowment of the Arts, and through the SBA’s Payroll Protection Program’s forgivable loans. Here in DFW, our three largest employers of musicians were greatly helped to maintain payroll and benefits to our musicians while being forced to shudder operations. Since the passage of the CARES Act, musicians have been applying for and receiving unemployment benefits, even as the onslaught of applicants and administrative change continues to push the system to its limits in implementing the new programs. Our advocacy for musicians on the congressional level has never been more important.

DFW Musicians COVID-19 Relief Fund

As soon as our first engagements were canceled, we knew that our community had to be pulled together to provide some relief for those impacted the most. Our Executive Board convened by virtual means in the days leading up to the stay at home orders. Those discussions led to the establishment of the DFW Musicians COVID-19 Relief Fund. Through the initial weeks of creating the motor and gears of this new machine, our own musicians and members of the community have come together and donated thousands of dollars. Our fundraising campaign has only begun, I assure you, but through this movement of generosity coming from individuals and internal fundraising from musicians in our groups, notably from the Dallas Symphony and Fort Worth Symphony — and from the marshaling of our resources — we are now taking applications for financial relief and making assistance distributions. You may go to either to donate if you have the ability, or to apply for assistance. Inserted in this newsletter mailing is a list of our contributors to the date of printing, information about donating to the fund, and a mail-in application for assistance with eligibility guidelines for assistance. We are also planning new events to raise funds and bring our community together creatively. Please go to our Facebook Page and follow the Event Page dedicated to our campaign, see what people have posted, and make your posts supporting the fund.

The Music Will Play On

With our bands and orchestras unable to assemble and our audiences kept away, we have already adapted and refused to be silenced. Musicians are performing concerts on front porches, in garden spaces, putting together ensembles through apps, and performing on social media platforms with our arts organizations pursuant to AFM media agreements. As the teachers of this art form – as teaching goes hand in hand with mastering a discipline – we are adapting by creating virtual studios bringing education and edification to students also locked away at home, when they need it the most. And we negotiate with our employers as we face this pandemic together. Our music simply cannot be stopped. We are using our talents to raise relief funds, teach, perform and find new ways not to just survive this black out, but keep the music playing.