Archive for the ‘Musicians Union’ Category

Solidarity Forever… Pending a Viable Alternative

November 26, 2012

When asked why anyone would live in Minnesota, a place that routinely charts temps of -20 in winter and +100 in summer, the answer always includes its rich cultural environment. Historically, the business and community leaders here have been totally in sync, and the result has been a wealth of theater, art and music at all levels. This is why recent news is so disturbing.

As of this writing the musicians of both the Minnesota Orchestra  and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, two world-class ensembles, are living (and not working) under a lockout. Of course, so are the players of the National Hockey League (apparently it spreads like the plague), but while hockey players and owners are squabbling over how to divide up millions of dollars, these accomplished musicians are literally fighting for survival—their personal survival as working musicians, and the survival of artistic integrity they feel would be seriously compromised under the contract being offered them.

I joined the Baltimore union for a gig when I was 17. I dropped it when I quit playing, and I rejoined in 2007 for my jazz funeral band. Obviously, I must see value in representing myself as a union musician and in supporting working musicians in this way. There are a wide range of opinions on unionism and organized labor in general, so I’ll just say this: employers are focused, well-organized and highly motivated to keep wages low. How, without some position of strength in numbers, does an individual wage earner or contractor negotiate for equity? The lockout situation here in Minnesota is sad, but we’re not alone. Arts organizations around the country, including many major orchestras like ours, are in similar turmoil.

So what has sparked all this rumination on unions? I have to hold Sam Towers responsible. He recently uncovered a personal cache of materials that had been hidden away for more than 35 years. It consisted mostly of receipts from Fred Walker, but also included 7 issues of “‘The Baltimore Musician’—Official Journal of the Musicians’ Association of Metropolitan Baltimore, Local No. 40-543 of the American Federation of Musicians” — dated between 1976 and 1978. Almost as much as Joe Vaccarino’s great book, these 6 to 8 page journals provide their own interesting glimpses into Baltimore music.

The issue featured here is the first of the batch, and it’s one of the more interesting. Dated May 1976, it is filled with familiar names from the BaltimoreJam experience and Baltimore music scene. The names include people suspended for nonpayment of dues, reinstated for repaying dues, and a lot of changes to the membership directory by people you will recognize. This issue even has my own address change when I moved  to Minnesota. Roger Pace is listed under his real name of Paesch. There is a formal announcement by Denny Picasso that he is no longer affiliated with Music Men, Inc. (Gary Chalmers’  booking agency … the story behind that announcement must be interesting). I even spotted an address change for my Parkville Elementary School band teacher, Mr. Clarence Ogilvie (I think he played bassoon).

So with thanks to Sam, and a shout out to Jough Loosmore (he’s currently a Director At large of Local 40-543), here are all 8 pages, scanned as PDFs. Click on each individual link to access the full-size PDF of that page.

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976,_page 1

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 2

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 3

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 4

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 5

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 6

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 7

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 8

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Horn Blowing

May 31, 2012

You may or may not know that I have a Minnesota (as opposed to New Orleans) jazz funeral band called Band of Praise. We had the honor of participating in a Memorial Day service here at a 150 year old cemetery (that’s “old” for Minnesota), providing eternal rest to the state’s largest population of Civil War Veterans. The 1st Minnesota Regiment played a prominent and heroic role at Gettysburg and are revered here. In connection  with the press associated with this event, local TV did a nice little promo piece for the band. I thought I’d share it here.

One Lifetime Dream Come True (pt.3)

September 7, 2010

This is the final installment in Dan Trinter’s reflections of a Las Vegas musician from Baltimore.


Las Vegas in the 90‘s – Life as a Union President

1989 produced a huge strike between Musicians and the Hotels.  Almost a year later the Hotels replaced over 700 showroom musicians with taped music.   A major tragedy!!  In 1992, three hundred of the best players in Vegas drafted me to serve as President of the Musicians Union.  For the next eight years I was the President of Local 369 of the American Federation of Musicians.   I worked on every possible problem musicians run into, administered tons of therapy for lots of musicians that had never before been unemployed, and in general worked to salvage what jobs still existed for players.

During those years I dealt with a bunch of good stuff and even more bad stuff.  In the end the Hotels collectively decimated the old Las Vegas Entertainment scene.  They started charging higher prices for shows that were accompanied by pre-recorded tracks.   Musicians in “The Entertainment Capital of the World” were reduced to weekend gigs and weddings.

Dan in Las Vegas in the 21st Century

In 2000 my service at the Union ended.  (It was kind of a relief for me.)  I tried early retirement, but after a few years I got a call from Wayne Newton to finish off a 3 year contract at the Stardust Hotel.  (I had authored that contract for him when I was Local 369 President!) I took it.

In 2007 Terry Fator won the million dollar prize from “America’s Got Talent” and came to Las Vegas to try to get a showroom gig.  Terry Fator’s talent is awesome and quite evident.  Lucky me, I got the call to be a part of his band.!

We worked 3 days a month at the Las Vegas Hilton for about a year, ending when Terry landed a full time gig at the Mirage Hotel: one show a night, five days a week, for five years with a five year renewal option. I am currently 1 ½ years into that Mirage deal, enjoying playing my horn as always.  Sweet!!


There’s an old story about Dan that I heard 2nd hand. It starts with Dan being asked by a casino manager why they paid him so much as a musician and band leader. In response, Dan grabbed the lead trumpet part off the stand and, while both sight reading and transposing the trumpet music, played it flawlessly … up an octave! “That’s why.” was Dan’s answer.

I thought it would be good to conclude this musician’s tale with a sample of Dan’s playing. He sent me this little clip back when we first started doing the Jams. It’s just Dan in his basement, with a few electronic friends, playing a trombone solo of the great Ray Charles (and later Joe Cocker) hit “Sticks and Stones.”

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"Sticks & Stones" — Dan Trinter, trombone

One Lifetime Dream Come True (pt.2)

August 15, 2010

Remembrances of Dan Trinter …


How I went to Las Vegas

I had almost quit Si Zentner’s band.  I contemplated a return to Baltimore, or continuing with Zentner band.  Instead, my wife and I jumped off the band bus and moved to Las Vegas.    .

Las Vegas in the 60’s, 70,s and 80,s

Las Vegas in the middle sixties was just beginning to flourish.  The State Gaming Comission required Hotels to stay open 24 hours a day, maintain a Headline Showroom and offer Lounge entertainment 24 hours a day!  The Musicians Union was very strong and  very active.  Lots of work!

The day we arrived  we both joined the Las Vegas Musicians Union, Local 369.   Strings were in strong demand that summer.  My wife, a violinist, started getting calls to work the day we arrived I went to work within two weeks. We both got to play with all sorts of Musical Heroes that had settled in town.

By 1970 the Culinary Workers, Stagehands, and Musicians Unions united to negotiate a beautiful contract providing employees Job Security, Health Benefits, Vacation pay, Overtime pay, Rehearsal pay, and Pension benefits. SWEET!!!!   There was still a huge shortage of players – some musicians were working two or even three jobs a night!

For the next thirty years I enjoyed playing in the showrooms behind every big star imaginable: (Jimmy Durante, Jack Benny, Mel Tillis, Phyllis Diller, Bob Newhart, Tony Bennett, Barbara Eden, Danny Thomas, Bob Goulet, Fifth Dimension, Bernadette Peters, Marlene Deitrich, Lena Horne, Paul Anka, Trini Lopez, Julie London,  Jackson Five, Leo Sayer, Bobby Gentry, Jimmy Dean, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr…, and all of the other Vegas Headliners – just about all the big stars!).   Broadway?  I played Fiddler on the Roof, Promises, Promises, 42nd Street, Chorus Line… my brain cells cannot retrieve them all!  I played all of the big French Production Shows (Lido, Casino de Paris, Follies Bergere… usually with casts of over a hundred beautiful, mostly naked, women.  It was a really lucrative time for all ‘Vegas Musicians.  The Unions maintained all of the contracts and negotiated yearly raises and improvements in our work conditions.  Thanks AFM!

Dan Trinter

Dan Trinter

One Lifetime Dream Come True (pt.1)

August 2, 2010

Dan Trinter is a fine man and a mighty fine musician. We played trombone together at Parkville High School, went to the Peabody Conservatory together, and drank beer at Loch Raven together. He was a working Baltimore musician in the ’60s, a working Las Vegas musician and band leader in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s,  and President of the Las Vegas local of the American Federation of Musicians in the ’90s. In 2007 he joined Terry Fator’s band at the Las Vegas Hilton and currently works for Fator at the Mirage.

When Jere Stermer sent me his old Musicians Union Statement a while back I got to thinking about the union and working musicians, and that got me thinking about Dan. He agreed to write some of his remembrances and reflections from his unique perspective for posting here. What follows is Part 1 … with thanks to Dan Trinter.



How I joined the Union

I grew up in Baltimore, surrounded by many really talented musicians.  I knew guys from bands like the Poker Chips, the Majestics, Mello-Men, the Del Monicos, the Dynamics, the Echoes, and plenty of other bands.  By the time I entered High School I had decided to try to make it as a professional musician. (Thanks to Ivan Bowser, Ray Otten, and John Melick!)

In 1963 Hank Levy invited a few of us (Don Lehnhoff, Don Barto, Randy Fillmore, me and some others) to rehearse with his Kenton-style Big Band.   Hank had a concert booked for a Baltimore Jazz Club (The Eastwind?).  We knew little about the Musicians Union, but felt we should join as part of the Hank Levy experience, so we all went to Local 40 on N. Eutaw Street to sign up.

Victor Fuentealba, Local 40 President ushered us into his office, conducted a polite interview with us, then ceremoniously signed us up as members of Local 40 congratulating us for being proficient enough to play with Hank Levy.

I later learned that there may have been an age requirement that Victor “waived” for us to become members. Vic later served as President of the AFM from 1978 to 1987.

Thanks, Vic!

Dan Trinter

How I turned “Professional”

In 1966, I got a call to go on the road with Si Zentner’s big band.  Si was a famous trombone player with about 10 Gold Records, his most recent being “Up A Lazy River.” Brent Price,  one of the Hank Levy guys, was playing lead trumpet for Si and recommended me when an opening came up.   Thanks, Brent!

About ten months later the Draft Board caught up with me and demanded that I get a physical exam.  They needed me to fight in Viet Nam!  I made an appointment for my Army physical during a 5 day booking in Salt Lake City.  I planned to take my physical, quickly leave the band, return to Baltimore and try to join one of the Army Bands before they could put a rifle in my hands.

COLOR BLIND!!!  I was rejected by the Army because I could not distinguish colors to their satisfaction!  Sweet!!!