Kansas Show at Family Arena Will Go On, Despite Pissy Musicians' Union [Updated]

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The Kansas show planned for the Family Arena this weekend could be in hot water with the local union representing St. Louis-area musicians.


Apparently, instead of giving hardworking local musicians a shot at a paying gig, Kansas has cruelly invited the student orchestra at Truman State University to perform instead.

Oh, the humanity!

As of last Friday, the Musicians' Association of St. Louis confirmed that it was still trying to decide whether its members would picket the Family Arena. (We'll provide an update as soon as we hear back from them.) [Update, Wednesday, October 6: The Musicians' Association plans to picket; see below for a statement from them.]
The good news: The Arena's management extracted promises from other unions, such as the stagehands, that they would not strike in solidarity with the musicians. So rest easy, Kansas fans. The show will go on.

"We've been assured by all the people involved that there will be a concert," says Steven Rosenblatt, the director of the Family Arena. "There's no threat."

The Family Arena is the last stop on Kansas' 2010 Collegiate Symphony Tour, a collaboration with D'Addario, a manufacturer of instrument strings, to raise money to support university music programs.

Hence, the involvement of Truman State's orchestra.

"We started by cold-calling schools all over the country to find out if there was interest in us coming to play with their orchestras," Kansas drummer Phil Ehart wrote on the band's website.

We immediately discovered that most schools have no money for their music programs. We then thought of performing the shows as fundraisers, helping to raise funding for the school's music programs. As we started talking to the schools, we found out that many of them don't even have a place on campus for a school symphony concert...but they do have an 80,000 seat football stadium! I had one school music director actually break down emotionally on the phone with me - he was very distraught that this might be his school's last year with a music program. He thought this concert might actually save the music program for another year!

And the Musicians' Association of St. Louis wants to protest this noble endeavor, to jeopardize the future of the music program at Truman State? Or maybe its members just want to put an early end to the students' naive dreams of spending their lives making music?

The career of a student musician is a fleeting one -- dust in the wind, you might say. They get just four years of glory, wearing ridiculous costumes and marching around a football field to spell things, or performing the world's great orchestral works on the acoustically-perfect stage of a college auditorium, or playing their own compositions before crowds of over-awed undergraduates who will then buy them beer and/or sleep with them.

After that, it's nothing but weddings, community theater and performing overplayed covers just to keep the bar crowd happy. No wonder these guys are trying to picket the Truman State-rs at their dream gig.

Whatever. Note to the union: You still look pretty stupid.

[Update, Wednesday, October 6: 

Vicky Smolik, president of the Musicians' Association of St. Louis, Local 2-197, A.F.M., says that the union "will be picketing and hand billing" the show. Smolik passed on a public notice which reads:

D'Addario & Company, Inc. is the sponsor of this performance of Kansas at the Family Arena in St. Charles, Missouri on October 9, 2010. Non-professional students from Truman State University are accompanying Kansas at this performance for which they are unpaid or minimally paid, and these students are taking the place of professional musicians who would accompany the band Kansas.

Kansas is an established rock band that has produced classic rock albums using professional musicians. It is unfortunate that they are putting on performances using students from a Missouri public institution who are unpaid or minimally paid for this ticketed public performance. Professional musicians are being denied the opportunity to accompany Kansas and receive wages and fringe benefits for themselves and/or their families.

Performances such as this one undermine live musical bands and the opportunity for professional musicians to earn a living.

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