My name is Greg Riley, candidate for the Local 802 Executive Board. I’ve been a member of the American Federation of Musicians since 1989, when I joined the Kansas City Local 34-627. Back then I didn’t understand the significance of the hyphenated union number, but I do now.
Earlier this year the issue was raised and researched in the Philadelphia Musicians’ Local 77. I came to see that the hyphenation highlights the history of more than 50 cities that had separate black unions in the days of legalized segregation. When segregation was no longer the law of the land, the American Federation of Musicians was forced to merge its black and white unions. Kansas City was one that accepted “the merger,” and thus, the hyphenation. Other black locals, however, resisted the consolidation because they didn’t want to give up what they had already attained. They knew their value and didn’t want to simply surrender their power to those who barred their entry into the white locals. Representation matters.
As the song goes, “The future’s not ours to see.” We can’t tell what’s coming, but we can look at what’s happening today and admit that there has not been true representation for all. One thing is certain: we are destined to continue to not fairly represent all musicians unless we actively choose leadership that fosters a culture of inclusion.
I believe in the power of mentoring through arts education, and in advocating for musicians who have been marginalized, excluded, and undervalued in our industry. I am an active member of Musicians United for Social Equity (MUSE), Tutti: Diversifying the Playbill, American Federation of Musicians Local 77 Council for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access, and Solidarity (IDEAS), and American Federation of Musicians Local 802 Musicians for Change. These organizations have the compassion and courage to inspire change.
In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown states, “Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen.” For the past three years, the Musicians for Change have demonstrated their willingness to show up during difficult contract negotiations, and better working conditions. I hope you will consider 802 Musicians for Change.
I currently teach at University of the Arts in Philadelphia (and previously held positions at Pepperdine University, Azusa Pacific University, and West Chester University of Pennsylvania). I currently perform on Broadway, with The Philly POPS, VoxAmaDeus, chamber music, and do live and studio recordings.
It would be my honor to serve you, the members of Local 802.