Musicians Institute

What Happened To The Union?
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I came to Los Angeles to attend B.I.T. in 1978. Things were a little unorganized. G.I.T. had been going for a few years but this was the first year of the bass school. Chuck Rainey was head of the bass dept. I can't tell you how much I, a kid from Canada raised on prog rock, learned from just sitting and listening to Chuck play. He grooved so hard you could hear the entire rhythm section in just a simple bass line. Other bass instructors included Paul Farnen, and Steve Anderson. Visiting faculty included Tim Bogert- probably my favorite bass player of all time at that point (Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, Beck Bogert & Appice) and Ray Brown.

It was a little weird to be in school after the intense party years of Harbinger. But I buckled down and tried to get my head around music theory, reading and jazz improv.

I won the 'Most Likely To Succeed' award (a nicely embossed piece of paper- future recipients got a bass!) and was offered a job as a teachers assistant for $10 an hour.

I taught for a year or so before the Savoy Brown gig came along. I went back in about 1983 and stayed until 1987 when I finally got so sick of being lied to that I quit. I loved the work and my teacher friends, but the owner, Pat Hicks, was a Class A asshole who I now see preyed upon our youthful enthusiasm. It wouldn't have been a big deal except that he'd always promised us a taste when the school got established. Instead of profit sharing and benefits we got one and two dollar raises. He bought the mansion on the hill and the new Jag. I took it personally and quit.

When the school was bought in the mid 90s I thought about teaching there again and started subbing which led to a regular teaching gig in 1997. Mostly I taught bass in Carl SCHROEDER's jazz performance workshop. I also taught private lessons. [Update 01/2009 Schroeder has a new album out, Carlton Schroeder, "itself". With Time McIntyre on drums and Ernest Tibbs on bass. This is a straight ahead piano jazz record and I highly recommend it.]

In 2000, the owner hired a new Manager, Herb Brooks, who specialized in 'turning schools around'. One of the first things he did was decide that most of the teachers would be made independent contractors. My guitar teacher friend Barrett Tagliarino and I sat down and figured out what it was going to cost us to switch from employee status to IC. It amounted to about 30% of our already dismal pay (I started in 1979 at $10 an hour. I came back in '97 for $23 but then 2 years later, due to an apparent financial crisis, they cut me back to $20). We decided to do something about it and started contacting other teachers through a Yahoo egroup. One of our instructors went to the Musicians Union to see if they might be able to help us. They agreed to represent us and we began the long arduous process of obtaining a first contract... (as of August 2006 we are a non Union school. See the 'background' and 'updates' links at the top of this page for details).

Unions have been instrumental in improving the quality of life in America throughout our history. I strongly recommend HOWARD ZINN 's book, 'A People's History Of The United States" if you're interested in knowing more. Home