Category Archives: Features

Book Review: ‘Adventures in Arranging’ by Dr. Richard Niles

Composer/arranger/producer, AFM Local 47 member Dr. Richard Niles has had musical adventures with some of the world’s most successful and acclaimed artists from Paul McCartney to Pat Metheny, James Brown to Randy Brecker, Tina Turner to Michael McDonald, Ray Charles to the Pet Shop Boys. Continue reading

Bugler Jay Cohen returns to work at Santa Anita Park

LA Times Sports Column by Bill Plaschke: “He plays alone to empty seats, but L.A.’s only working live musician has song of hope”

“Call to the Post” never sounded so sweet: Last week bugler Jay Cohen returned to work at the Santa Anita Park racetrack, the first AFM Local 47 member to file a live performance contract with the union amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

We spoke with Jay after his first day back to work on Friday, May 15 about his experience returning to work with the new safety procedures in place. Continue reading

Now More Than Ever, Union Contracts Can Help

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought our industry to a complete halt, and even as we are socially isolated from one another, we are suffering together both economically and artistically.

But we are a diverse union. Our members include musicians who compose, prepare and perform music in an incredibly wide variety of fields, from theater and club work, symphonic, opera and ballet, film, television, sound recordings and other recording work — if it involves music, at least some of us are doing it as part of our livelihoods Continue reading

Labor News: Labor 411 Debuts Ethical Holiday Gift Guide

Gifts for the entire family to help boost the middle class, support good jobs and strengthen local communities

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Labor 411, the nation’s #1 guide to ethical products, offers its first annual Ethical Holiday Gift Guide encouraging consumers to shop their way to a stronger middle class. Continue reading

A Peek into the World of a Los Angeles Studio Musician

by Steve Trapani

I am not sure what it’s like in other recording centers, but in Los Angeles there are a few hundred highly skilled musicians who are equipped to play any piece of music on any instrument you can imagine, and in any style that exists. Some have been on the scene for decades and some have arrived relatively recently. All of them are consummate professionals who are committed to maintaining and preserving a tradition of being able to “do it all.” Some have achieved a high level of notoriety and their names are known. Most of the best ones, however, are people you’ve never heard of — and they’d like to keep it that way. If you saw them on the street, you would never dream that they were capable of producing the kind of music that comes from their fingers, or out of their bells, mouths, or amplifiers. Many of them are people who I am proud to call colleagues and good friends. What follows is an attempt to bring the studio experience to life for those who don’t quite know what happens when the red “Recording” light comes on. Continue reading

Sweetwater: 50 Years After Woodstock

On Aug. 15, 1969, half a million people gathered upon on a dairy farm in Bethel near White Lake, New York for a three-day music festival that would come to define a generation.

Billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music,” the epic event would later be known simply as Woodstock. Little did anyone imagine that it would become synonymous with the counterculture movement of the 1960s, and remains so five decades later. Continue reading

‘MusicianFest’ Doc Shares the Healing Power of Music

AFM Local 47 musicians Cali Rose, Jamie Shaheen, Music Performance Trust Fund Trustee Dan Beck, and Kirk Andrés Wilson at the ‘MusicianFest: Never Too Old’ documentary shoot at Long Beach Senior Center June 1, 2018. Photo by Lucius Gallo/MPTF

New film highlights how the Music Performance Trust Fund enriches the lives of older adults

The recording industry’s Music Performance Trust Fund released the uplifting documentary “MusicianFest: Never Too Old” showcasing how its music programs for older audiences reduce isolation. The film reveals how music enriches not only the lives of older adults, but also the lives of the musicians who perform for them. Continue reading

Dr. P. Blake Cooper Elected to Local 47 Executive Board

At our July Membership Meeting, a special election took place to fill a vacancy on the Executive Board. Dr. P. Blake Cooper was nominated for the director position and elected by acclamation.

“I’m happy to serve AFM Local 47 as a new member of the Executive Board,” Dr. Cooper said. “After the retirement of my friend and colleague Andy Malloy, I was approached by members of the board about filling in for two months until the time of a General Membership Meeting Special Election, which took place on July 22, 2019. I am very pleased to have won that election and have the opportunity to continue my service to Local 47. In my time on the board so far I have learned a great deal about the inner workings of our Union, and I continue to learn more all the time.

“I have also been an active member of the Contract Action Team (CAT) which has the focus of a fair contract for recording musicians in regard to recording for new media, also known as streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+. We’ve already had very successful actions, including the June 27th AMPTP rally, and there is more to come as we get closer to our October negotiations. I urge you all to get involved; this contract effects everyone, as it could have a very positive impact on our pension fund as well the ability for musicians in L.A. to make a living wage.

“As a member of the Executive Board my hope is to help guide the Local into this new era, a more digital era. I hope we can all grow and evolve into a better and stronger Union with fair contracts for all lines of work. I also aim to keep our Local fiscally responsible, again to ensure a strong Union for generations to come. Lastly, I hope to be a voice on the board for a younger generation of musicians. If you see me at work, please come say hello.”

Dr. P. Blake Cooper is a Los Angeles based freelance tubist, who additionally doubles on cimbasso, electric bass, sousaphone and bass trombone. As an orchestral musician, he has been the principal tubist of the New West Symphony since 2013 and has had the pleasure of performing with the LA Philharmonic, LA Opera, LA Chamber Orchestra, LA Master Chorale, San Diego Symphony, Pasadena Symphony and Pops, Santa Barbara Symphony, MUSE/IQUE, San Bernardino Symphony, Riverside Philharmonic, and the Redlands Symphony to name a few. Some other unique live performances from recent years include the 2017 Hans Zimmer Live Tour which included two performances at Coachella, Joe Hisaishi Live at the Microsoft Theater, and the rock opera “Quadrophenia” at the Greek Theatre.

Dr. Cooper can also be found at the various recording studios and sound stages around L.A. recording for movies, TV, video games and record dates. Some projects he has contributed to include “The Lion King” (2019), “Coco,” “Doctor Sleep,” “Torrance,” “IT: Part 2,” “Christopher Robin,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “Star Trek Discovery,” “Welcome to Marwen,” “Little,” “Triple Frontier,” “The Umbrella Academy,” “TAG,” “Isn’t it Romantic,” “The Nun,” “The Grinch,” “Batman v. Superman,” “Halo Wars 2,” League of Legends” and many more. Some notable composers Blake has recorded for include Hans Zimmer, Michael Giacchino, Germaine Fran-co, Danny Elfman, The Newton Bros, Benjamin Wallfisch, Bear McCreary, John Debney, Abel Korzeniowski and Alan Silvestri.

Dr. Cooper is also a passionate music educator. Since 2012 he has served as adjunct professor of tuba (and euphonium as of fall 2018) at California State University, Northridge and additionally teaches as instructor of tuba at Santa Monica College, La Sierra University and previously at LACC. He has a small private studio of elite young tubists, most of whom have gone on to be accepted at schools such as the Eastman School of Music, San Francisco Conservatory, Oberlin, USC, UCLA, and many more. He is also the music director and orchestra conductor for the Harmony Project’s Regional Youth Orchestra where he conducts and programs for two youth orchestras and youth wind ensemble. From 2010 to 2016 Dr. Cooper served as the founding lead brass specialist and wind ensemble director for the LA Phil’s El Sistema-inspired Youth Orchestra initiative YOLA @ HOLA. During that time he also taught for the Bard College Longy School of Music MAT program where he worked with aspiring El Sistema teachers as a mentor, supervisor and conducting education faculty.

A proud native of Louisville, KY, Dr. Cooper earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky in music education with a minor focus in jazz bass. He then moved to Texas to pursue graduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin, earning a master’s in tuba performance and serving as graduate teaching assistant in applied tuba. Finally in 2009, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a doctor of musical arts degree at USC in tuba performance with emphases in music education, jazz bass and instrumental conducting. Blake’s past teachers include Jim Self, Norm Pearson, Doug Tornquist, Alphonso Johnson, Charles Villarrubia, Steven L. Bryant, and Skip Gray.

Member spotlight: Finneas O’Connell

This week’s member spotlight: FINNEAS O’CONNELL. Singer, songwriter, record producer, musician, and actor, he has released several singles and has written and produced music for other artists, including his sister, singer Billie Eilish. As an actor, O’Connell is also known for his roles in the TV series Glee, Modern Family and Aquarius, and in the film Bad Teacher.

Making one of the hottest selling records of all time doesn’t always require a fancy, expensive recording studio. Case in point: the March 2019 release by Billie Eilish, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? In this second episode of AWAL’s SPACES series, we follow O’Connell at the humble family abode where he and Billie have written and produced all of their creations currently redefining pop music: