Oral History

In 2000, Local 9-535 President Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin undertook a project to record an oral history of the Boston Musicians’ Association. Nearly fifty BMA members were interviewed in groups and individually over a period of several months. The resulting transcripts document over seventy years of our union’s rich history. Installments of the Oral History Project are published periodically on this website and in our newsletter, the Interlude.

Why Join the Union?
The reasons for joining Local 9-535 and for continuing one’s membership were expressed in myriad ways. Professional musicians from every genre voiced both tangible concerns (instrument insurance, pension, death benefit) and intangible considerations when asked about their sense of what it meant to be a union musician. Read more>

The Union Hall
The old union hall on St. Botolph St. was essentially a meeting place for players and contractors. Many of the members interviewed had vivid memories of times spent at the union building. Read more>

One Musicians’ Union Where Once There Were Two
One of the most significant changes the Boston Musicians’ Association experienced was the merging of Local 9, the union serving white members, with Local 535, the union serving mostly black members. Read more>

The Emergence of Classical Players in Local 9-535
It is hard to comprehend the significant change which gradually occurred at Local 9-535 in the last fifty years. The bulk of the contracts that officers now negotiate have more to do with the classical music scene than the general business world. Read more>

Excerpt from Koussevitsky by Moses Smith on Unionization of the Boston Symphony Orchestra
Enjoy this excerpt from Moses Smith’s biography of Serge Koussevitsky, part of a research project by BMA member Barbara Lafitte. The section included here talks specifically of negotiations between Judge Cabot and musicians of the Boston Symphony. Check it out here>