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From the Chicago Tribune, February 20, 2014

I've written before in this space about the crucial importance of live music to the musical-theater experience. Nothing is more disappointing than a show played to tape, such as the recent production of "End of the Rainbow" at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, or most of Emerald City Theatre Company's shows at the Broadway Playhouse. (I always argue live music actually is more important in kids' shows.) Whatever the material, nothing is more disheartening than to peer down into an orchestra pit at one of Chicago's beautiful downtown theaters and find a clutch of synthesizers and a half-eaten sandwich, which has been the case all too often when one of the lower grade tours has come through town. To really make your heart sink, you just have to have the memory of a previous version of that very same tour with live players sitting where empty space now resides. That's enough to make the blood boil, especially when there has been no reduction in ticket prices.

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The AFM applauds the passage of the FAA Bill that sets a
consistent national policy allowing musical instruments on airplanes

After five years and 23 short-term extensions, Congress has passed legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the next four years. Included in the bill are provisions that create a uniform national policy regarding musical instruments on airplanes. Any instrument that can be safely stored in the overhead compartment or underneath the seat may be brought on board as carry-on luggage. Additionally, the bill sets standard weight and size requirements for checked instruments, and permits musicians to purchase a seat for oversized instruments, such as cellos, that are too delicate to be checked. Existing law allowed each airline to set their own policy regarding musical instruments, and size requirements varied widely for both carry-on and checked baggage. The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) has been lobbying Congress to enact such a policy for nearly a decade.

"This is great news for professional musicians throughout the U.S. and Canada who carry the tools of our trade (our instruments) aboard commercial aircraft," said AFM President Ray Hair. "Ending the confusion over musical instruments as carry-on baggage has been a top legislative priority for nearly a decade. I am proud of our Government Relations Director, Hal Ponder and his assistant Laura Brigandi in our Washington legislative office for seeing the effort through. Musicians can now fly in friendlier skies."

The FAA reauthorization was passed by the House of Representatives on Friday, February 3 by a 248-169 vote. It subsequently passed the Senate on Monday, February 6, 75-20.  The President is expected to sign the bill into law.

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