Thoughts by Ron Thompson.
What are your musical activities? What genres of music do you play?
I think of myself as an "Urban Utility Musician".
I work mostly as a sideman for various bandleaders and an accompanist for many singers. I often work as a solo guitarist, mostly providing background music for corporate events and parties. I sometimes put duos and small bands together for background music, weddings, promotional events, etc. I’m a jazz musician at heart so a lot of what I do reflects that: Swing dance bands, Traditional Jazz, Jazz singers.
I also play in bands doing music theatre or corporate shows. I do some work preparing lead sheets and arrangements for various singers and bandleaders. I do some private teaching and have been on the faculty of several music camps. I’ve played a wide variety of music genres: All kinds of jazz and popular music, a variety of folk and ethnic styles (Celtic, Klezmir, German, etc)
Also, Fiddle music, Country styles, Children’s music and a bit of Classical.
When did you first become aware of benefits of VMA membership and access to the pension plan?
I remember the older musicians I worked with going on and on about filing contracts and building my pension. I don’t remember exactly when that happened.
What is a career highlight, or your most memorable musical experiences?
A recent highlight was playing with Hugh Fraser and VEJI featuring P.J. Perry. Another highlight was playing the 2010
Paralympic Opening Ceremony with the Dal Richards Orchestra and Michael Kaeshammer. Never have I been paid so much to pretend I was playing the guitar.
How long have you been a member and filing contracts and contributing?
I became a member in 1975 buit it wasn’t until the 80’s that I became a leader and started filing contracts.
How much does the pension plan figure in your retirement plans?
Who has retirement plans? I think I’m on the Freedom 95 Plan. That pension payment is helping me to keep on doing what I’m doing.
Do you plan to stop playing, or keep playing and collect your pension?
I plan to keep playing and collect my pension.
How has the pension benefit made a difference in your life?
I think it’s natural for work to slow down as I get older and the Music Business keeps changing. The pension benefit helps compensate for that.
It is so unfortunate to hear about musicians approaching retirement who have no pension because they just didn’t get around to filing contracts for their gigs over the years. How would you encourage a young musician just starting out to understand this and to recognize that considerable benefits will come to them down the road if they make a regular habit of filing their work on AFM contracts?
That’s a good question. Having witnessed several discussions involving musicians in their 20’s, I can see it’s a tough sell. So many of the young musicians don’t see “Union” work as being a significant part of their future. I was so lucky, when I was their age I saw so much “Union” work available to me.