American Guild of Musical Artists
The American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) is the American labor union that represents about 8,000 active and retired opera singers, ballet and other dancers, opera directors, backstage production personnel at opera and dance companies, and figure skaters.
According to its website it is the “labor organization that represents the men and women who create America’s operatic, choral and dance heritage." AGMA claims exclusive jurisdiction over all aspects of the work of its members and shares some Broadway jurisdiction with its sister union, Actors’ Equity Association. Any artist who performs at principal American opera or dance companies works under AGMA contracts.
The Guild was founded in 1936 in an effort to protect opera singers who were being forced into unfair contracts without benefits or protections. Over the years, of the Guild expanded its jurisdiction to include dancers and production personnel.
The former AGMA logo was an original drawing by Howard Chandler Christy, given as a gift by him to AGMA.
AGMA is associated with the Associated Actors and Artistes of America (AAAA), which is the primary association of performer's unions in the United States. The AAAA is affiliated with the AFL-CIO. AGMA maintains its principal office at 1430 Broadway in New York City, and has offices in Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.
As with most labor unions, AGMA's structure includes both a professional staff of employees who administer the union and a system of internal government that sets the policy for the union. AGMA's governing entity is called the Board of Governors, and is composed of elected officers who are members of the union and elected by the members of the union. AGMA's current President is Ray Menard. AGMA's senior staff consists primarily of negotiators, including National Executive Director Leonard Egert.
AGMA differs from other performers' unions in that it does not prohibit its members from performing non-union work. AGMA also provides an extensive network of attorneys and negotiation specialists to defend the rights of its members.
The 50th Anniversary Gala of the American Guild of Musical Artists was held on November 3, 1986 at the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, and was hosted by Beverly Sills. All proceeds were donated to benefit the AGMA Relief Fund. The gala featured over 300 artists from dance, opera and concert stage, including performances from the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre and the major stars from the Metropolitan Opera & New York City Opera. The performance was conducted by Robert Irving and Julius Rudel. Directed by Donald Saddler and was produced by Lawrence Leritz and Alex Dube. Distinguished artists also appearing were Alexandra Danilova, Frederic Franklin, William Warfield, Vera Zorina, Kitty Carlisle Hart and Natalia Makarova. A special highlight was the opening of the second act, with opera star Beverly Sills dancing with Peter Martins in Balanchine's "Vienna Waltzes".