Glass Ceilings Shattered At American Federation Of Musicians Local 47: Stephanie O’Keefe Elected First Female President; Danita Ng-Poss Is New Secretary-Treasurer

David Robb
·4 min read

Stephanie O’Keefe has been elected president of the American Federation of Musicians Local 47, becoming the first woman president in the union’s 123-year history. John Acosta, who served three two-year terms as president, did not seek re-election. In the local’s other elections, Danita Ng-Poss has been elected secretary-treasurer – the first person of Asian descent to serve as a titled officer of the union – and Rick Baptist has been re-elected to a fourth term as vice president.

“I am honored to be elected president of Local 47,” said O’Keefe, a professional French hornist. “It has been a goal of mine for many, many years to be an advocate for my fellow musicians. We are the producers of one of the most valuable commodities on Earth; music has been an integral part of every culture, in every part of the world, for thousands of years. Yet, somehow, the producers of this commodity are often undervalued, if not completely overlooked. My goal is to bring recognition to the music makers, and dignity to our profession.”

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O’Keefe began her career in the showrooms of Las Vegas in 1977, relocating to Los Angeles a decade later. She has performed and recorded with a variety of artists including Lady Gaga, Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, Daft Punk, Dolly Parton, Diana Krall, Barry Manilow and Herbie Hancock.

She’s also recorded scores for numerous films, television shows, commercials and video games. As an advocate for musicians, she created the awareness campaign Real Music Comes From Musicians in 2006. She has served on the Local 47 legislative committee and on numerous negotiating committees, including in 2005 the creation of the first AFM contract for a previously non-union orchestra. She also serves on the advisory board of the American Jazz Institute; the music faculty of Occidental College; as a trustee for the Musicians Health & Welfare Fund, and in 2019 designed and implemented a highly acclaimed mentoring program, a joint project of Local 47 and the Inglewood School District.

Born and raised in Malaysia, Ng-Poss’ family sold their home so that she could travel to the U.S. and study at the Berklee College of Music. Since arriving in Los Angeles over 15 years ago, she has supervised music preparation on multiple Oscar and Emmy ceremonies. She has also provided music preparation for numerous other projects, including many seasons of Dancing With the Stars and America’s Got Talent, as well as live concerts, video games, and albums for major recording artists including Ariana Grande, Michael Bublé, and Sara Bareilles. Ng-Poss has also been active in union organizing efforts, such as AFM’s widely publicized #BandTogether campaign in 2019, in which musicians from across the U.S. called upon the major film and TV studios to sign a fair contract for musicians.

“The first order of business is to ensure the Secretary/Treasurer’s office runs like a well-oiled machine,” Ng-Poss said. “My goal is to bring Local 47 to an updated digital age to keep up with the 21st century.”

Baptist, meanwhile, joined the AFM at age 12, when he began playing the trumpet professionally. After moving to Los Angeles in 1980, he performed on more than 1,300 motion picture scores, including the first 14 Pixar films, and on over 5,000 cartoon shows. He served as first trumpet on the Academy Awards for 30 years, the Emmys for nearly three decades, and performed and recorded with legendary artists including Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Josh Groban, Michael Bublé, Linda Ronstadt and Barry Manilow.

During his tenure as vice president, he expanded the union’s education and outreach program, spearheaded the relocation from Hollywood to Local 47’s current state-of-the-art facility in Burbank, and participated in countless local, national, and international union contract negotiations.

“I am honored to continue to serve as part of this history-making administration with Stephanie O’Keefe and Danita Ng-Poss,” he said. “With the New Year and the new administration, our union’s work continues to help guide and inform our members through this devastating pandemic and ensure that musicians get back to work as quickly and safely as possible.”

The newly elected officers and executive board members will be sworn in at the union’s inaugural meeting via Zoom on Jan. 11.

Local 47 represents more than 6,000 musicians throughout greater Los Angeles in all facets of the music business, and is affiliated with the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada, which represents some 80,000 professional musicians.

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