Five Questions for Bennie Keys, AFM Local 56 President
by Jack Latta
GRSMA was happy to have the opportunity to interview Bennie Keys, President of American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Local 56 for our newsletter. Jack Latta, GRSMA percussionist and the musicians' elected representative to the AFM Local 56 Executive Board, recently asked Bennie the top five questions that we thought our readers might pose to him.
GRSMA: You were born and raised in Grand Rapids. What are the most important changes that you have seen in our city?
Bennie Keys: I have seen many changes here in Grand Rapids and now with the massive expansion of downtown the music scene is getting like it used to be in the 50’s and 60’s, as far as club work goes.
GRSMA: Having been a member of the AFM for over thirty years, and an officer and board member for over twenty years, do you have any advice for the next generation of AFM musicians?
Bennie Keys: One of the things I cherish most is my affiliation with AFM. It has given me the opportunity to assist musicians from all walks of life to try and be the best they can be in their musical careers throughout the country. The AFM is here to guide and protect your rights from any way possible that might be threatened by any efforts to weaken our ranks.
GRSMA: Thank you for representing Grand Rapids on a national level as a member of the AFM Diversity Committee. Can you name some areas for improvement that we can make locally in terms of diversity?
Bennie Keys: I enjoy my work with the Diversity Committee. We realize that there is strength in recognizing the value of people from all walks of life. Everybody is important and they have something to bring to the table to make things better for us all. We try to promote differences in a better light so that any lifestyle or other difference can have a seat at the table to add to the overall mix. Locally we need to have more people come forth with ideas and information that can help us grow as a Local.
GRSMA: Congratulations on your recent re-election as President of AFM Local 56. What do you hope to accomplish in your second term of office?
Bennie Keys: Thanks for having faith in me to allow me to continue to lead us in a good direction and make your union membership more relevant for all of the members involved. I hope to showcase more of the great talent we have here in our Local so that others can see what great musicians are available for the world to see.
GRSMA: We have some new faces in our membership, with musicians moving here from across the country. Do you have any recommendations to our new members for things to see and do?
Bennie Keys: Grand Rapids is growing in leaps and bounds. We have a thriving arts community and beer and all kinds of food for the masses that come here to live and visit. I suggest that you get out and enjoy all that Greater Grand Rapids has to offer. We have some literature at the Local 56 office and on line that can help enhance your experience.
(NOTE from GRSMA: Thank you, Bennie Keys, for your solid leadership as President of our AFM Local!)