Chicago Federation of Musicians: A History

The Chicago Federation of Musicians was the first permanent trade union of Chicago musicians. Its origins date back to 1864 to the Chicago Musicians’ Protective Union founded by German-American band musicians. It was a member of Chicago General Trades Assembly and had a strong voice in working conditions for local musicians particularly in theaters and museums. That organization ended during a depression in 1877. In 1880, the Chicago Musical Society was formed, representing Chicago musicians but avoiding any affiliation with labor organizations. However, the Chicago Musical Society was helpful in starting the National League of Musicians (an early attempt to develop a national organization to represent musicians throughout the United States). During this time some other smaller organizations developed in an effort to represent local musicians. In 1891 the Chicago Musical Society joined the American Federation of Labor (AFL) whose president was Samuel Gompers. In 1896, the Chicago Musical Society was a founding member of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM).

During the ensuing years, jurisdictional disputes arose and in 1901 the Chicago Federation of Musicians, Local 10 was formed from a group of CMS musicians and other musicians unions. The Chicago Federation of Musicians Local 208 was formed one year later, for the excluded African-American musicians. This segregation continued until 1966 when Locals 10 and 208 finally merged.

Today, the Chicago Federation of Musicians works to give musicians a voice in their workplace through contracts and collective bargaining agreements negotiated both locally and nationally. The Chicago Federation of Musicians represents talented professionals seeking a fair wage, and reasonable working conditions as they pursue both art and a living.

Past Presidents


1897, James Kibucek 
1898, H. H. Thiele 
1899-1902, A.D. Herrick 
1903-1913, Joseph F. Winkler
1914-1916, Ernest Woollett 
1917-1922, Joseph F. Winkler 
1923-1961, James C. Petrillo 
1963-1965, Bernhard F. Richards


1902-1904, Alexander Armand
1905-1907, J, B, Tucker
1908-1915, J, A, Smith
1916-1919, George A. Swann 
1920-1921, Hugh Swift 
1922-1923, George Smith
1924-1927, Dr, Robert Giles
1928-1929, Vernon Bigs 
1930-1931, George Smith
1932-1938, Art Steward 
1939-1965, Harry Gray


1966-1968, Bernard F. Richards 
1969-1976, Daniel A. Garamoni
1977-1982, Nicholas G. Bliss
1983-1985, Harold Dessent 
1986-1994, Charles A. Guse
1995-2004, Ed Ward
2005-2016, Gary Matts 
2017- Present, Terryl Jares