HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Marc Jacoby compares his credit union to oneof those little "hidden jewels" of a restaurant that people oftenunexpectedly stumble upon. "We're like the restaurant where youcome in through the kitchen. You don't know we're here, but onceyou find us, you tell everybody you know how great it was that youfound us," he said. Instead of having to make their way through akitchen filled with pots and pans, people looking for Jacoby'scredit union must wend their way through the American Federation ofMusicians' (AFM) Local 47 building, past a hallway filled withphotos of well-known performers, then climb a flight of stairs tothe second floor where they will find the Musicians' Credit Union."We've been here so long that anybody who comes into this building,any professional musician, they know we're here," said Jacoby,president and chief executive officer of Musicians' CU. But sinceexpanding its field of membership to anyone who lives, works orworships in Hollywood, spreading the word about the credit union'spresence has become more important. Because the credit union islocated in the AFM facility, it has no exterior signage to alertpeople to its location. "You could pass by our building and noteven know we're here," Jacoby said. That's prompting the creditunion to expand its marketing efforts and increase its visibilityin the community, from having a booth at an upcoming music festivalto Jacoby judging a Halloween pumpkin carving contest at a localelementary school. Jacoby said future plans might include opening abranch in Hollywood to serve more of the general community. Today,the vast majority of the credit union's 4,900 members areprofessional musicians. They range from those who play in the LosAngeles Philharmonic to rock, jazz, blues and studio bands. Someare legends, like bluesman Guitar Shorty who has been performingsince the 1950s, and singer/pianist Nellie Lutcher, who was mostpopular in the 1940s. Among those who are members of the musicians'local are Bruce Springsteen and Kenny Loggins, although Jacobyconfessed that neither singer is a member of the credit union. "Alot of our members are very important in the music industry, butnot necessarily the people you see on the cover of a CD," he said.Even so, it's not unusual to see well-known musicians coming intoone of the several rehearsal rooms or a recording studio in the AFMbuilding. When the famed Three Tenors - Plcido Domingo, LucianoPavarotti and Jos Carreras - prepared for their performance at theHollywood Bowl, they rehearsed at the AFM building, Jacoby noted.Jacoby said his musical tastes lean to old blues tunes, jazz andcountry. "I don't like a lot of the modern music," he admitted. "Mykids are all teen-agers now and they like what I don't like," headded, noting that the same scenario has probably held true forevery generation of parents with children. The credit union,established in 1954 and which has now reached $50 million inassets, has an extremely strong and loyal following among itsmembers. One reason is because the credit union has catered to thespecific needs of its members. One of its more unique offerings isa loan program of up to $50,000 so that members can purchasemusical instruments (it has been expanded to include otherequipment with the growing influence of electronics in the musicfield). "It's a risk, but it's a cost of doing business," Jacobysaid of the loan program. "If we're going to serve musicians, wehave to recognize that risk, take that risk and offer those typesof loans." Loan officer Edna Sadr, who has been with the creditunion for a decade, said many musicians seeking instrument loanshave been summarily dismissed or laughed out of banks when theysought funding there. "The banks treat you like you don't even havea job if you're a musician," Sadr said. "So it's nice that thecredit union actually treats them like they are somebody," "We havea unique understanding of that aspect of our membership that nobodyelse could have," Jacoby added. "For somebody trying to make itinto the business, we really do try our best to help them."Changing member demographics prompted the credit union about a yearago to expand its field of membership to the entire Hollywoodcommunity. "We were starting to lose some membership as a result ofchanging demographics (an aging membership)," he explained. "Werealized that being in the Hollywood community would give us a lotof potential for growth and for sustaining the credit union intothe future and, at the same time, serving a potentially underservedcommunity." Jacoby said the credit union faces a delicate balancingact between seeking new community members without alienating itscore membership. That core membership prefers personal service -the credit union doesn't have any audio response phone system andonly uses an answering machine when the institution is closed - andwants its loans to be held only by the credit union, not sold off.Members are also sensitive to other union issues, such as a strikeby grocery store workers in Southern California and by mechanicswith the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority, both of whichwere going at the time of the Jacoby interview. Members alsojealously guard the rights to their music. When a vendor gave thecredit union a CD burner to give away at its annual meeting, thedonation created a bit of a stir with members, who saw it as a wayfor people to copy their music without paying for it. Jacobyexplained to members that the burner had been donated by a vendorand did not come from the credit union. Jacoby said the creditunion had no intention of changing its name to reflect its widerreach into the community but would add a tagline noting that itserves professional musicians and the Hollywood community. Jacobyadmitted that professional musicians were an interesting group toserve. "They are a unique field of membership," he said. "They'recool," Sadr said, but quickly added, "They are a little different.""They walk to the beat of a different drummer," said Jacoby. -

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