Networking. I believe in networking. It's a modern form of reeling in the fish, except that the net is no longer woven from textile fibers but telephone lines and satellite patches - technical forms of telepathy. Case in point? Today's letter from Dmitri Vietze, of media firm RockPaperScissors. Those very folks usually send me review samples of WorldMusic releases, of artists and labels they work with. But that's not what today's note was all about.

I'm already a properly naturalized legal alien of the good ol' US of A and have been since 1985 when I got my greencard (which isn't green by the way, see above insert of its backside). I won't need Mr. Tashjian's services. Alas, there's
the off-chance that one of my readers somewhere around the globe has a friend or, as a musician, finds himself or herself in a situation that does require professional representation by an immigration attorney specializing in the entertainment, athletic and modeling professions. If that's you, the following summary provided by Dmitri might just be what you were looking for:

Out of the Syrian Desert comes a World Music Immigration attorney with Armenian on his tongue and music in his blood
Richard Tashjian was three years old when he moved from the Syrian desert to America. His grandparents had lived in Armenia their whole lives but when the Ottoman Empire cleansed the land of non-Muslims, the Tashjian family fled to Syria. It was only when his fathered was offered a job as pastor in America that they left.

Raised in a traditional Armenian home, Tashjian was immersed in the music, cuisine and folklore of his home country. His uncle was well-known on the American circuit of 60s and 70s Middle-Eastern and Armenian nightclubs and put out several albums. "America was wonderful to us," Tashjian explains. "Once I came across the field of immigration law, I made a realization. It said 'I'm an immigrant, I should be involved in a field where I can contribute to this country and its immigrant communities.'"

After law school, Tashjian fled once again, this time from a boring job in tax law to the field of entertainment immigration where he has been working since 1985. He was among the attorneys who gave the Immigration Service instrumental comments when they were first launching the O and P classifications. His long experience in this line of work, his reasonable fees and deep concern for his clients make him stand out in the field.

"I won't take a case if I do not believe there is a good chance of obtaining the visa," says Tashjian. "I'll advise my potential clients if they have a lousy chance. I'll tell them to continue to develop their musical careers and come back when they have a better shot at this. I don't need a bad name for wasting the time and money of artists who aren't ready. I've had clients who had hired other attorneys only to be put into the wrong category. I remember a Japanese musician who dealt with an L.A. firm who charged something like $10,000 for an H1 visa! Worse, because it was an old classification, it was denied. I hear many such stories. After musicians get burned elsewhere, they come to me and we sort out their best strategy."

Tashjian -- who provides training at the American Immigration Lawyers Association conferences and recently made a presentation at the Folk Alliance conference -- points out that it is much harder now and post 9/11 than before, especially since the immigration process and policies change every few years. Sometimes clients approach Tashjian saying they are stars back home but all they can show is a self-made compact disc and a few insignificant press clippings. Tashjian isn't afraid to do some research himself to help a client strengthening their application. He advises them about the most efficient immigration service centers and strategizes how to leverage their specific circumstances to smooth the process. He prides himself on knowing the types of information the Immigration Service is going to want and eliminating as much as possible the risk that this clients' applications will get delayed with additional questions.

"Time is of the essence," explains Tashjian. "I know that delay can kill a deal and, in fact, destroy countless hours of hard work setting up a concert tour." Years ago, Tashjian was helping out an unknown Canadian artist. "He wanted me to help his band get a record deal," remembers the attorney, "which has nothing to do with what I can offer. This guy said 'We trust you to get us into America... therefore we trust you without music.'" Such is the kind of confidence Tashjian inspires in his clients. He maintains offices in Los Angeles and Paris.
Tashjian Law website
RockPaperScissors website