Professional Orchestras: Already well compensated?

GWestphal

Golden Member
Jul 22, 2009
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The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra is paid average of $135,000 + $35,000 medical care and pension+$15,000 overscale payment. They received 10 weeks paid time off and 26 weeks unpaid leave each year. They have official practice 18 hrs per week. They of their own volition say they practice 4-5 hours each day.

Sounds like a pretty sweet gig to me. I really don't feel bad for them at all. If they think they can get better money elsewhere, go for it. Or be a solo artist. My guess would be that they play for about 10,000-20,000 unique people each year. I'm also fairly confident that your average joe couldn't tell the difference between a $60,000 orchestra and $130,000 orchestra. It just seems that there is a hierarchy of value in society and music is on a lower tier than necessities and things that offer tangible benefits to society in terms of economic growth.

Edit: Balls, the conductor makes over $1 million!!! Geez, I went into the wrong field..
 
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Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
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$135k wouldn't be enough compensation for the stress & pressure of not messing up a single note in front of thousands of people :p
 

Rakewell

Platinum Member
Feb 2, 2005
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St. Paul's is a major orchestra. (Not that it matters, but I've actually sung with them before.)

It's a hell of a lot of practice outside "rehearsal", those people earn their keep - They deserve every penny they get.
 
Feb 6, 2007
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Edit: Balls, the conductor makes over $1 million!!! Geez, I went into the wrong field..

You can't just look at the top paid guy in a profession and assume that if you had gone into that line of work, it would be you. That's like saying I should have gone into software development so I could make $60 billion because Bill Gates did. There's pretty steep competition for those conductor gigs, and the lower tier ones don't pay anywhere near $1,000,000.
 
Oct 25, 2006
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You can't really compare top scale jobs to the rest of the field.

Its like comparing google to code monkey desk jobs.
 

Saint Nick

Lifer
Jan 21, 2005
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Are you referencing some kind of news article? I'm not sure what the point of the OP is given the title "Already well compensated?"
 

manimal

Lifer
Mar 30, 2007
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St. Paul's is a major orchestra. (Not that it matters, but I've actually sung with them before.)

It's a hell of a lot of practice outside "rehearsal", those people earn their keep - They deserve every penny they get.

This

A major orchestra is incredibly hard to get into and requires a lifetime of commitment. The conductor for that orchestra is probably one of 20-30 people who could do what he does.


spco is a chamber orchestra and one of the few full time chamber orchestras in the county.


shit Joshua Bell aint cheap. Just because you have no idea who he is just speaks to your ignorance.
 

CPA

Elite Member
Nov 19, 2001
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Quick google search indicates the orchestra has been in a lockout for the last three months.
 

Drako

Lifer
Jun 9, 2007
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Quick google search indicates the orchestra has been in a lockout for the last three months.

I think that's why the OP is complaining. He believes that they already make too much, and should not be asking for more money.
 

lxskllr

No Lifer
Nov 30, 2004
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I think that's why the OP is complaining. He believes that they already make too much, and should not be asking for more money.

Sounds like they're doing pretty well in an economy that doesn't have much room for luxuries like orchestras, and few job prospects outside music. They should be happy they have a job doing something they enjoy. If the complaint is paper pushers are skimming too much money, then they may have a point.
 

actuarial

Platinum Member
Jan 22, 2009
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Do they make $135K a year or $67.5K a year?

Your post mentions that they get 26 weeks off unpaid.
 

AstroManLuca

Lifer
Jun 24, 2004
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I think that's why the OP is complaining. He believes that they already make too much, and should not be asking for more money.

They're unhappy because management is trying to get them to take major pay cuts. They already took pay cuts in years past (this article is from 2009): http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/04/06/spco_cuts

They see that their wages are moving in the wrong direction, so I don't blame them for saying they don't want to take it anymore.
 

lxskllr

No Lifer
Nov 30, 2004
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They see that their wages are moving in the wrong direction, so I don't blame them for saying they don't want to take it anymore.

That's as bad as the unions, where they argue themselves out of a job. If there isn't any money, there isn't any money. You can raise ticket prices a bit, but you'd lose some clients. If other options have been explored, and cutting their pay is the only option, they need to suck it up and deal with it. They're in a niche occupation that's especially susceptible to economic downturns. They do well when the economy is good, and not as well when it's doing poorly. Welcome to life.
 

LucJoe

Golden Member
Jan 19, 2001
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That's as bad as the unions, where they argue themselves out of a job. If there isn't any money, there isn't any money. You can raise ticket prices a bit, but you'd lose some clients. If other options have been explored, and cutting their pay is the only option, they need to suck it up and deal with it. They're in a niche occupation that's especially susceptible to economic downturns. They do well when the economy is good, and not as well when it's doing poorly. Welcome to life.

This is actually a pretty shady situation. The board elected in a new chairman. New chairman starts plan to renovate the entry way for $14 million. Then he sends out contracts to the orchestra that include a significant pay decrease. As noted earlier in this thread, they already decreased their pay in the past. They obviously didn't sign the contracts. So now he has a freshly renovated hall and no orchestra... This was a top tier orchestra with a lot of talent, and I'm sure he can fill it in at his new price but it won't be the same. Many of them have already moved on and found contracts elsewhere.

While I see the parallels with say the Hostess situation, I would say this is very different.
 

lxskllr

No Lifer
Nov 30, 2004
57,400
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This is actually a pretty shady situation. The board elected in a new chairman. New chairman starts plan to renovate the entry way for $14 million. Then he sends out contracts to the orchestra that include a significant pay decrease. As noted earlier in this thread, they already decreased their pay in the past. They obviously didn't sign the contracts. So now he has a freshly renovated hall and no orchestra... This was a top tier orchestra with a lot of talent, and I'm sure he can fill it in at his new price but it won't be the same. Many of them have already moved on and found contracts elsewhere.

While I see the parallels with say the Hostess situation, I would say this is very different.

I alluded to that earlier. I know nothing about their specific situation, and if they're getting screwed elsewhere, I can understand them bitching. I don't think ~$140k is outrageous for a professional musician, but they also need to be flexible. Being flexible doesn't mean bending over every time you're asked though.
 
Feb 25, 2011
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Edit: Balls, the conductor makes over $1 million!!! Geez, I went into the wrong field..

Do you know how many hundreds of people show up to audition for those jobs?

If every music school but the top 5 in the country closed tomorrow, there'd still be more qualified applicants than job slots.
 
Feb 25, 2011
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I think that's why the OP is complaining. He believes that they already make too much, and should not be asking for more money.

They're not asking for more money. They're asking to not have their pay cut like 40%.
 

zinfamous

No Lifer
Jul 12, 2006
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So, conductor's salary goes into that average pay?

also, I'm sure salary differs substantially from section leaders to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th chair, etc...
 

BladeVenom

Lifer
Jun 2, 2005
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Do you know how many hundreds of people show up to audition for those jobs?

If every music school but the top 5 in the country closed tomorrow, there'd still be more qualified applicants than job slots.

Which is why they are paid too much. With as many musicians who are out of work or working in other fields, they could easily find replacements for the whole orchestra in a day.
 

guachi

Senior member
Nov 16, 2010
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I have no problem with top-flight musicians in orchestras getting paid handsomely. They've probably been practicing for more years than any other profession out there.
 
Feb 25, 2011
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Which is why they are paid too much. With as many musicians who are out of work or working in other fields, they could easily find replacements for the whole orchestra in a day.

Within reason, that's true. (Obviously there are some musicians out of work who should stay that way. Even graduates from high-powered music schools. The musical equivalent of that first round NFL pick a couple years ago that "purple drank'd" himself out of a job.)

But would the quality be as good? No. Not right away. Some of these people have been playing as a group together for 30+ years. They're way tighter than a bunch of "qualified" n00bs would be.

The question, though, is 1) who would notice? 2) Who would care? 3) Do those people matter?

Management wants a cheaper, younger, lower-quality-but-not-too-much-lower-quality orchestra that will be cheap to run and will do community outreach and fundraising appearances pro bono.

Musicians want (to keep) an higher-paid, older, higher-quality-but-almost-nobody-but-other-musicians-will-ever-notice orchestra that will win Grammy's, get recording contracts, be asked to tour Europe, and be well regarded within the classical music community.

I think both sides have their points. The business realities of classical music favor the management, especially coming out of a recession. But it would be an awful shame if the US shut down or down-marketed all it's world-class orchestras.
 
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