[Dixielandjazz] Musician Earnings

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Mon Oct 11 12:01:11 PDT 2004

For those on the list like Randy Fendrick who also play in symphonies, you
will find this interesting.

Although both OKOM and Symphonic orchestras are struggling to make a profit,
the money seems to be available for "classical" musicians. Herein is a good
reason for some players to be members of the AF of M. ;-) VBG

Steve Barbone

October 11, 2004 - NY Times

Orchestra Reaches Agreement on Contract

he musicians and management of the New York Philharmonic have agreed to a
new labor contract on the eve of an 18-day tour in Asia.

The contract raises salaries at six-month intervals so that by the end of
the three-year agreement, in 2007, the Philharmonic's minimum wage, now
$103,000, will rise to $113,360. However, the orchestra will no longer be
the highest paid in the country, lagging slightly behind the Boston

The agreement leaves three of the so-called Big Five orchestras in a state
of labor disarray: those in Chicago, Cleveland and Philadelphia.

Both sides expressed happiness with the Philharmonic deal yesterday, and
pointed out that negotiations had been relatively amicable compared with
sometimes bitter relations in those cities. The financially healthy Boston
Symphony is in the second year of a cushy contract.

The new Philharmonic contract also builds in a certain measure of
procrastination. The largest raises come only toward the end of the three
years, and the parties have put off discussing pensions until next season.
The players will be granted extra salary bumps if the orchestra does not
increase pensions over $60,000, said Dawn Hannay, the chairwoman of leader
of the players' committee. Retirement benefits are a major concern for the
musicians of the New York Philharmonic, where the pensions are now $53,000,
compared with $65,000 in Boston and $63,000 in Chicago.

"We feel that it's a good agreement given the situation around the country,"
Ms. Hannay said, though the increases were below what the players were used
to. "This is the first time that we've actually settled for less than
another major orchestra," she said. However, "It's a fair settlement given
the situation," Ms. Hannay said. She pointed to the fact that the
Philharmonic was running a deficit and had to inject $10 million in August
to stabilize the pension fund.

The musicians were also happy that Philharmonic management did not make
"draconian" demands as other orchestras have, including personnel and
pension cutbacks, Ms. Hannay said. "They decided not to go along with the
herd in that," she said, adding that she hoped the settlement would give a
boost to the New Yorkers' colleagues in Chicago, Cleveland and Philadelphia
in their negotiations. "It was at the top of our minds," she said.
Orchestras around the country have been facing deficits, shrinking
endowments and weak ticket sales.

The New York players voted to approve the contract on Saturday night, nearly
three weeks after the previous one expired.

Philharmonic officials said delaying raises and pension talks was intended
to buy time to deal with financial issues and audience building.

"On first look, someone from the outside might say, 'Uh-oh, we're just
postponing the inevitable,' " said Paul B. Guenther, the orchestra's board
chairman. "We don't feel that way at all." The orchestra now has breathing
room, he said, to deal with its deficit (currently projected at just under
$1 million), cut costs, raise more money and figure out ways to increase the

"The contract's done," he said. "Now we can focus on those needs." He cited
the orchestra's summertime series of lighter fare and popular "Candide"
performances last season as examples of ways to increase revenue.

Regarding pensions, Zarin Mehta, the orchestra's president, said, "The
economy and everything is so uncertain, we didn't feel like at this stage
making a major commitment," and added, "We wanted to be as much in control
as we could have with that figure."

The agreement also called for changes in working and touring conditions. One
of the work rule changes was extending the amount of time the orchestra
stays in a city while on tour, to reduce the number of one-stop concert
dates, for example. As for health insurance, musicians will have to bear
higher co-payments and deductibles. They also agreed to another increasingly
common feature of recent orchestra negotiations, a free fund-raising
concert. Life, disability and insurance benefits improved, the orchestra

The Philharmonic's previous pact was for six years, which resulted in a long
period of labor peace. Coincidentally, contracts in Chicago, Cleveland and
Philadelphia also expired just ahead of this season, and negotiations there
are continuing.

Musician income is usually far higher than the minimum, depending on
overtime, extra fees and individually negotiated deals by principal chairs.
Among the 52 American orchestras in the International Conference of Symphony
and Opera Musicians, the average salary is $57,000. About five musicians
earn more than $300,000, 24 in 11 orchestras make more than $200,000, and
about 100 in 19 orchestras earn more than $150,000, the conference said.

The Philharmonic players were leaving today for a tour of South Korea and
Japan. At least one member of the orchestra said the players might have
stayed home if the deal was not settled, although others said that threat
was not serious. The Philadelphia Orchestra put aside strike plans in
September, perhaps mindful of last week's gala concert at Carnegie Hall,
where they opened the season with a taped performance for public television.

"We wanted to make sure everything was done before we went on tour so we can
all concentrate upon what's happening in next three weeks," Mr. Mehta said. 

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