Some Perspective

An article in today’s New York Times by Daniel J. Wakin focuses on all of the recent contract negotiation settlements among the four of the “Big 5” orchestras.  It’s an o.k piece but there’s a basic premise this piece presents (either by Daniel’s design or his editors) that really bothers me; it makes it appear as though these are the only orchestras in the relevant musical universe.

The article begins with:

“Many of the people who bring you Mozart and Mahler from some of the nation’s greatest symphony orchestras will be working harder over the next few years and without raises this season.”

Many? The cumulative number of musicians between New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Cleveland represent 6% of the professional orchestra musicians among all ICSOM and ROPA ensembles.

It continues with:

“Yet they will still be making solid six-figure incomes and will have new opportunities to have their performances heard on radio, Internet and CD.”

Once again, this would be true for only those four orchestras, but the average salary for all ICSOM and ROPA ensembles is $33,948.50 just a little short of six figures.

I’m not saying Daniel wrote a bad article, I would just like to see some national perspective in a paper with a national readership.  What about all the other contracts settled this year so far and the many still being worked on? 

Tomorrow I’ll work on picking up some of the slack and publishing a piece about the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra negotiations.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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