Yesterday’s article exploring the highest paid seven orchestras generated a great deal of private email, most of which focused on whether or not there were any other salary peer groups among professional orchestras…
Since I maintain a database of musician, executive, music director, and concertmaster compensation levels dating back to the 1999/2000 season for both ICSOM and ROPA ensembles, putting together a chart is fairly straightforward. Unfortunately, creating a chart with 41 different entries (such as all the ICSOM symphonic ensembles) can get pretty crowded.
At the same time, even a crowded chart can open your eyes to evolving patterns. For example, Since the 1999/2000 season, ICSOM musician base pay levels have been steadily growing into five distinct pay levels. On the top are the Big “5+2” ensembles examined in yesterday’s article. After that is a collection of four orchestras in the $85,000-$97,000 range, seven orchestras in the $70,000-$80,000 range, five orchestras in the $50,000-$62,000 range, and the remaining 18 orchestras are spread out evenly throughout the $25,000-$45,000 range.
The following chart illustrates these groupings; displayed in alternating solid and dashed lines (click to enlarge).
It is worth noting the few ensembles which have crossed from one pay strata to another since the beginning of the timeline. On the positive side of that trend is the Fort Worth Symphony while the St. Louis Symphony and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra have failed to keep up with their peer groups.
Although the sheer number of ensembles included in the above chart makes it difficult to distinguish all 41 ensembles, what does this chart tell you?
Postscript: For all the detail geeks out there, like me, wondering where on earth the title for today’s article came from; I was listening to the live version of Dave Brubeck playing “Take Five” at the same time I noticed the five distinct pay levels.