2013 Compensation Reports: Concertmasters

Rounding out a year of increases in the 2010/11 season, the average concertmaster did see an uptick in compensation but at 0.87 percent, it pales in comparison to executives and music directors. Nonetheless, the season did witness an anomaly by way of a new all time high concertmaster annual compensation figure of $829,470; earned by Dallas Symphony concertmaster, Emanuel Borok, who retired after that season.

The Data

compensation-reports-icon-concertmastersIn order to provide information that is as accurate as possible, data from the 2010/11 season is gathered from the following sources:

  • Concertmaster compensation figures were obtained from their respective orchestra’s IRS Form 990 for the 2010/11 concert season.
  • Total Expenditures were also obtained from each respective orchestra’s IRS Form 990 for the 2010/11 concert season (due to their relationship within a larger performing arts structure, Total Expenditure figures for National Symphony and Atlanta Symphony are unavailable).

Adaptistration makes no claim to the accuracy of information from documents compiled or reported by external sources. If you have reason to believe any of the information is inaccurate or has changed since reported in any of the above sources and you can provide documentation to such effect, please feel free to submit a notice.

Did you know? Direct links to most of the orchestra’s financial disclosure documents at guidestar.org are available in the Orchestra Financial Reports.

An Important Note About Concertmaster Compensation Reporting

Due to the changes in the IRS Form 990 a few years back, there are fewer concertmaster figures to report as compared to executives and music directors. Up until the 2008/09 season, nonprofit organizations were required to list a fixed number of employees who earned over $50,000/year, but the IRS increased that threshold to $100,000 for the 2008/09 season.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, quite a few concertmasters earning more than $50,000 but less than $100,000 no longer appear on their respective orchestra’s From 990.

As a result, you’ll see a number of “Not Reported” entries for most orchestras on the list, which is a sign that…

  • their concertmaster position was either unfilled for that season.
  • the concertmaster earned less than $100,000 and was therefore not included in the filing.
  • the concertmaster earned over $100,000 but because don’t earn enough to be included in the threshold of maximum employees listed in the 990.

Who Is this Concertmaster Person?

For those not already familiar with the concertmaster position, this is the title reserved for the principal seat within the 1st violin section. More often than not, this is the musician you see walking out on stage at the beginning of the concert to initiate the orchestra’s tuning process before the conductor emerges.

Although concertmasters are included within every orchestra’s collective bargaining agreement, they also negotiate a separate contract with the orchestra detailing compensation and additional duties exclusive to their position. For example, it isn’t uncommon for a concertmaster to be featured as a soloist with the orchestra at least once a year. As such, their annual income will fluctuate based on the number of solo appearances they negotiate with their organization.

Additionally, concertmasters are required to perform any of the numerous internal solos incorporated into any given piece of music (such as the famous violin solo from Scheherazade). Beyond actual performing duties, concertmasters (along with other principal seat string musicians) are usually required to perform additional duties such as bowings (which are markings placed throughout a string player’s sheet music that indicate which direction to move the bow. This allows each section of strings to move their bows in unison and enhance to the sense of phrasing a conductor wishes to use.

A common perk associated with many concertmaster individual contracts are clauses excluding them from having to perform during some non-masterwork oriented concerts (such as holiday, pops, or educational concerts). As this clause is not uniform, the frequency and type of concerts concertmasters are excluded from participating vary from one musician to the next. It is also one of the reasons why orchestras may have one or two additional violinists within the orchestra who serve under the title of associate or assistant concertmaster.

Regardless of the additional clauses a concertmaster negotiates in their personal contract, they are afforded the same base workplace protection and representation guaranteed all musicians under the organization’s collective bargaining agreement.

2010/11 Season Concertmaster Compensation

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Top Men

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  1. Dallas Symphony: $829,470
  2. New York Philharmonic: $517,432
  3. Cleveland Orchestra: $512,228
  4. San Francisco Symphony: $507,063
  5. Chicago Symphony: $469,442
  6. Boston Symphony: $462,467
  7. Los Angeles Philharmonic: $460,741
  8. Philadelphia Orchestra: $406,332
  9. National Symphony: $324,492
  10. Baltimore Symphony: $270,931


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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12 thoughts on “2013 Compensation Reports: Concertmasters”

    • If memory serves, that was the final year of that concertmaster’s tenure so the reasonable assumption is it had some sort of related one time payment. By and large, CM compensation levels have not risen at similar rates to CEO or MD and that mid-high end of $500k seems to be a steady ceiling over the past several years. As such, if we see a $1mil payment anytime soon, it will likely be another one off anomaly.

    • Hi Bill,

      That scenario has transpired elsewhere, perhaps most notably in Chicago where the Chicago Symphony Orchestra employed co-concertmasters for a number of years. In that instance, both earned enough to cross the reporting threshold on the organization’s respective 990.

      In fact, it isn’t uncommon for other musicians to be listed, it is a very straightforward formula and most groups do a consistent job of reporting those figures.

  1. Yes, 2011 was Mr. Borok’s last year, and much of that $829K was retirement. Had you looked at the previous year’s salary you would have seen that it was just over $300K, in line with other concertmasters. Therefore, the $829 figure is grossly misleading. That year a section cellist retired and his annual “salary” was over $400K. By the way, I am not connected with DSO or friends with Mr. Borok, just aware of the situation.

    • Hi Sandy, thanks for the comment. Which part do you find misleading? I don’t know if you read the lengthy introduction material to all of the compensation articles but that content details exactly where the figures come from, why they are’t limited to only compensation listed as base salary, and that they are applied evenly for each stakeholder group. To do otherwise would be unfair and provide an incomplete and inaccurate comparison, not to mention make it seem as though some individuals were receiving preferential treatment.

      But for your added frame of reference, annual compensation is not the same as annual salary; the latter of which is part of the overall compensation figure. In the end, this information is included for the sake of institutional transparency and provides donors the ability to use that information to influence support decisions. The better job institutions do at reporting and explaining the figures in notes and attachments, the better picture donors have.

      • I understand, but the vast majority of people who see this assume that compensation means annual salary. Mr. Borok did get a “golden parachute” when he retired. I am just saying that his typical annual compensation was far less, in line with other concertmasters. People in Dallas have worked long and hard to make DSO a great orchestra, and people who see the figure of $829 immediately leap to the conclusion that this is his annual salary and “musicians are paid too much!”

      • And I am hearing from people who donate that they don’t want to give money if it is just going to excessive salaries. So a lot of people are misinterpreting the information.

      • I can’t speak to secondhand inferences but my experience with patrons and donors is one where the ratio of those who are more thoughtful than not comprise the lion’s share. In the end, transparency is for the best.

    • That’s an excellent question and I haven’t decided yet. On one hand, what you mentioned is the reality of employers using the site so I don’t necessarily see much along the lines of incentive since the service is already complimentary.

      It seems that this is an internal culture issue for the field as a whole and until it rises to the point of becoming a mainstream topic that those who make these decisions within organizations give it a meaningful examination, I doubt much will change.

      If nothing else, it is telling that within a field where we regularly lament the inability to attract desired candidates, there’s still a willingness to limit the applicant pool if it means including salary ranges.

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