2019 Orchestra Compensation Reports: The Big Picture

Each year, one of the most popular items in the orchestra compensation reports is a big picture overview of all compensation alongside Total Expenditure figures. If you’ve been looking for something that shows all the report values in a single chart, this is your article.

ENSEMBLETotal ExpendituresExecutive CompensationMusic Director CompensationConcertmaster Compensation
Alabama Symphony$7,077,881$191,675$184,500NA
Atlanta Symphony*NA$338,847$833,642$239,474
Austin Symphony$5,169,664$159,950$169,212NA
Baltimore Symphony$27,938,029$320,733$987,667$292,752
Boston Symphony$103,630,393$1,059,343$1,395,161$532,036
Buffalo Philharmonic$11,854,256$255,591$352,500NA
Charlotte Symphony$12,536,894$125,500$206,250NA
Chattanooga Symphony$2,521,056$88,810NANA
Chicago Symphony$79,669,618$535,303$2,716,488$554,756
Cincinnati Symphony$31,381,796$559,742$508,733$293,423
Cleveland Orchestra$55,320,592$557,732$1,319,353$579,030
Colorado Springs Philharmonic$3,917,452$160,645$97,600NA
Colorado Symphony$13,000,490NA$159,004$117,883
Columbus Symphony$8,505,883NA$186,000NA
Dallas Symphony$35,513,077$436,317$2,206,908$290,638
Dayton Philharmonic*$8,167,915$132,472$176,382NA
Detroit Symphony$36,345,989$398,730$886,210$207,958
Florida Orchestra$10,882,617$207,297$292,500NA
Fort Wayne Philharmonic$5,103,728$188,400$143,161NA
Fort Worth Symphony$9,814,737$191,059$345,537$101,000
Grand Rapids Symphony$10,537,011$161,924NANA
Hartford Symphony$4,344,269$111,957$169,645NA
Houston Symphony$33,430,280$535,193$405,086NA
Indianapolis Symphony$23,290,238$344,678$456,711$245,644
Jacksonville Symphony$13,394,954$179,518$174,566NA
Kalamazoo Symphony$3,637,484$146,672$137,658NA
Kansas City Symphony$16,520,157$284,477$491,407$186,708
Knoxville Symphony$3,941,081$125,688NANA
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra$4,917,365$198,015$150,661NA
Los Angeles Philharmonic$142,564,684$1,417,633$3,010,589$539,739
Louisville Orchestra$6,751,076$150,705not reportedNA
Memphis Symphony$4,372,302NANANA
Milwaukee Symphony$18,202,182$303,926$389,423$193,885
Minnesota Orchestra$33,889,255$409,544$981,630$267,706
Nashville Symphony$25,298,449$367,634$506,659$189,426
National Symphony*NA$320,957NA$401,800
New Jersey Symphony$12,292,103NANA$173,513
New York Philharmonic$78,089,764$732,806$1,645,865$622,421
North Carolina Symphony$14,046,103$328,989$213,200$114,934
Omaha Symphony$7,876,033$183,116$175,399NA
Oregon Symphony$18,547,539$267,504$485,723$180,873
Orlando Philharmonic$5,112,662NANANA
Pasadena Symphony$4,220,044$140,000NANA
Pacific Symphony$20,980,482$347,705$435,981NA
Philadelphia Orchestra$50,597,401$720,221$1,424,000$438,253
Phoenix Symphony$11,951,816$343,934$256,000NA
Pittsburgh Symphony$32,918,962$422,056$978,542NA
Portland (ME) Symphony$3,506,781$106,991$160,884NA
Richmond Symphony$5,714,796$130,316$121,118$114,526
Rochester Philharmonic$11,226,107NA$231,523NA
Saint Louis Symphony$30,010,463$351,377$1,040,317$304,818
San Antonio Symphony$8,161,040$151,979$301,229NA
San Diego Symphony$26,040,490$361,836NA$213,237
San Francisco Symphony$82,252,992$570,157$2,492,623$589,272
Santa Rosa Symphony$3,830,801$187,276$119,250NA
Sarasota Orchestra$9,770,009$197,937$189,293NA
Seattle Symphony$29,885,558$441,980$558,322NA
Spokane Symphony$4,429,370$94,613$141,772NA
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra$10,773,391$301,538NA$236,718
Symphony Silicon Valley$3,744,844$142,000NANA
Toledo Symphony$6,534,395$98,057$103,500NA
Tucson Symphony$4,852,877$155,311NANA
Utah Symphony$22,506,582$234,826$479,804NA
Virginia Symphony$6,166,765$172,363$159,000NA
West Virginia Symphony$3,126,824$114,744$137,864NA

* Due to their relationship within a larger performing arts structure, Total Expenditure figures for for these organizations are not as readily available.

Did you know? Direct links to most of the orchestra’s financial disclosure documents at guidestar.org are available in the Orchestra Financial Reports or you can save yourself dozens of hours by picking them up by season at the Adaptistration Store.

18 Year Trends

Although the Orchestra Compensation Reports have been around since 2005 (which covered the 2003/04 season) my 990 archive extends back through the 1999/00 season. Consequently, this overview article is an excellent vehicle for reaching back into those archives, which are usually reserved for consulting work, and extracting information to share.

Average Executive Compensation: 1999/00 Season Through 2016/17 Season
Average Music Director Compensation: 1999/00 Season Through 2016/17 Season
Average Concertmaster Compensation: 1999/00 Season Through 2016/17 Season

The Deliberation Continues

When the compensation reports were launched back in 2005, there was a great deal of reader discussion about each stakeholder group’s respective value. Those were paired with questions about why stakeholder groups didn’t share comparatively equal gains and losses across seasons. In the wake of the economic downturn, those discussions began to wane, but the spike in top earners from music director and executive stakeholders have once again sparked that core discussion.

One interesting item related to this year is the increase in average concertmaster compensation has brought closer to being on par with executives. But as the following chart illustrates, both stakeholder groups have been seeing a lower overall increase in average compensation compared to music directors.

Average Compensation By Stakeholder Group: 1999/00 Season Through 2016/17 Season

Since its inception, the purpose of the Orchestra Compensation Reports is to help reinforce the value of transparency and inspire patrons to create a stronger connection with their local orchestra and how it functions.

To that end, it has been wonderful watching discussions across social media and other media outlets unfold. Yes, there’s always going to be an element of salaciousness but that quickly melts away into more meaningful discussions surrounding the systems used to determine whether the field is rewarding effort or achievement.

Interested In Doing Your Own Analysis But Don’t Have The Data?

Then you’re in luck because I’ve been making my private stash of orchestra 990s available for purchase at the Adaptistration Store.

You can pick up 990’s dating all the way back to the 1999/00 season!

Each season’s worth of 990s cost $25 for instant download and multiple season buys come with bulk discounts:

  • purchase 2-5: five percent discount
  • purchase 6-10: 10 percent discount
  • purchase 11-15: 15 percent discount
  • purchase 20+: 20 percent discount


  • They are grouped by season.
  • The default random alpha-numeric filenames have been changed to the orchestra name (because opening a bunch of files to find the one you need is for chumps).
  • The files have been processed through Adobe Acrobat’s optical character recognition (OCR) scan. This will make the files keyword searchable (a huge time saver!).
  • Each season comes with a corresponding notes document pointing out any need-to-know items. For example, when an orchestra changes its fiscal year it is common to find two IRS filings, one that covers time through the end of the previous fiscal year and one to cover the extra time through the end of the new fiscal year.
  • You’ll be able to download the file immediately after completing your purchase and the password to unzip the file will be included as a separate pdf file download.

Get Your Research On And Build Your Own 990 Library

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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