Thursday, October 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Philadelphia Orchestra Musician Minimum Base Salary Deceptive

Disclaimer: this entry has nothing to do with whether the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra are getting paid too much or not enough. It's simply intended to flesh out the complicated question of determining how much musicians are paid.

Philadelphia Orchestra Musician Minimum Base Salary Deceptive

Disclaimer: this entry has nothing to do with whether the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra are getting paid too much or not enough. It's simply intended to flesh out the complicated question of determining how much musicians are paid.

A recent snapshot of labor negotiations reported that one recent proposal would cut salaries 20 percent - from the base minimum of a scheduled March 21 raise to $131,000 down to $104,000. The article further stated that the base salary figure was deceptive, since so many musicians over the years have been paid additional income by the orchestra - for example, for media activity and a "string bonus." Additionally, titled players earn more (concertmaster, associates, principals and co-principals).

So here from the orchestra's last tax return (year ending August 2009) are some examples of those higher salaries (these figures include deferred compensation, additional non-taxable income and other income):

David Kim, concertmaster: $402,561

David Bilger, principal trumpeter: $296,204 

Jeffery Khaner, principal flutist: $278,238

Riccardo Morales, principal clarinetist: $268,465

Richard Woodhams, principal oboist: $278,577

Jennifer Montone, principal hornist: $256,440

Now, the above are titled players, whose presence here, to various degrees at various times, has been secured against the threat - real or implied - that they would get hired away by another orchestra.

So what about section players - what do they earn? The tax return includes the salaries of three cellists without titles: $152,414, $158,089 and $166,008.

Of course, critics of these salaries will twig onto the figures as proof that unions are evil, that orchestra members are overpaid in relation to what everyone in Philadelphia is making, etc.

But let me argue that really only two factors are relevant here: does Philadelphia want the best possible players so it can have the best orchestra? And if so, is the orchestra board willing to do whatever needs to be done to secure such a future?

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