Pity the Chicago Symphony!

Discussion in 'Orchestra / Solo / Chamber Music' started by orchtrpt, Sep 1, 2004.

  1. orchtrpt

    orchtrpt Pianissimo User

    Mar 4, 2004
    Pity the Chicago Symphony, forced to work for scraps

    September 1, 2004


    Opening shot

    Contract talks resume today between the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and its musicians, and while I am a former union man myself, I'm having a hard time finding sympathy for the downtrodden workers.

    Aw heck, let's give it a try. Cue the union violins: CSO musicians get paid a starting minimum of $2,000 a week -- that's only $104,000 a year! -- though many earn two or three times that. Between the concert season and Ravinia, they're lucky to get 10 weeks a year paid vacation, and don't even talk about health insurance, which has skyrocketed so that CSO musicians pay 10 times as much as they did four years ago -- but since it cost them nothing then, it costs them nothing now.

    Who could create under these conditions? Insulting, really. And I've saved the worst for last. Management actually tried to pay CSO musicians to let their concerts be broadcast on the radio. The union promptly saw through that scam -- they were being offered more money for no additional work! -- and rejected it. That's why we hear the New York Philharmonic on WFMT. (Well, maybe you hear it. Who listens to classical music? Except of course Wynne Delacoma, and God bless her for it.)
  2. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    At least they aren't asking to get paid by the semi-hemi-demi quaver like some German violinists!!!!

    MUSICandCHARACTER Forte User

    Jan 31, 2004
    Newburgh, Indiana
    6 figures and 10 weeks vacation.

    Forget it! I couldn't take the cut in pay. Ha! :shock:

    They ought to try being a church musician. Now there is great pay and great benefits. Oops, I forgot, I get no benefits and I make less per hour than the babysitter in the nursery. :oops:
  4. Lazorphaze

    Lazorphaze Piano User

    Feb 3, 2004
    Jim, try doing some blues gigs.
    I bet I'll have my first gig (not organized by a workshop) by December.
    Hopefully, we'll start rakin' in the dough then :wink:
  5. dcstep

    dcstep Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 27, 2003
    Playing the blues you'll be paid in ciggys and beer... Better switch to blues guitar to have any hope of seeing a buck or two.
  6. romey1

    romey1 Banned

    Oct 25, 2003

    MUSICandCHARACTER Forte User

    Jan 31, 2004
    Newburgh, Indiana
    Romey is correct. The very top in their field. What does the top NFL player make? What does the top salesperson at a Fortune 500 company make? What does a CEO make?

    But on the flip side, orchestras are folding everywhere. Musicians who work hard and go to The Julliard, or Eastman or another conservatory come out with big bills and small futures. While gansta rappers wear their bling bling.

    But the fact is, orchestras are dying. The market cannot bear the expense. The NHL lockout shows that to be the case. 6 figures, lots of vactions, and can make a pretty good sum on the side teaching isn't all bad. But they should have more pay just for living in Chicago :shock:

  8. WAKeele

    WAKeele Pianissimo User

    Sep 30, 2004
    The Wild West
    Those guys in upper management can take a pay cut; mid to upper six figures. Not to mention the seven figures Barenboim makes! I can see where the musicians coming from. I mean I'd do it for much less but it's earned!
  9. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    Let's make sure that this thread doesn't turn into the kind of thing that resembles a rather juvenile type of playground activity. Yes, compared to the income of the average "pro" musician, a legit "gig" with a major orchestra may seem like heaven. Compared with the obscene amounts of money paid to many "professional" athletes, actors, TV stars, etc. it is a pittance.

    It's all relative, guys. Please keep that in mind.

    I had a chat just this week with a local professional violist who is giving my daughter violin lessons. Somehow the subject of professional salaries came up and the conversation inevitably led to the story of the German orchestra where the violinists wanted to be paid BY THE NOTE! It seems that there are so many semi-demi-hemi quavers in the violin section that they feel they are overworked compared with the rest of the orchestra. Our final "mutally agreed" position was that they made the choice to learn violin rather than ... say ... bass fiddle. (he seemed surprised that a mere amateur trumpet player would have heard about this story... HA!)

    Anyway.... it's an interesting topic (remuneration for artistic output) but let's all keep in mind the enormous diversity of members who might be involved in the debate. It (the topic) also has the potential to lead to a discussion on a more fundamental question: "What is happening in the marketplace that is causing the demise of so many professional orchestras?" (and the corollary question "What to do about it?")
  10. bigaggietrumpet

    bigaggietrumpet Mezzo Forte User

    Jan 23, 2004
    Nazareth, PA
    To just go ahead and answer that one, the demise is coming from a lack of interest and shorter attention spans. Also, the image of the orchestra isn't exactly a popular one either. Today's young generation (I shudder when I realize that I'm part of it) doesn't like orchestral music. They like rap, hard rock, and there are quite a few in the jazz camp. Why? Because it moves, it bounces, and is over in about 3 minutes. Orchestral pieces sometimes last twice as long. The current attention span of people my age is pushed to three minutes (I think I read somewhere that this could be blamed on video games, don't remember).

    At the risk of getting flamed to death, I'm also gonna venture that the poor economy is part of the problem. People don't have as much money to spend on things like orchestra concerts.

    Oh, and about the poor image thing. I posted on an A&M student forum about the Symphonic/Concert Bands Concert on Sunday (those of you in the area should come, it will be good). I can't post some of the things I got called. I happen to know some people down here who like the classical genre, but they don't want to admit it.

    Just my take on the problem. I can't tell you how to fix, because mainly, I don't think it can.

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