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International wages

Life in general: I've seen several charts of American orchestra salaries, but I was wondering what international orchestras get paid

From A Tubergen
Posted January 30, 2006 at 05:22 AM

I have some questions about orchestra salaries. I've seen several charts of American orchestra salaries, but I was wondering what international orchestras get paid. I've heard that there are more orchestras abroad that pay a living wage b/c they're often gov't supported. Does anybody know if this is true? If so, do you know where I could find out more about international wages?

From Daniel Broniatowski
Posted on January 30, 2006 at 05:45 AM
Despite the fact that everyone claims Europe is a Classical utopia, American orchestras pay much better if you can get into the top ones. In London the biggest and best orchestras pay peanuts.
From Raspberry Iced Tea
Posted on January 30, 2006 at 08:41 AM
Out of curiosity Daniel, how much do players in the London Symphony and Berlin Phil make? How much do principal players make over there?
From Tim Oreo
Posted on January 30, 2006 at 09:16 AM
several years back, NY Times disclosed NY Phil's pay which is over 85K USD. In Taiwan, the average payment for a national level orch is 24K USD. For NY Phil violin players, if they take enough private students, I think they can make up to 150K USD. The recording industry now shifts their partner to East european orchestra, cuz the US orch. is just too costly.
From Frank-Michael Fischer
Posted on January 30, 2006 at 12:22 PM
In Germany the wages and contracts are publically available (email me for a link). The standard job contract contains 41 pages and is extremely hard to read for someone with no legal background. Now some rough figures.

There are A,B,C and D orchestras with "A" being the top category. There a "plain" violinist makes about 40000$ as base salary per year. This includes full pension security, a pretty comprehensive health plan and 45 (!) days of paid vacation. For players with children it's important to know that school and university education is tuition free in Germany. The salary increases "automatically" every second year. It also increases with number of children.

For such base salary one has to play up to 128 "services" per 16 weeks, but never more than 8 "services" per week. When playing "difficult" (like "modern") pieces this can be reduced to 7 "services" per week. So if an orchestra specializes in "difficult" pieces you will not have more than 102 "services" per 16 weeks.

A "service" is either a performace or a rehearsal. Plain rehearsals may last up to 150 minutes, rehearsals with "stage action" up to 180 minutes. Dress and so called "main" rehearsals (a dress rehearsal without the dress ;-) are not limited in time.


From A Tubergen
Posted on January 30, 2006 at 12:21 PM
Does anyone know about orchestras in South America, like the Orquestra Sinfonica do Estado in Sao Paolo? I was looking at their website the other day, and they seem to get fairly major soloists, and their orchestra members seem qualifited enough. Sao Paulo is bigger than NYC, so I'd expect the orchestra to be pretty good.
From Daniel Broniatowski
Posted on January 30, 2006 at 01:48 PM
I can't speak for Berlin (which could very well be an exception to what I"m about to say) but in London the average orchestral player in a major orchestra makes about £35000 to £40000. I do know that the section leader of the BBC Symphony orchestra does better with a salary of £40,000-£50,000. I believe that the above figure of £35000 to £40000 applies to woodwinds and section violinists. While this seems adaquate, remember that this is London where everything is double the price of New York. Transportation prices and taxes are crippling. I used to pay $60/month just for a pus pass to get to school within the city! If you drive, there's a congestion charge - you pay a lot everytime you drive into the city. Furthermore, even if healthcare is provided by the government, many people find it inadequate and buy private insurance.

I was reading an article two summers ago in the UK Independent where the musicians were complaining bitterly about how life in London was too expensive and that they were not able to afford the lifestyle necessary to live there. I will also add that if I am not mistaken, I think English orchestras also do not really pay salary - they pay per service. I'll try to find the article if I can.
Also, being government supported doesn't guarantee money. It holds you hostage to the demands of the financial situation of the government.

From Daniel Broniatowski
Posted on January 30, 2006 at 01:05 PM
I found a similar more recent article..


" A rank-and-file player can earn up to £40,000 per annum in the London Symphony Orchestra, but the equivalent post in the London Philharmonic and Philharmonia orchestras is unlikely to be more than £30,000 - in the North it's nearer £25,000."


From parmeeta bhogal
Posted on January 30, 2006 at 05:36 PM
I don't know that the salaries here in Spain are as high as in the really top US orchestras, but they are higher than average; plus the additional bonus is that they tend to be stable as they are paid by the authority concerned, local, provincial or national (just as they would any other public employee). As pointed out in an earlier post, schools are free, university education is almost free (I am even comparing now to the UK where it has really gone up), health care is universal and pensions are state, so you only have private if you want to "top-up". And compared to the UK and london, public transport and travel are cheap and a nice home-cooked 3-course lunch including decent wine/water/everything will set you back 7:00-8:00 euros....that is why all the orchestras are full of foreigners esp.easteuropeans....
From Raspberry Iced Tea
Posted on January 30, 2006 at 06:41 PM
Thanks for the info Daniel and Frank-Michael. Tim, I think that NY Phil section players make about 103,000 USD a year as of this year. Principals obviously make more :)
From Éric Tremblay
Posted on January 30, 2006 at 06:58 PM
25 cents per note here in Canada.
From Frank-Michael Fischer
Posted on January 30, 2006 at 08:24 PM
Ok, so how much do note counters earn in Canada then? Are there principle note counters, too? ;-)


From Jim W. Miller
Posted on January 30, 2006 at 08:41 PM
How much without the dress?
From Jonathan Law
Posted on January 30, 2006 at 08:45 PM

In the UK we are paid a lot a less because we are given 2 eight hour rehearsals before a concert, rather than America having more rehearsals, thus making more money. It's the price to pay for the standard of sight-reading in Europe I suppose ;-P

From Christian Vachon
Posted on January 30, 2006 at 11:16 PM

Canadian orchestras don't pay as much as the U.S.. I think the top paid orchestra at the moment is the National Arts Center Orchestra at 72,000$cnd a year.

I know that some European orchestras pay quite well. Section players in the Barcelona Opera for example get around 48,000 Euros a year.

London orchestras are hard to put a salary on. Most are per service except for title positions so every musician's salary fluctuates depending on contracting. Plus, rehearsals are few (hence the legend, quite true, of outstanding sight-readers in London Orchestras). Therefore, living is difficult for many as London is a very expensive city.

That's all I know based on info from colleagues.


From parmeeta bhogal
Posted on January 31, 2006 at 11:53 AM
Yes Christian, that would be about it for Euskadi orchestra and a bit lesser for the Bilbao one. Salaries are annual, and as you get into one through a "public test" you are in for life as a sort of "civil servant". No one will chuck you out unless you go really haywire or something. Would that be true where you are and in the UK?
From Frank-Michael Fischer
Posted on January 31, 2006 at 12:13 PM
In Germany you are "in for life", too. Not necessarily true for section leaders who might have to go back to normal chairs with degrading performance.


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