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Community-based orchestra pay scale...

January 17, 2012 at 7:41 AM

My local community-based orchestra currently pays ringers a very handsome fee-per-service while those of us remaining local musicians are paid only $11 per service. The orchestra board has tabled discussion of any salary increase until next fall (2012) for the local musicians. I know times are tough but still this hardly seems fair to our local musicians. Depending on the concert, there are only between 10-15 local musicians left in our orchestra - everyone else is coming from a distance. I would just like some opinions on the next step to try to make the board understand the gravity of this issue. Thank you.

From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on January 17, 2012 at 8:02 PM
My first response was that if this is a community orchestra, you're lucky to be getting paid at all. Reading closer, you're getting the shaft. If there are only 10 to 15 of you out of what, 60 to 80? getting the lesser pay, this just isn't right. Is any of this union/non-union stuff? It's one thing to pay someone to schlep a harp or contrabassoon two counties over in the snow, or to pay section leaders something, but this is way into the rank-and-file. These aren't ringers; it's more than 80% of your group.

The board's tabling this issue shows a major lack of good faith on their part. Do the players have board representation? Times are hard, but in the face of the total budget you can't be looking at much if they are paying the vast majority so much more. Do you or any of the other locals have a good relationship with any of the individual board members? If so, maybe starting with one or two of them, perhaps over lunch, might be a good start.

From Shari Ebert
Posted on January 17, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Thank you so much for your much needed advice. Yes - there is representation of the orchestra as I am their rep. The Board meeting is tonight...I will be attending with my Roberts Rules as I feel this is being swept under the carpet. In essence, they sent my salary increase request (from May) to a committee that has tabled discussion. There was no motion involved that I am aware of. We can't even buy a set of strings for what they pay us! And yes - I know we're "lucky" to be getting some $$ but I have a Master's in Music and it sure is hard sharing a stand with an UG who's getting over $600 while I got $55... Thanks again!!!
From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on January 18, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Good luck and report back! I just looked at the orchestra's website. Looks like you do a concert a month, and pieces like the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra take some prep time. It adds up over a season, huh? Tough to justify paying some people more than 10x what they are paying others, especially when they sit next to each other. As you said, $55 won't even cover a set of strings.
From Corwin Slack
Posted on January 18, 2012 at 2:05 AM
Years ago I played in the Charleston WV Symphony. We imported ringers from Dayton Ohio. They came for rehearsals before the concert and had to be put up overnight in motels and fed. They were only brought in because there were insufficient local players of necessary quality. I would say that our imports were almost all better than the best locals. They would not have been hired at extra expense if there had been a local alternative.
From Shari Ebert
Posted on January 21, 2012 at 2:53 PM
Thank you both for your interest and comments! Our orchestra is currently in it's 44th season and initially began as a community orchestra. Our present conductor has been with us about 24 yrs. and back in the 80's he decided (and convinced the Board) that we should no longer be a community orchestra, rather we should be community-based meaning that he would have the sole authority about who to hire and where everyone sits (strings). This change eliminated most of our local strings except for maybe 5-6 of us. Our ringers were then imported from his music school which he began almost around the same these changes occurred. Therefore, we became the training orchestra for his youthful musicians AND THEY GOT PAID. How perfect! This practice has continued and the ringers come not only from his school but from surrounding universities. When the $$ is hard to come by, he continues to audition students (not his) - hence the huge discrepancies in pay. There was no budging the Board at Tuesday's meeting. They assured me that the pay scale will be addressed at the end of our fiscal year. We'll see...

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