Orchestra Violinists

October 6, 2004 at 05:26 AM · I am interested in becoming a violinist in an orchestra.

How does one get to this point? Is there traveling? Does the orchestra get paid? How much? How much time is put into being in an orchestra?.... Please add any input. Thanks!

Replies (29)

October 6, 2004 at 11:56 AM · It depends. Are you looking at a professional orchestra such as Chicago Symphony, Columbus Symphony or are you looking at community orchestra?

October 6, 2004 at 01:37 PM · Yes...it depends. I'm playing at the Grade 4/5 level (Suzuki Book 4-5). I recently joined our community orchestra (~50 members). Although I realize that the material we play isn't difficult, I'm finding it challenging - and there's still bits I can't play to speed at all.

We don't get paid. I pay $125 annual fees to join. This pays the conductor (a pittance) and pays for rent and music.

As a rule of thumb - for a more advanced orchestra you would need to be playing at the Grade 8 level...and from my limited experience I would say that's accurate.

If you get really good...you could audition for a symphony orchestra. The requirements would vary greatly depending on which symphony you join...but even ours...in a small city is composed of superb musicians...

October 6, 2004 at 10:07 PM · "Does the orchestra get paid?"

I find that question interesting. How much does a professional orchestra get paid(if at all)? A middle-like one(if at all)? A community(if at all)?


October 6, 2004 at 10:18 PM · I play in a couple community orchestras. I do get paid for those...

October 6, 2004 at 10:31 PM · i play the conecertmaster for my youth orchestra and i dont get payed o.O

October 6, 2004 at 10:46 PM · I think some might pay to be concertmaster!

October 6, 2004 at 11:16 PM · Starting salary in the Philadelphia orchestra is around $100,000 a year!

October 6, 2004 at 11:58 PM · i just get yelled at for sounding squeaky. i guess that's payment?

October 6, 2004 at 11:27 PM · Yeah, my school conductor plays in a community orchestra, and they don't have to pay to play in it, but they don't get paid either. I think community orchestras are just for non-professionals with musical ability to sit around and play some more music. Usually only the conductor and the concertmaster get paid (concertmaster because you wouldn't want a slacker non-paid leader). And professional orchestras are supposed to have a couple tiers, you know, second tier, like every city has one, some better than others, then the big ones, Berlin, Philadelphia, Cleveland, New York, London, Chicago... those are the high paying ones. So yeah, if you're not looking into a professional career, you can play in community orchestras, but don't expect to get paid. 2nd tier orchestras usually get (i'm guessing) around 30,000 - 80,000, depending on how many years you've been in and where you sit. And finally, the big ones, you can expect a big enough paycheck to not really worry so much about money :-P.

- Wenhao Sun

October 7, 2004 at 12:38 AM · Woa, $100,000 a year...

October 7, 2004 at 12:39 AM · So, tell me, how many times does a member of the Phil. Orchestra have to attend to practices (or rehearsals)?

October 7, 2004 at 12:44 AM · Sara, my info may be out of date but I think the Philadelphia Orchestra musicians--and those of the other top American orchestras--typically play 8 "services" (rehearsals and concerts) a week, 44 weeks a year (8 weeks paid vacation). The competition for a spot in one of the top orchestras is incredibly fierce--Laurie can tell you all about it.

October 7, 2004 at 01:07 AM · PLayers in a "Professional" orchestra do get paid because otherwise it wouldn't be professional. The basic definition of Professional is getting paid for doing something. Just like in sports, a professional sportsman/woman is someone who recieves prize money and endorsements from their sport, where as an amature is just playing for the enjoyment and experience.

Here in Western Australia, we don't really have community orchestras (more community bands, but they don't have strings so they're not important in my opinion). We have a couple of amature orchestras that put on usually 4 concerts a year and would usually practice one or twice a week.

The Professional Orchestra, The Western Australian Symphony Orchestra has 58 concerts scheduled from late Janruary to late November. From what I know, they rehearse about 4 days a week and are all paid enough to live off (maybe $40-50 thousand a year) and many also supplement their income by teaching in one of the two uni's, or other schools or privately

October 7, 2004 at 05:15 AM · Since I play for one of the major Symphony Orchestras, I can tell you that the salary range is between $30,000 and $120,000 and that's depending where you play (Chicago, NY, Boston, Philly, Cleveland and so on). Service average is at 8 services per week and that includes rehearsals and concerts. Each service can be as long as 2 and 1/2 hours. Touring is done a lot by the higher paid orchestras and also recordings, which are paid extra. The above salary figures are the minimum scale, as per Union negotiated contracts. Titled players (usually the first two or three chairs in each section) get paid up to 25% more and the Concertmaster up to 50% more (sometimes higher). Conductors are paid separately from the orchestra and usually is in the hundreds of thousands.

Does this info help?

October 7, 2004 at 06:36 AM · I'm not sure, but I think American orchestra members get paid far more than their British counterparts.


October 7, 2004 at 07:00 AM · that's because we are better :)

October 7, 2004 at 02:08 PM · Detail on orchestra salaries can be downloaded from


The current range for ICSOM orchestras is $23,000 - $104,000.

October 7, 2004 at 05:21 PM · A friend of mine in Britain was telling me that it's almost insane, the way musicians there undercut each other and will play for "nothing."

I don't know, I have never lived there. Is that true?

October 7, 2004 at 07:12 PM · I am a student in a professional orchestra and I get "paid". Mainly just enough to cover food and some travel costs for the duration of each tour.

October 7, 2004 at 07:31 PM · I never considered myself a professional violinist until I moved to Oklahoma. In Oklahoma if you get paid at all to play the violin you're a professional. I didn't consider myself one because it wasn't a career.

My friend paid me to take him to the airport, but I don't consider myself a professional cab driver.

October 7, 2004 at 08:54 PM · Hey, anybody know what the salary range is for the Colorado Symphony Orchestra?


October 7, 2004 at 09:03 PM · Laurie,

I'm sure that's true for many people. At the Royal Academy Junior Department, we're actually discouraged from becoming professionals if we can help it, being told that not only is it cut-throat competitive, but the salaries can be meagre and the work isn't always steady.


October 8, 2004 at 04:35 AM · Hi Sara,

Hey, I grew up in Aurora! I know people who play in the CSO and seem to make a decent living with that and a bit of teaching. The auditions are rather competitive; Denver is a nice place to live.

October 8, 2004 at 10:36 PM · Yeah, it is. Although the only really nice thing about Colorado is the mountains, and I can't even go see them! But I'm glad that CSO pays, because when I get good, and I mean really good, I want to try out for a pretty good orchestra here.


October 8, 2004 at 10:35 PM · Oh, and I also live in Aurora. What a funny coincidence!


October 9, 2004 at 06:47 AM · Laurie,

Why in the heck did you move to California?

Okay, I admit, California has some great attractions, but Colorado has a special place in my heart.

October 10, 2004 at 04:43 AM · I thing it's really hard to get into professional orchestras. My teacher told me that there was an opening in the LA Phil and 800 people auditioned, 500 were thrown out without even looking, and I bet most of them were really good. I might be confused... maybe he said 500 people auditioned and 300 were not even looked at but even if those are the numbers, you get the drift. And it's around $100,000.

October 10, 2004 at 04:46 AM · Yes, I can attest that many people auditioned for the LA Phil. In the end they heard about 200. A woman who is a mother from Detroit won it, too. You go girl!

Why did I move to California? I came kicking and screaming. My husband got a job here and he always wanted to live here. Honestly, though, it was less of a culture shock than moving from Denver (okay, Aurora) to Chicago. As in Denver, people in LA tend to be rather happy, they are interested in living a healthy lifestyle, and with the beach and mountains nearby, they appreciate and enjoy recreation and sports.

It does not cost a penny to climb a mountain (or to stand at the ocean's edge), and it makes you feel like you are on top of the world. That helps make for a little less class snobbery.

Chicago...I found I could not go running much (urban trails? What are those?) People kind of wondered why I'd want to. The lake was nice, but no gorgeous mountains to make me look up on a daily basis and say, "Amen, I love this planet!" Definitely a lot of class consciousness, not so many opportunities to enjoy life without money, and I was a poor student.

So there is my diatribe about the subject. I love Colorado, it is definitely my first love!

October 10, 2004 at 07:32 PM · bah, california is better.

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