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What a timpanist makes in the New York Philharmonic

January 10, 2017 by norman lebrecht

9 comments.


Crain’s New York Business reports: Philharmonic musicians’ base salary, negotiated by the players union, is nearly $147,000. On top of that, principals have individual contracts with the orchestra, the terms of which are not disclosed. Rhoten is also a salaried faculty member at Juilliard.

More alarming is what Markus Rhoten had to do to get there: By age 10, Rhoten recalled, “I would come home from school and practice piano for an hour, drums for an hour, vibraphone for an hour and then cello for an hour.”

Where did that childhood go?

More here.

photo: Chris Lee


Comments (9)

  1. Holly Golightly says:

    Young people spend this much time and more on their phones today; where’s your beef?

  2. Daniel F. says:

    I don’t understand NL’s point here. To master ANY instrument generally requires starting at a young age and working in a very focused, time-consuming manner. Certainly NL understands that, so perhaps he’s being ironically flip. As for the salary, one would have to assume that the principal timpanist, given the nature of the role, has to be among the top earners in the orchestra and certainly well over the base salary.

  3. MacroV says:

    Even a decade ago, Glenn Dicterow was reportedly earning $350k or more and I assume the current CM is probably earning over $400k. Most principals are surely earning well over $200k. And don’t forget it’s New York, where those wages don’t go all that far. Relative to cost of living, much better to be in Pittsburgh or Cleveland, I suspect.

  4. Jason says:

    Yo Yo ma charges makes nearly this guy’s salary in a weekend or two and your worried about this?

  5. Eric says:

    What’s your big deal? If he was interested in practicing, and he had fun, then why is it terrible that he is a master at his craft, and has an excellent job with a world-class orchestra? He’s living his dream, and you’re against it!?

  6. Bruce says:

    FWIW, “Base salary” means even the lowliest 2nd violin or 8th chair viola gets that much. Standard practice for principal scale, without negotiation, is to add 25%. Standard concertmaster scale is 2x the base salary. Of course lots of principal players and concertmasters negotiate terms higher than that (sometimes much higher).

    I also don’t understand the “where did that childhood go” remark. It sounds like he spent his childhood doing things he loved.

    1. Sue says:

      Absolutely. My mother was in boarding school from 5 years and started learning piano. She attained her Licenciate at 16 after years of “lonely practice” at school. This didn’t seem to have a negative impact on her life; on the contrary, I think she was deeply skeptical about the ‘playground mafia’!!

    2. Daniel F. says:

      I really think NL had to have been doing an ironic flip. I think we all got him wrong by taking the remark seriously. He knows (tons) better.

      1. Bruce says:

        I would like to think so too, but sometimes he misses the mark so widely (or appears to) that I have to wonder.

        For example, see his criticism of Seong-Jin Cho from last week (http://slippedisc.com/2017/01/this-pianist-has-a-lot-to-learn-and-so-does-his-label/ ). Does he really think that people watching that video — shy, self-effacing and awkward when speaking to the camera in at least his 3rd language, in stark contrast to the powerful, confident, and tasteful playing — are going to be turned off from buying the recording? Or was it, as someone suggested in the comments, a cleverly counter-intuitive publicity plug?


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