Philadelphia's going bust? Its chief exec isn't

Philadelphia's going bust? Its chief exec isn't


norman lebrecht

June 03, 2011

Good research in court documents by Peter Dobrin at Philadelphia magazine shows that Philadelphia Orchestra CEO Allison B. Vulgamore is being paid something in the region of $597,000.

She has agreed to a reduction of 20 percent in light of the orchestra’s financial crisis, but that’s still a handsome takehome for the head of a struggling orchestra. A decade ago, the incumbent earned less than $200,000.

Her chairman says: ‘We’re very fortunate to have someone as talented as Allison Vulgamore to guide us through this challenging period’.

Here’s the link to Peter’s fine story.


  • Galen Johnson says:

    If she’s so brilliant, why are they in such a deep mess? It’s true that no one person could have steered the lumbering ship totally away from the iceberg, but…

  • Leen Roetman says:

    The Philadelphia is indeed very ‘fortunate’ with such an extraordinary talent to ruin their orchestra!
    Philadelphia’s next music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, said of his engagement with the Rotterdams Philhamonisch Orkest: ‘I am not here for the money’. And I am sure he is not for in Philadelphia. BRAVO !

    • brian says:

      Not in it for the money? All these ‘maestri’ are backed by big money! If someone would just follow the money trail behind all these pretenders, I believe what you’ll find is a disturbing kind of patronage that Is based on the perceived sellability of the culturural commodity that is the modern ‘maestro’. They are products for sale, not Artists!

  • Jonathan Gresl says:

    To be fair to Ms. Vulgamore, she didn’t totally create the mess that the Philadelphia Orchestra now finds itself in. As i recall, she only took the job last year. Before that she was in Atlanta, which has a reputation for being a very well run orchestra. She left Atlanta after a grand scheme to build a new hall from a super-architect was cancelled. Also of interest is that the Atlanta symphony is known for having a committee of executives working with the conductors on artistic matters. Creation of such a committee was one plank in her new reorganization plan for Philadelphia. Are music directors becoming mere figureheads?

  • Below are some examples of other high salaries for arts exectuives in 2009, as reported in the New York Times. See:
    Considering these extravagant numbers below we needn’t heed simplistic whining that these managers might have seen some relatively small reductions in the last couple years. Part of the problem is America’s funding system by (and for) the wealthy. Organizations become inordinately dependant on high paid administrators who can wheedle money out of the wealthy. They also have to head huge, expensive “development departments” who have to reinvent the funding wheel every year. The public funding system used by Europeans is far more efficient.
    * Reynold Levy’s annual compensation to run Lincoln Center tops $1 million.
    * Carnegie Hall pays Clive Gillinson more than $800,000.
    * Glenn D. Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art, earned $2.7 million in the year that ended in June 2008, including several one-time bonuses and the cost of his apartment in the tower beside the museum.
    * Occasionally institutions will also pay bonuses tied to performance or longevity, like the $3.25 million given in 2006 to Philippe de Montebello to recognize his 30-year service to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (His aristocratic name fits well with America’s neo-feudalistic form of arts funding.)
    * On top of his $940,000 salary, Michael Kaiser of the Kennedy Center earned a $150,000 bonus, as well as other benefits, for 2009.
    * Zarin Mehta’s most recent compensation, for fiscal year 2010, is $807,500. In the fiscal year ending in August 2008 he earned 2.67 million. This reflected his salary in addition to eight years of accumulated deferred compensation.
    * Timothy Rub, the director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art earns $450,00.
    * George Steel, the general manager and artistic director of New York City Opera receives $360,000 – and from an opera house that just shut down its next season due to a lack of funds.
    In addition, Deborah Borda, Executive Director of the LA Phil makes $799,970 per year.