Orchestra ups wages by 20% to stop talent drift

Orchestra ups wages by 20% to stop talent drift


norman lebrecht

June 05, 2016

Musicians in the Kansas City Symphony have accepted a 19.7 percent pay rise over four years, plus health care and insurance upgrades. The new contract was amicably negotiated, no lawyers either side.

‘Something special is happening here,’ said Frank Byrne, executive director. ‘In my 15  1/2 years with the Kansas City Symphony, I have seen a transformation in the culture of the organization, and that is not by accident. I and my staff have worked very systematically to build trust and relationships with our musicians, and it has paid off wonderfully.’

‘We are on the lower end of salary compared to other orchestras,’ said Brian Rood, a trumpet player who chaired the negotiating committee. ‘We were losing too many talented musicians to other orchestras, and while we will not be able to keep them from going to Chicago and Boston and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, maybe we could do more with salary and working conditions to keep them from going to Utah, Oregon, Nashville or even Cincinnati.

The 2016 base salary in KC is $51,537.

Read full report here.

kansas symphony jail

KC musicians get out of jail


  • Max Grimm says:

    KC musicians get out of jail
    Given the position of the large sign and the musicians heading towards a building, I’d say they are about to go into the jail rather than come out of it.

  • FreddyNYC says:

    “Or even Cincinnati”?! Those in glass houses……

    • Max Grimm says:

      Why would he use Oregon and Nashville in his example? The orchestras there have a lower base salary than the Kansas City Symphony and the areas those orchestras are located in/by have a higher cost of living to boot.

      • Adam says:

        Actually, Nashville has a higher base salary than the KC Symphony. All of the information is on the ICSOM site.

    • Dave T says:

      If I’m in KC I sure would like the upgrade to the “even Cincinnati” Glass House. As of five years ago the base pay at the Cincinnati SO was $97,000. It’s no wonder KCSO management is so chipper, with clueless negotiating counterparts like that…

      • Tim Jepson says:

        I believe the Cincinnati reference is a goal. Working on continuous growth and support to reach that next level of base salary and benefits. Senseless, reactionary judgement of the negotiating committee based on a carefully worded press release is the antithesis of the culture of this organization. #MISSEDTHEPOINT.

        • Dave T says:

          It’s the use of the modifier “even” in reference to Cincinnati that is puzzling at best, as the CSO is one of the oldest and best established orchestras in North America. At worst it is condescending, as in, “It’s unbelievable that our players would want to go to of all places a piddly little podunk town like Cincinnati…” That is was a “carefully worded press release,” makes it all the worse. #GotThePoint

          That in mind, good luck doubling your salaries. Hope you get there.

      • Robert Holmén says:

        That’s an impressive raise. Has any other orchestra obtained a 20% raise lately?

        It’s unlikely anyone in the negotiations was clueless when the pertinent information is so available these days.

        • Bruce says:

          My orchestra negotiated a contract something like this back in about 2006. It was frozen after the first two years — that is, the management found the scheduled pay raises to be more than they could handle, and requested that wages be held at that 2008 level. This lasted 4 years. Relations between board and musicians deteriorated over the next few years, and in 2012 we went on strike in response to management’s adamant goal of reducing wages back to 2006 levels. Basically, they won and we lost (instead of a 13% cut, we agreed to come back to work for an 11% cut).

          In the couple of years following the strike, several of the top management and much of the faction of the board that was in favor of these cuts left the organization, and relations have warmed considerably or so I understand. Currently our pay has climbed back up to about where it was in 2008.

          Well anyway, that’s the bare-bones story of my orchestra’s 4-year, 20%-raise contract.

  • Gary says:

    Well, everything’s up to date in Kansas City!

  • Doug says:

    “I and my staff have worked very systematically to build trust and relationships with our musicians, and it has paid off wonderfully.”

    For now. Byrne must be anticipating payoff of those “relationships” when they’re both waiting in the unemployment line in the near future.

    • Adam says:

      You type out this reply as if you know how things are between management and the musicians. Where is this proof? Do you have a source?

      Frankly, the orchestra is doing very well financially. Management would not have agreed to a contract that they could not fulfill.