Just in: New deal gives musicians $100,000 minimum wage in St Louis

Just in: New deal gives musicians $100,000 minimum wage in St Louis


norman lebrecht

January 30, 2017

The St. Louis Symphony and the American Federation of Musicians have reached agreement on a new five-year contract seven months before deadline.

Here’s the deal:

– Annual minimum scale increases from $86,053 in FY17 to $98,304 in FY22 … averaging 2.8% annually. There is also a bonus of $2,250 in year five that will take total compensation in 2021/22 to $100,553.88.

– An increase of 1/2% to the pension contribution rate starting in year three of the new agreement.

– Work-rule adjustments that will allow for more flexibility with scheduling and how the orchestra is deployed, increased rehearsal efficiency, incorporating a personal day and updating touring conditions.

Timothy Myers, Principal Trombone & Chair of the St. Louis Symphony Musicians’ Negotiating Committee, said, “This agreement addresses many of the musicians’ concerns about the Symphony’s ability to attract and retain the best musicians to our orchestra. With much recent positive press about our performances in capitals in the US and Europe, as well as here in St. Louis, our artistic standing is unquestioned. We will now also see our economic standing among American orchestras rise as well. Besides the economic gains, we also achieved protections for our health and safety that were lacking in our previous agreements. The professionalism and constructive dialogue at the negotiating table certainly helped us reach this early agreement.’



  • Alvaro says:

    Those poor musicians, making a six figure base salary, 3 months vacation and enough time to teach and give side lessons/concerts on the side.

    They really are on the brink of misery: ONLY 4X MINIMUM WAGE!!

    • Kro says:

      Why the hell do you read this blog if you think so passionately that musicians don’t deserve a good income? Must be a failed musician or failed at whatever career you chose. Or just a troll with nothing better to do.

    • Gottesprach says:

      So somebody at the top of their field should make less than a mediocre business man or entry level physician? LOGIC.

    • Bruce says:

      How much do you think they should be making?

      • Dennis says:

        They are making far more than average wage. I wish I was making what they do! 100K to play an instrument. Sounds like a great job!

        • Bill says:

          Average wage for what? For any job in the St. Louis metropolitan area, they are undoubtedly above average. For any comparably competitive job in the area for which any opening draws a hundred or more applicants from all over the country, they may not be so far above average.

          Yes, it probably is nice to make that kind of scratch “to play an instrument.”. The problem is that there aren’t many openings for jobs which do, and there are plenty of talented musicians auditioning, making it harder to convince the audition committee that you’re the one to hire. If it is easy money, what’s stopping you from bellying up to the trough?

        • Bruce says:

          “They are making far more than average wage. I wish I was making what they do! 100K to play an instrument. Sounds like a great job!”

          I repeat my question: how much do you think they should be making?

          • Claudia Ferguson says:

            Non-musicians may not understand that professional classical musicians spend hours practicing their music at home during their free time for no money, just to be able to perform during rehearsals and concerts at the required level. They also purchase musical instruments on their own and pay to keep them in working shape. Third, to get to the level of a full time paid classical musical, most have paid for college, and some for masters and doctoral degrees, and have student loans that equal doctors. The few classical musicians making $100,000 per year have sacrificed time and money, many since early childhood, to reach that high level. It must be fun to be Tom Brady or Nick Foles and throw a football around as a career, but we can imagine how many hours of work, paid and unpaid, they had to put in to reach that level.

        • Chuck Lavazzi says:

          I’d be very surprised if you had the qualifications to make that kind of money. Symphony musicians have to be among the best in their profession to get jobs with a major orchestra (which the SLSO certainly is). I don’t see why that should be a problem. Do you have some objection to merit-based pay?

    • Victoria says:

      I think the headline is slightly misleading. “Base Salary” for an orchestral musician and orchestra of this caliber and training is quite a different statement than a federal minimum wage requirement. This isn’t something to rage out about.

    • Hicks says:

      I’ll bet you don’t complain about the contracts given to the St. Louis Cardinals players for making MANY times that to play a game.

    • Nora Charles says:

      Why do you even visit this site?

    • Mike says:

      Perhaps you should try winning and maintaining one of those overpaid symphony jobs before making sarcastic comments. Perhaps they really are worth four times the standard pay of a burger-flipper.

      • David says:

        Uhm…you are talking about a very self-selected bevvy of musicians who do in fact overvalue their ‘talents’ and work product. That this is reinforced by a network of wealthy donors and lowly sycophants is not an argument reinforcing the outrageous pay scales these people receive for playing basically the same music as community, mostly volunteer, orchestras produce.

  • Good4Them says:

    Alvaro – would love to see you sit in any of the chairs in this or any other professional orchestra and perform on the level of those around you.

    Put up or shut up.

  • Jaime Weisenblum says:

    I am constantly amazed at the perception that some people have about what it means to become a professional musician,one that can attain a permanent position with a professional orchestra,ANYWHERE in our planet,regardless of country.
    It is a lifetime of continuous learning and as with other specialized professions,a never ending quest for the ultimate: Bringing something exceptional to a multi faceted audience and nurturing a growing appreciation for people who first discover it, as in very young children up to adults ( including professional musicians ) who realize how fulfilling music and sounds can be to most people at any given time.
    I know it may be hard for some people to believe it,but musicians play with heart because they have immense pride in their profession,and orchestral musicians are some of the finest,most hard working professional people out there.
    Sure,outside the stage or the pit they have as normal lives as every other profession,but when they get together for THE performance,there are few professions that can equal this
    organized organic experience they provide.
    As I said above,after a lifetime of being a professional musician it saddens me to hear criticism about orchestras “earning” too much…or negotiating a better contract!!!
    Actually,it makes me really mad.
    Maybe before criticizing this topic,you should get all the facts right,including the full history
    about the subject of orchestras in the last century or so.

    • Ravi Narasimhan says:

      I think that people here are aware of the difficulties faced by artists. Such comments are an easy way to provoke a response.

  • Gerald Cadh says:

    start playing the instrument at a very early age. instead of going out to play baseball you’re sitting in a practice room sometime six or seven hours a day for years then you enter one of the most competitive fields in the world of specialization you work a lifetime and continue to work to maintain your ability to play so $100,000 is not a lot of compensation

  • Gary says:

    This is America. Only Wall Street con-men and paper shufflers deserve to be paid. The rest of us should just be glad we are even allowed to serve our masters.

  • PhilOrchFan says:

    Not to be outdone, minimum wage for the St. Louis Cardinals will be $535k in 2017.