Orchestra raises $52 million to boost player wages

Orchestra raises $52 million to boost player wages


norman lebrecht

January 05, 2017

The ambitious Kansas City Symphony is just $3m short of a $55 million endowment target.

Why to they need the money? The first reason given by executive director Frank Byrne is to be ‘competitive by continuing to attract and retain the best musicians.’

At present, KC pays 41 percent less in player wages than other US orchestras of comparable size.


  • Jon H says:

    Good for them. It always seems a waste too attract conservatory-trained musicians just to play pops concerts or music that doesn’t really make the most of what they have to offer – in other words if you can only offer dessert to pay for that, it’s a problem – hopefully (and most likely) they will make good use of those musicians.

  • Roger Custer says:

    Does it cost 41% less to live in Kansas City than in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, etc.?

    • Stephen Owades says:

      Kansas City is not basing its “comparable” wages on “New York, Chicago, San Francisco, etc.” The orchestras in those cities are in another budget class entirely. But KC wants to be competitive with the orchestras in other mid-sized cities, and that’s a reasonable goal. They built a fine new concert hall, and it would be a shame to skimp on the orchestral musicians who make it worth visiting!

  • Anon! A Moose! says:

    “At present, KC pays 41 percent less in player wages than other US orchestras of comparable size.”

    This is a statistical mess. The chart says “Orchestra comparison based on city population”. Then the vertical axis is labeled “average of comparable orchestras”. Well, which is it? Comparable orchestras, or comparable city population? Looking at either city population or metropolitan statistical areas, it’s apparent there is some statistical shenanigans going on. According to wikipedia, these are the 10 most comparably sized (5 above, 5 below) cities, followed by comparable metro areas:

    Long Beach
    Colorado Springs
    Virginia Beach

    By metro area:
    Las Vegas
    San Antonio
    San Jose

    Seems to me they are cherry picking a bit, as there is no way you could get 41% if places like Tucson, Fresno, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Jose, Mesa, Colorado Springs, and Virginia Beach are included in the average. Of course it’s easy to get 41% if you’re comparing yourself to Cleveland, Cinci, Indianapolis, or Pittsburgh. My rough, back-of-the-napkin estimate based on metro area column (the more optimistic of the two) shows an average base of around 55k/yr, which means KC is paying them about the average give or take 5k.

    That said, congrats on their endowment campaign and I hope they raise as much as they can and prosper both financially and artistically. I just despise the intellectual dishonesty that goes into statistics like this.