Low pay for conducting a US college orchestra

Low pay for conducting a US college orchestra


norman lebrecht

January 23, 2018

Jeffrey Rink has resigned after 10 years as music director of the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra, based at Northwest Florida State College.

The job application for his successor specifies terms and conditions.

The candidate will be paid $49,500 to $63,750 for planning the orchestra season, conducting all rehearsals and concerts, teaching classes at NFSC, fundraising and developing the Northwest Florida Youth Symphony Orchestra.

He or she will also undertake speaking engagements.

Lot of work, not a lot of pay.

Some maestros earn twice as much for one night in Japan.




  • Sharon says:

    That’s the reality in Florida civil service. However, once he/she gets tenure the job is very secure with full benefits and a pension and it can be a stepping stone to a lot of other things.

  • Moaning Myrtle says:

    Still almost double what he’d get in the UK in my experience…

  • Cubs Fan says:

    Should have been a football coach if it’s money he’s after.

  • joseph white says:

    surely this is not news…

    • Bruce says:

      It’s not, to those who are actually in the music business. For fans, though — lay people, if you will — it can be surprising how little musicians are paid for the level of achievement they reach in their careers. ($100,000+ to play in the big orchestras of Chicago/ Boston/ Cleveland/ etc. means you’ve reached the elite tier, the cream of the cream; but as a lawyer or doctor, that’s not much of an achievement.)

      • Michael Comins says:

        That’s $150+k.

      • Mark Henriksen says:

        Some of the principal wind of those orchestras are making $300k a year; a salary some doctors and lawyers would respect. And, they don’t even need malpractice insurance.

        • Bruce says:

          True. I read that article about Philadelphia too, and I don’t imagine that that kind of pay scale applies only to them.

          My point is, how high on the ladder do you have to be, as an orchestral musician, to make that kind of money? In terms of job status (including but not limited to pay), you have to be in one of the top 6 or 7 principal wind or concertmaster jobs in the US. So we are talking about a very limited number of individuals: 6 or 7 flutists, 6 or 7 oboists, etc.

          So basically you have to be one of the 5 best (or “best,” meaning you occupy one of the 5 top jobs) oboists — or flutists or whatever — to make $300K. For a lawyer to make that much, they wouldn’t even have to be among the top several thousand lawyers in the US.

  • Eric says:

    Considering it’s attached to a state school, the salary range is probably dictated by the state. As for the rest, I’m not surprised by it, and the salary for that region may actually be “good” (relatively).

  • Larry says:

    And Florida has no state income tax

  • MacroV says:

    And I assume this is not a full-time job, i.e. there might be other performing/income opportunities?

    And if other conductors are getting six-figure fees for a night in Japan, take it up with the Japanese.

  • Gaddi says:

    Hard to believe that whoever goes for a University job does it for the money.
    If they are more concerned about that than educating the next generations of musicians, well sorry…. he’s probably not gonna be a good teacher.

    • Bruce says:

      Lots of people go into music “not for the money” and then realize later that they do, in fact, need money, so they do something else. I am one of them. I’ve been fortunate in that I haven’t had to leave my orchestra job and can work part-time in my second career… yet.

      • Bruce says:

        ^ whoops, hit “send” before I was done.

        To address your second point: anybody who goes into any kind of teaching situation for the money is probably not going to be a very good teacher.

  • Relax.jpg says:

    Northwest Florida State College, an enrollment of 17,000.
    Florida State University, an enrollment of 42,000.

    Alexander Jiménez of FSU makes $108,000 a year.

    NWFSC is simply a smaller school. Relax.

  • Ben says:

    I am sure many of us would *pay* the orchestra to conduct it…. So there shall be no whining from any “low-paying” conductor.