How Baltimore’s boss took a pay cut

How Baltimore’s boss took a pay cut


norman lebrecht

June 21, 2019

Drew McManus’s track of orchestra executive earnings shows that the president of the Baltimore Symphony took home $40k less in 2016/17 than the year before.

This was the year that Peter Kjome succeeded Paul Meecham. He came cheap, at $320k.

The top ten executive earners were:
Los Angeles Philharmonic: $1,417,633 – Borda
Boston Symphony: $1,059,343 – Volpe
New York Philharmonic: $732,806 – Matthew Van Besien (anyone remember him?)
Philadelphia Orchestra: $720,221 – Vulgamore (ditto)
San Francisco Symphony: $570,157
Cincinnati Symphony: $559,742
Cleveland Orchestra: $557,732
Chicago Symphony: $535,303
Houston Symphony: $535,193
Seattle Symphony: $441,980



  • Esther Cavett says:

    ==Peter Kjome succeeded Paul Meecham

    Well, Paul Meecham at Utah is on $234,826 – which is below average. Incidentally, I see from a YT clip that Paul has almost entirely lost his British accent – now that he’s been a the head of so many US orchestras

    • Tinnitus says:

      There has been no discussion of any Baltimore management taking a pay cut despite locking out their musicians and cutting off their healthcare. This figure may be misleading because of the personnel change. Kjome came part way through one season, and Meecham was likely paid off to leave that last season. Meecham with his family and children likely had a greater healthcare benefit allotment in the tax forms than Kjome, who came with a wife and is now single. Again there has been no public discussion of Kjome taking any pay cut. Kjome likely will get an increase if he survives this lockout, but with all the calls for his resignation in the press and all the parties he has alienated, he should make his money while he can.

      • Fred says:

        So you’re stating that Kjome can perform in the board, but not in the band, or bed rooms?
        Thakar has to be laughing his arse off.

  • Bill Gross says:

    You need a score card to figure out who is who in the above.

    More background. Was this a voluntary action or Board decision.

    Remember Journalism 101 “Who, what, where, why and when.”

  • Monsoon says:

    I have no problem with high executive pay for large nonprofit organizations — compensation should be in proportion to the size and operating budget of an organization.

    What’s questionable is that CEOs at arts organizations with sub-$50 million budgets are earning more than CEOs at advocacy organizations with $300+ million budgets.

    • Bill says:

      One could make the argument that the outfit with the smaller budget has less room for error, and needs the more talented leader.

      In any case, probably best not to put too much stock in the number reported for someone either taking or leaving the job this year, as there are often bonuses and so on to distort the picture, not to mention the job may start mid-year. It is usually evident in the Form 990 filing that someone worked only part of the year, but whether any of the pay reported is other than straight salary is not.

      • Monsoon says:

        You could make that argument, but it makes no sense. The complexity of an organization grows exponentially as you add more staff. A large advocacy organization works on a greater diversity of issues as well as issues that are frankly more complex than playing a Beethoven symphony. Simply put, the CEO position at an organization like Doctor’s without Borders is way more challenging and specialized than the CEO of a major orchestra.

        Looking at old 990s, these are representative of annual salaries.

        Let me also clear something up: I keep seeing people imply that not all compensation is reported on a 990. It’s all there. Anything reported on a W-2 must be included. Now based on the dates of an organization’s fiscal year, the salaries on the most recent 990 may be from 2 fiscal years ago. If someone did not work the whole fiscal year, that’s supposed to be noted.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Monsoon: “compensation should be in proportion to the size and operating budget of an organization”

      Er…no, this is a very bad idea. This is what causes firms to launch takeovers which almost always destroy value. However, the newly bigger merged organisation pays the CEO more money. This is a major problem: the incentives of the CEO are not aligned with the interests of shareholders or of society.

  • drummerman says:

    Matthew Van Biesen is now president of the University Musical Society in Michigan.