What would cuts at Detroit Symphony mean for other orchestras?

Posted on: August 31, 2010

Monday (8/30) on the blog Arts Dispatch, Portland, Oregon-based writer Barry Johnson comments on contract negotiations at the Detroit Symphony. “The musicians are arguing that a [contractual salary] cut of this magnitude will knock it out of the elite of American orchestras, if not immediately then over time. The Free Press account quotes cellist Haden McKay: ‘That top sliver of talent, the ones who can truly thrill the audience, will not come here.’ And just in salary terms, Detroit will drop from #10 in the nation to around #18, below the Seattle Symphony, for example, according to a study by Nancy Malitz, if the management proposal is adopted. … Can only the ‘top sliver’ of musicians ‘truly thrill an audience,’ as Detroit cellist McKay asserts? And are those musicians confined to the top-paying orchestras? … Then again, what are the long-term consequences to classical music if the carrot of large salaries at the top-end orchestras was removed?  I’m not sure we want to find out. Indirectly, the great salaries in L.A. and San Francisco probably help the overall quality of musicianship in Portland and Spokane because they attract more talented musicians to stay in the profession (or art form, if you prefer).”

Posted August 31, 2010