The evolution of the orchestra musician’s job

Posted on: September 21, 2010

Monday (9/20) on her Washington Post blog Classical Beat, Anne Midgette comments on contract negotiations at the Detroit Symphony: “As musicians and management work towards a new contract, they’re looking at a proposal that involves not only a hefty salary cut, but a formal redefinition of the job of an orchestral musician, making outreach, teaching, and chamber concerts a part of the deal. … The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra must be watching this situation with particular interest. The BSO musicians have swallowed huge pay cuts in the last few seasons; like their DSO colleagues, they are concerned that this will affect their musical level and make the orchestra unattractive to top players. … BSO musicians this year have been called on to perform at open rehearsals with amateur players, participate in a teaching academy, and advise potential patrons on their subscription packages. This is healthy in a lot of ways; it’s clearly time for a generational change if orchestras are to survive. … Memories are short. In the first part of the 20th century, playing in an orchestra was a part-time job, and musicians supplemented their income with other, non-musical day jobs. The union evolved as a way to protect musicians and keep them from being exploited, but some of its contract stipulations have come to function as severe limitations.”

Posted September 21, 2010