I can recommend crashing a Minnesota Orchestra tour rehearsal if you ever get the chance.
My fellow fangirl Aly and I were eating lunch on Michigan Avenue this Sunday when we texted a musician to see if crashing was an option.
It was, if we could get there in five minutes.
Somehow I’ve ended up backstage at several of the world’s great halls. The ceilings are always low; the corridors narrow. Musicians and staff – the invisible superheroes of every tour – shoot quick smiles and turn their hips sideways to squeeze past each other. We went down and up stairs. For a split second I wondered why the railings were wrapped in a cushy rubbery covering, but then I realized: of course, it’s to protect the precious instruments carried up and down these storied dingy staircases every night.
This is an entry in which I am going to talk about thoughts and feelings I do not understand. To do so is always dangerous. But here I am.
In light of the great news coming out of Pittsburgh (their orchestra settled their contract A YEAR EARLY!, AND they aren’t facing 30-50% cuts in compensation! yay, Pittsburgh!), I decided a summary of recent contract negotiations at major American orchestras was in order.
The orchestras are listed in order of endowment size (and you’ll definitely notice that toward the bottom of the list, as endowments get smaller, there is more friction and instability at the negotiating table). I focus largely on base salary here, but keep in mind there are many other moving parts to a contract, including working conditions and pensions and all that other fun stuff; however, those are more difficult for an outsider to properly compare and analyze, and I’m not going to write much about them, so go do some homework yourself if you want to learn more about those things.
I also rate each orchestra with my personal opinion as to whether said orchestra recently went through a “market reset” (the Minnesota Orchestral Association’s Orwellian phrase for “foisting massive cuts in compensation onto musicians”).
Endowment figures come from the Minnesota musicians’ website, and are probably a year or two old. If anyone steps forward with comprehensive updated endowment information, I’ll update the list.