Maestro Wages May Sink US Orchestras

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 16, 2009 7:54 PM CDT
Maestro Lorin Maazel conducts the New York Philharmonic Orchestra during opening night in this Sept. 18, 2006, file photo at Avery Fisher Hall in New York.   (AP Photo/Stephen Chernin, File)
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(Newser) – Overpaid maestros had better accept slimmer paychecks before America's great orchestras sink into silence, John von Rhein writes in the Chicago Tribune. With the Great Recession raging and musicians accepting pay cuts, big-name conductors like Lorin Maazel and James Levine still rake in millions. Welcome to "the dirty little secret in the classical music world," writes von Rhein.

It's not only maestros. Musicians at top orchestras can forgo base salaries of $110,000-plus. Executive directors can accept lower incomes. Soloists too. Tapped-out contributors, strapped concertgoers, and deflated endowments just can't foot the bill anymore. "Inflated salaries surely will erode audience and contributor confidence" and push "some orchestras into bankruptcy, or worse."