I was amused by Geoff Edgers's post in his Exhibitionist "blog" about the conclusion of the BSO's salary negotiations (conductor James Levine, at left, screaming "Show me the money!"). Edgers seemed to be expressing relief that the BSO's contract with its players would remain unchanged, despite our turbulent economic times. Salaries were frozen in this negotiation, but not cut.
So score one for the working artist, right? Well, maybe. But succinctly enough, Geoff left out any mention of what the terms of the BSO contract actually are.
So here's the scoop: according to the Berkshire Eagle, a BSO player makes an average weekly minimum of $2,465, or $128,180 a year.
I repeat: that's the bottom of the scale: $128,180. Senior BSO players make more - often quite a bit more. And they perform only about half the year - there are 191 concerts scheduled annually between Symphony Hall and Tanglewood. And many, if not most, players don't make quite all those performances. Session players are routinely called in, often at the last minute, at rates far below those of the unionized players. So even if you think you're listening to the fully-unionized BSO, you're probably not.
And I'm just wondering why Geoff never writes about that. I don't mean to begrudge the BSO players their hard-earned dollars, but when you add in to their take the fact that most of them land plum local teaching assignments at local music schools because of their BSO connection, you're looking at total annual pay that can clear $200,000 a year.
Again, not that there's anything wrong with that - except that, to be blunt, no other artists in the city of Boston have it so good. No other classical musicians, certainly - even though many of them are session players with the BSO! And when it comes to actors - don't make me laugh! Our best, most senior local actors would count themselves wildly lucky to make a third of a BSO senior salary, if they really scrambled to make industrials and voiceovers. (The Equity base line isn't even a quarter of the BSO baseline.) And as for dancers - fuhgeddaboudit!
So you know, life ain't fair. And I suppose if your organization buys a lot of ads in the Globe, suddenly Geoff Edgers cares about your salary not being cut! And the rest of you performers can go hang.
[Correction: Please note Geoff Edgers has let me know that he wrote about the discrepancy between the pay scales of unionized BSO players and freelancers some three years ago, at the last salary negotiation. But to my mind, there's no time like the present. - T.G.]