Orchestra salary cuts continue unfortunate trend

People have long been replacing Bach, Beethoven and Brahms with the likes of Bieber. In an age of rap, hip-hop and R&B, it can be easy to forget the roots of these musical genres: classical music. The Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra SPCO are keeping alive the classical music genre through live and dynamic performances. But when faced with massive salary cuts, the musicians have staged a lockout until their salaries – and their dignity – can be restored.

These salary cuts are unacceptable. Musicians’ salaries are being cut from $135,000 to $89,000 because of the recent recessions to avoid future debt. The musicians have since been locked out by management. The Minnesota Orchestra has already canceled their first six weeks, including their opening concert on Oct. 18 because of this. In actuality, $135,000 isn’t enough for musicians in a professional orchestra, especially the Minneapolis Orchestra, which is one of the top orchestras in the nation.

If $135,000 seems like a lot at first, just look at the numbers. These musicians are some of the best in the nation. How much does an athlete on a professional team make? You can bet it is a lot more than $135,000.

In addition, the cost of schooling to reach that level mastery of an instrument is a lot more than $135,000. What if this was the maximum salary you could ever hope to achieve? Many music majors face the fact that their average salary will be around that of a music teacher, if they are lucky even to get such a position when music programs are the first to be cut from the curriculum. Thus, musicians should just be paid more in general due to the competition and the amount of work in the industry.

Salaries also need to be high in order to maintain quality musicians; otherwise, the Twin Cities area faces losing the artistic culture that the orchestra brings. It might be hard for us at St. Olaf to understand the loss of these great musicians in the Cities because we have such a plethora of quality musicians walking around campus. We were lucky to have the SPCO perform in Boe Chapel earlier this year. But the musicians in their lockout have threatened to begin looking for jobs elsewhere or have already been offered such jobs in other large symphonies across the country. They don’t want to have to move, and we should want to keep them here. Thus, if we want to keep the classical musical culture in the Cities, we need these musicians who come at relatively cheap cost for the benefits they offer the community.

Some of the musicians on lockout are blaming it on mismanagement of funds. But the problem is deeper than that. It is just one more example of the arts being cut, and the arts have been cut enough. I applaud the musicians standing up for their rights and drawing attention to the need for more artistic appreciation in our society. We need the arts, and we need the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra and SPCO to stay and continue to grow.

This is an issue bigger than a shortage of money; it is something that has been happening slowly over the years and needs to stop now. We need to become culturally aware, challenge ourselves to expand our musical horizons and appreciate the classics and the artistic creativity they represent.

Kassandra DiPietro ’15 dipietro@stolaf.edu is from Appleton, Wis. She majors in English.

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