For Top Salaries in Classical Music, Head to Los Angeles

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In the worst case scenario, a poorly-managed orchestra cuts musicians' pay to compensate for budgetary shortfalls. In the best case scenario, you are the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Newly available tax returns reveal the generous compensation the Los Angeles Philharmonic awards its top artistic and chief executives: Gustavo Dudamel and Deborah Borda, respectively. The numbers were reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The orchestra's 2009 return shows Borda’s annual compensation at $1,397,746. Dudamel’s annual salary for his first full year, 2010, won’t be made public until next year, but salary and benefits for a partial year (the conductor took up his post as artistic director in October of 2009) totaled $394,580. While the Philharmonic's chief operating officer made it clear that Dudamel’s 2010 annual salary wouldn’t simply be his partial salary times four, his predecessor Esa-Pekka Salonen, made upwards of $1.5 million, indicative of the orchestra’s financial well-being.

Borda is largely to thank. Admired among colleagues and a veteran of the New York Philharmonic, her record in Los Angeles includes increasing orchestra assets from $7.3 million to $134.7 million over her ten-year tenure. The growth in concert revenue, donations and general publicity through the completion of Walt Disney Hall and the hiring of Dudamel -- a young and charismatic figure -- all allowed Borda to increase staff and musician compensation 29 percent in real dollars over the last decade.

In addition to showing the most growth in net assets, L.A. also enjoys the largest spending budget ($96.9 million) amongst its competitors -- the Boston Symphony ($83.7 million), the New York Philharmonic ($77.3 million) and the San Francisco Symphony ($71.6 million).

The corporate-level compensation plateaus a bit when put in context with the salaries of high-paid music directors, whose 2009 earnings also became public recently:

• Charles Dutoit, $1.83 million
• Michael Tilson Thomas, $1.8 million
• Deborah Borda, $1.39 million
• James Conlon, $1.23 million
• Franz Welser-Moest, $1.07 million
• Gustavo Dudamel, $395,000 for partial year
• Alan Gilbert, $539,000 for partial year
• James Levine, $1.49 million from the Met Opera, plus $1.32 million from the Boston Symphony

While Borda and Dudamel seem to be proving their worth, salaries like these clearly represent the "one percent” of people employed in classical music. What do these numbers mean to you? Leave your comments on these financial findings in the box below.