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Orchestra Adds Jobs in Boston

Posted on July 6, 2010

Major orchestras around the country are publicizing openings, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which is touting ten jobs in Boston.

According to an article from the NYTimes, although unemployment remains high, orchestras are marketing some rare opportunities. Next season the New York Philharmonic will have a rare 12 openings, or roughly 12 percent of its instrumental work force, thanks to a confluence of retirements, departures for better jobs and long-unfilled positions. The Boston Symphony Orchestra has 10 vacancies, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra 9, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic 7.

Elsewhere the Cleveland Orchestra has four full-time job openings and one part-time. The Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, San Francisco Symphony and Dallas Symphony each have three openings.

The pay is fairly competitive. Starting salaries at the 10 top-paying orchestras next season range from $101,600 to $136,500. But the orchestra can also hire substitutes, who get paid closer to the minimum and also receive fewer benefits.

So why all the openings in a time when it seems so many talented muscians are clamoring for jobs? Orchestra reps say that it can be cheaper to leave positions unfilled and that they even negotiate with unions to keep them open. But also promotions of music directors have left a gap in hiring flow.

According to the article, conductors on their way out often defer to their successors, who will, after all, have to live with the new musicians, and vice versa. Lorin Maazel, whose tenure in New York ended last year, left several openings to his successor, Alan Gilbert, who in his first season has already filled positions for two violinists, a trombonist, French horn player and, on June 25, a percussionist. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, where Gustavo Dudamel took over last season, provided the same explanation. Riccardo Muti begins his tenure in Chicago in September.

The hiring process for orchestra members is lengthy and cumbersome, which can also inhibit the filling of positions. Audition after audition is conducted, committees and judges are formed, tapes are reviewed, and then musicians must demonstrate their ability again and again before getting the nod of approval.

The openings for Boston aren’t rare. The Boston Symphony usually has a high number of openings, mainly because the demands on the musicians for events like the popular Tanglewood festival and the Boston Pops make scheduling auditions especially difficult. In addition, the orchestra has a system of hiring based on a thw-thirds majority in their selected committee.