Case Study: Professional Orchestra Player
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Income v Expenses
The two pie charts below show aggregate gross income, and the related expenses, for 2001-2011.
The pie chart for expenses has been scaled visually to represent that expenses consume about 25% of gross income. The table below provides details about expenses from 2002-2011.
|Musical Equipment||48.3%||Purchase and upkeep of concert level musical instruments|
|Education||22.1%||Education costs and student loan payments|
|Travel Expense||17.3%||Work-related travel (usually reimbursed for these costs)|
|Rehearsal Expenses||3.2%||Purchasing sheet music and recorded music to learn new pieces|
|Performance Expenses||2.7%||Stage clothing|
|Other players/accompanists||2.5%||Paying other players for freelance gigs, accompanists for auditions, etc|
|Overhead||1.5%||Application fees for competitions, auditions, minimal printing and promotional expenses|
One of the significant expenses for orchestral players is the cost of instruments. Student-level string instruments can cost tens of thousands of dollars. String instruments for professional classical orchestral, chamber players and soloists can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometimes millions. Even bows can be in the tens of thousands of dollars range.
Valuable fine string instruments and bows are often owned by non-musicians and treated as investments, as the value of these instruments usually appreciates considerably over time. Instruments owned by non-musicians, however, need to be played to maintain their value. Pairing a fine instrument with an excellent and famous player can increase the market value of the instrument as well. For that reason, it is very common for professional string players to play on borrowed or loaned instruments. Many of the most famous string players connect with patrons who can help them buy or borrow fine instruments to play. It is not uncommon for musicians who are fortunate enough to own a rare and valuable instrument to bequeath it to a protégé who is a good match for the instrument in order to ensure the instrument will be well cared for and will be used in the best way.
These are unavoidable expenses; it is highly unlikely that he would have a position in a major orchestra without an undergraduate and a conservatory degree (not to mention years of practice and performance). And, his job requires that he play on the best instruments, which are not only expensive, but also require insurance, upkeep, and special care while traveling.
Clearly, his investment in career development – education, freelance work, teaching, touring – has served him well. As of late 2009, he has been in a position with an orchestra that provides a salary, health insurance and pension payments, but offers him enough flexibility that he can pick up the odd freelance gig or studio session. With student loans paid off and work-related travel covered through reimbursement and per diems, career-related expenses are minimal. Beyond instrument upkeep, his only expenses now are buying sheet music and recorded music in order to learn new pieces, stage clothing like tuxedos and formal wear, and paying annual dues to the AFM.
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