Salary Potentials of a Violinist

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Most violinists make about the same amount of money as other musicians.
Most violinists make about the same amount of money as other musicians. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

The violin is a versatile instrument. Although usually associated with classical music, the instrument appears regularly in everything from bluegrass to rock. Violinists usually earn somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 to $30 per hour, which is not out of line with what the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics found as average pay for musicians and singers overall. Earnings depend on a wide variety of factors, though, including whether a violinist is salaried or freelance, and some professional violinists earn six-figure salaries.

Typical Salary

According to the SalaryList website, as of 2011, the average yearly compensation for a violinist was $61,633. This translates to about $29.63 per hour. Violinists may work in a variety of settings, and many work in multiple settings, such as teaching by day and performing gigs at night or on weekends. Not all violinists work full time. Many work gig-to-gig as freelancers or part of a music group, and have no consistent employer.

Orchestra Violinists

Violinists who are members of orchestras enjoy salaries, but the salary a violinist receives with an orchestra depends on the size, level and notability of the orchestra. For instance, SalaryList indicates that the New York Philharmonic paid violinists $94,900 to $102,960 per year in 2007, while those in the Knoxville Symphony Society earned $155,064 in 2009. David J. Hahn of the Musician Wages website says that musicians in orchestras overall were paid anywhere from $22,000 to $130,000 annually, as of 2011. SalaryList expanded the range both lower and higher, from $16,210 to $155,064 for 2011. Laurie Niles, professional violinist and editor of the Violinist website, says that, as of 2005, soloists with orchestras earned $10,000 to $40,000 per performance, although top violinists such as Itzhak Perlman may command salaries that are even higher.

Recording Violinists

Recording violinists are violinists who routinely perform in studios, usually for audio recording, television, radio or film. They also support other artists, such as singers and soloists, and collaborate for smaller recordings. Recording rates vary by project and geographical location, but in California, where most film and television soundtracks are recorded, rates are set by the Recording Musicians Association of California. Rates with this organization ranged between approximately $39 to $326 per hour as of 2011, depending on how many musicians were involved, as well as the genre and level of the production.

Teachers

According to the SimplyHired website, violinists who act as teachers made an average of $49,000 annually as of June 2011. This is the same as an hourly rate of $23.56. This figure is just slightly lower than the median hourly rate cited by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for all musicians and singers as of May 2010, which was $22.39. It is well within the range of what most teachers make; the bureau reported that most teachers made between $30,000 and $60,000 in schools. David J. Hahn writes that music teachers might make as much as $150 hourly, and may have up to 50 students.

Other Compensation

Violinists often perform as live musicians for smaller events such as weddings or parties. Pay varies from gig to gig, but according to the Cost Helper website, violinists charged between $300 and $770 for a wedding gig as of 2011. Violinists also can get compensation through royalties from their recordings or sheet music, as well as concert memorabilia.

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