Besides possessing significant musical skill and talent, concertmasters must be excellent communicators and effective leaders. This is due in part to their role as the leader of the first-violin section of orchestras. Due to the high visibility of their position, concertmasters -- especially those performing in major ensembles -- often have salaries that fall within the six-figure range.
Concertmasters are musicians who generally occupy the main seat within the first-violin section of their orchestra. They also start the orchestra’s tuning process prior to the performance. Concertmasters lead the first-violin section using hand movements and other physical cues; serve as the liaison between the conductor and first violins; and clarify bowing issues within the string sections of the orchestra.
Duties outside performing may include leading fundraising events and serving as spokesperson for their orchestra. Though a June 2011 Salary.com report states that the average salary for concertmasters is $54,000, concertmasters in the leading U.S. orchestras earn much more. For example, a June 2010 Orchestra Compensation Report published on Adaptistration.com states that the average salary is $225,545 for concertmasters performing in ensembles located in major metropolitan areas.
Geography and Employer
Geography and employer have an impact on salaries for concertmasters. For example, according to Adaptistration.com's June 2010 report, the concertmaster position in the Alabama symphony averages $99,940 per year. The concertmaster position in the Charlotte Symphony pays $99,791 per year. Concertmasters in the Colorado Symphony and Milwaukee Symphony earn $121,955 and $147,734 per year, respectively. In New York, the concertmaster in the Buffalo Philharmonic earns $85,956 per year. Concertmasters performing in Minnesota and New Jersey earn $208,253 and $168,019, respectively.
Advancement opportunities for concertmasters depend on contractual agreements and opportunities to perform as soloists during concerts. According to the June 2010 report by Adaptistration.com, the highest reported salary in the United States was for the concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony, at $578,436 per year. Concertmasters performing in the New York Philharmonic and Los Angeles Philharmonic reported salaries of $485,460 and $439,448, respectively. In the Cleveland Orchestra, concertmasters earned salaries as high as $433,817. A concertmaster performing in the Boston Symphony reported making $423,599 per year. Additional salaries for the top-paid concertmasters ranged between $290,000 and $420,000 annually.
Average salaries for musicians will grow 8 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although job growth in the field will be on par with the national average, competition for open positions will be intense. The BLS states that musicians who are able to play multiple instruments and musical styles will have the best job opportunities during this time period. Concertmasters who are able to negotiate favorable contracts with well-known orchestras and increase their number of featured solo performances should average the highest salaries.