The Colorado Symphony Orchestra, like so many others, is facing a financial crisis that threatens its ability to continue making music. An opinion piece in Sunday’s Denver Post criticizes the Denver Musicians’ Association (AFM Local 20-623) for its unwillingness to budge on certain elements of its agreement with the orchestra.
The issues here are complex, and I hope that the DMA and the CSO will be able to come to a solution that is fair to all involved and that keeps the music alive. But this point in the authors’ list of complaints caught my eye:
Musicians performing on more than one instrument receive “doubling pay.”
I don’t have the full details of the doubling pay currently available to CSO members (though the amount doesn’t appear to be the issue here—it’s the fact that any doubling pay is offered that seems to offend). But a slightly-outdated agreement between the DMA and the Boulder Philharmonic, summarized below, shows a typical doubling pay structure, and it’s a reasonable guess that the CSO’s is identical or very similar:
- 25% bonus for first double
- 10% for each additional double
- B-flat and A clarinets count as one instrument
- Alto and tenor saxophones count as one instrument
- Alto and bass clarinets count as one instrument
- Piccolo, larger flutes, English horn, E-flat clarinet, contrabassoon, soprano saxophone, and saxophones larger than tenor each count as a double, even when used in common combinations (like flute plus piccolo)
- Each additional instrument I bring to the gig represents a significant financial investment on my part: purchase, maintenance, reeds and other accessories, and insurance, not to mention high costs in past and continuing study of each instrument.
- Each instrument—even two instruments in the same family, like oboe and English horn—requires separate study, practice, and effort. The money I earn isn’t really about the time I spend at the gig. It’s about the thousands of hours I’ve spent becoming the musician that can do what is required. If I’m playing two instruments on the gig, then that’s a double helping of preparation I’ve put in. If it’s oboe and English horn, or bassoon and contrabassoon, then I’ve put in separate hours making reeds for each instrument.
- Doubling is very much a money-saving practice for those who hire musicians. I’ll happily play four instruments for 145% of scale, and a smart contractor will happily pay that rather than the 400% of scale that it would cost to hire four separate musicians.