Urgent HRM Case Study


Peter Drucker calls orchestras an example of an organization design that will become increasingly popular in the 21st century, in that they employ skilled and talented people, joined together as a team to create products and services. Drucker may hear what he wants to hear. Others say orchestras are autocratic. The conductor dictates what is played and how it is played. Rather than basking in the glow of orchestral teamwork, jokes like the following are common among orchestra members: Q. Why do so many people take an instant dislike to the viola? A. It saves time.
Job descriptions for orchestras look simple: Play the music. (Q. How is lightning like a keyboardist’s fingers? A. Neither strikes the same place twice.) Violins play violin parts; trumpets play trumpet parts. Yet one study reported that job satisfaction for orchestra members ranks below that of prison guards. However, orchestra members were more satisfied than operating room nurses and hockey players.
Exhibit 1 shows the pay structure for a regional chamber orchestra. (Q. How can you make a clarinet sound like a French horn? A. Play all the wrong notes.) The pay covers six full orchestra concerts, one Caroling by Candlelight event, three Sunday Chamber Series concerts, several Arts in Education elementary school concerts, two engagements for a flute quartet, and one Ring in the Holidays brass event as well as the regularly scheduled rehearsals. (Q. How can you tell when a trombonist is playing out of tune? A. When the slide is moving.)
Describe the orchestra’s pay structure in terms of levels, differentials, and job- or person-based approach.
Discuss what factors may explain the structure. Why does violinist I receive more than the oboist and trombonist? Why does the principal trumpet player earn more than the principal cellist and principal clarinetist but less than the principal viola and principal flute-players? What explains these differences? Does the relative supply versus the demand for violinists compare to the supply versus the demand for trombonists? Is it that violins play more notes?
Page A-93 What is the pay differential between the principal viola and the next highest-paid viola? What about between the principal trumpet and the next highest-paid trumpet? Why these differentials between the principal and other? Why aren’t they larger? Smaller? Why is the differential between trumpet players different than between the viola players?
How well do equity and tournament models apply? Do custom and tradition play any role? What about institutional theory?


Title: So You Want to Lead an Orchestra

The pay structure of an orchestra closely mirrors that of any other job or organization. Each participant is paid according to his/her role, level of involvement, proficiency, the instrument played and the use of a person-based approach in the orchestra. Taking an example of the exhibit, the violin concertmaster is paid the highest salary (at $6970) while violinist I and II earn a minimum salary of $2483 and $1178 respectively. The concertmaster is paid the highest amount because of his/her function as the lead violinist who normally plays the most challenging solos. In the same way, different instrumentalists are paid differently according to the difficulty of the instrument in question. Moreover, a very good instrumentalist, for example, a violinist I, is highly likely to be paid higher than the other violinists in the same category.


A number of factors go into determining the amount of pay individual instrumentalists receive. As mentioned above, some of the factors include the role played, difficulty and level of proficiency. In this case, both the oboist and the trombonist receive less pay compared to violinist I because the level of involvement of the trombonist and oboist is lower than that of violinist I during a typical orchestral performance. It is worthwhile to note that violinists generally carry the melody of the orchestral performance. Similarly, the principal cellist and clarinetist are paid less as compared to the trumpet player because the latter is generally more involved in leading his/her section. However, compared to the principal viola and the principal flute, that very same principle trumpet player receives a lesser pay because the latter role involves a relatively lower level of involvement than the former.

The differences in the pay lie in the role of the instrument during each performance. It does not lie in the supply versus demand of each instrumentalist or the number of notes that each instrument plays. The ratio of the supply to the demand for the trombonists is similar to that of the violinists. Just because violinists tend to carry the melody of the performance does not mean that there can be 100 of them to 10 trombonists. If that were to be the case, the latter would be lost in the former’s melodies. In truth, violins play more notes than any other instrument while certain instruments may play two or three notes or hold one note for many bars. Both are equally important; the only difference is that the violinists would be playing varying notes.

The difference in pay between the principal viola and the next highest-paid instrumentalist in the same category is $2553 while the difference in pay between the orchestra’s principal trumpet and the next highest-paid instrumentalist in the same category is $595. These differences in pay exist because the principal instrument is considered the most important participant among them. As such, the distinction has to be matched with the pay provided. The pay differentials may be larger or smaller depending on the instruments and the orchestra in question. Seeing as strings tend to carry the melody, a viola player would require more involvement than a trumpet player just like a principal viola would be more involved compared to a principal trumpet, thus explaining why the pay differential is lower between the trumpet and viola players.

I believe that the tournament theory, rather than the equity model, applies best to the orchestral pay structure. The tournament theory is based on the idea that the proficiency of an individual employee is what determines pay. To be a concertmaster, for instance, one has to have the highest level of proficiency in the orchestra. The same case applies when one is playing the violin. Similarly, to be the principal of any instrument, one has to be relatively better than the other instrumentalists in the same category. On the other hand, customs and traditions seem to be losing their place when it comes to wage differences. The dominant view in the contemporary world is that all instruments are equally important, what makes the difference is the role and proficiency the instrumentalist plays.

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