Muti, CSO musicians take salary cuts to aid orchestra’s financial stability

Thu Apr 09, 2020 at 5:11 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

File photo: Todd Rosenberg

Facing “significant financial losses” due to cancelled Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts during the Covid-19 shutdown, management and musicians are taking salary cuts in order to reduce the fiscal impact on the long-term health of the organization, the CSO Association announced Thursday afternoon.

Music director Riccardo Muti and CSOA president Jeff Alexander are each taking a 25% cut in their salaries, and the CSO musicians have agreed to a 20% reduction; all are effective April 27. The musicians will keep all healthcare, insurance and retirement benefits during this period. 

“We are grateful for the tremendous spirit of collaboration among the entire CSOA family who have worked together to develop ideas and make sacrifices that will allow us to balance taking care of our employees while mitigating a portion of the significant financial losses created by the difficult circumstances we are facing,” said Alexander in a released statement. “The legacy of this great orchestra and its ongoing contributions to Chicago and the world will be more secure thanks to extraordinary cooperation during a time of great uncertainty.” 

The CSO has had to cancel 58 ticketed concerts, as well as facility rental events between March 12 and May 10 due to the pandemic.

Alexander, through a PR spokeswoman, declined to give a dollar estimate for the potential financial losses the orchestra is facing due to Covid-19.

CSO players also agreed to relax scheduling restrictions to allow for flexibility with postponed or rescheduled programs. Also union rules pertaining to the orchestra’s archive of audio and video assets will be adjusted to make digital content available more broadly during the pandemic.

Also agreeing to 20% salary reductions Thursday are CSO vice presidents, CSO Chorus and Civic Orchestra members and stagehands. Other administrative staff will see a reduction of 5%-15% based on salary level. All will retain their healthcare and other benefits.

The orchestra is encouraging ticket-holders to convert the value of tickets to a tax-deductible contribution, exchange tickets for future concerts, or return tickets and put their money on account. Email [email protected] or visit

The CSO will present a “Facebook Premiere” video event featuring a 2014 concert of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 led by Riccardo Muti on April 12. Additional digital content, including CSO archival concert performances will be posted in coming weeks in the new “CSO From Home” series. Go to

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4 Responses to “Muti, CSO musicians take salary cuts to aid orchestra’s financial stability”

  1. Posted Apr 09, 2020 at 8:51 pm by Peter Borich

    Glad to hear of the collaborative effort to get through this period of extreme strife. As proud as ever of my CSO!

  2. Posted Apr 10, 2020 at 7:58 pm by Juan B Solana

    From the living memory of the last notes of the magnificent Cavalleria Rusticana (the last concert I heard the CSO live), with appreciation to all the musicians, staff, CSOA and the CSO family, LONG LIVE TO MUSIC, LONG LIVE to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Music will come back stronger than ever!

  3. Posted Apr 21, 2020 at 8:02 pm by Robert Shurgoti

    So to clarify: Muti takes a 25 percent of cut of 3 million dollars while the civic musicians who earn around $6,000 a year will take a 20 percent cut. How collegial of everyone. Its no wonder these organizations were having such a hard time before the corona virus.

  4. Posted Jan 27, 2021 at 8:18 pm by Peter Alex

    All those taking the pay cuts are to be commended and applauded, not criticized, with the latter being done by Robert Shurgoti. This includes Maestro Muti who agreed to an enormous pay cut. By the way, (and I don’t know where [the apparently envious] Mr. Shurgoti derived his $3 million number from, but he seems oblivious to the dual fact of 25% of $3 million equals $750,000 and 25% of $12 million equals $3,000,000.

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