The average salary of an Italian violinist is €35,000 and the average monthly wages are €1,140, according to the Italian Federation of Violinists (FIMA), an umbrella organisation which represents around 1,000 of the city’s more than 3,400 professional violinists. In a city of about 70,000, that translates to a net income of €4,500 per month.
FISA has been pushing the city government to raise their salary level by around €50,000 a year by the end of 2018, which is what is required by the Italian government, but there is a catch. The union is insisting on a new pension scheme for the remaining 2,000 of their members, which would mean that those members currently earning under €25,000 would see their contributions reduced and that they could no longer claim benefits for their pension contributions.
For many players who spend their career performing in the city, that would be devastating. “We’re all part of one team and I’ve worked and trained here for 13 years,” says Paolo Barozzi. “In this town we’re all one family. Even if I leave, people will not be sorry. We have a common goal and in this case it is to make it work.” But it is a big risk, says Antonio Gaffney, a professional violinist and member of the FIMA federation.
“In the previous mayor [Maria Chiron] I was working for €100 ($119), so I got £50 ($58) as a pension per month,” says Gaffney. “It’s not a living wage now!”
Why are so many people choosing to take the risk?
Gaffney says it comes down to the city being attractive in other key ways – particularly, the music itself. “What’s great here is that it’s really a modern city. It’s still a really interesting city compared to other cities here,” he explains.
Carmelo Abruzzese is one of those who has grown up immersed in what he calls the “new music” and says he enjoys playing in places where things change a lot. “In the ’60s and all of a sudden you have things happening everywhere,” she says. “With modern technology, you have a real city that is alive. It’s a mix of people from all over from Italy, but they are coming here.”
Carmelo, 23, was a violin in the orchestra for
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