Dept. of Labor Regulations and the Future of Sacred Music
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    I received official word today from our secretary/business manager: effective Dec. 1 all employees making under the $50,000 threshold established by the new Labor Dept. regulations will be reclassified by diocesan policy (in compliance with the new regs) as hourly, be required to fill out time cards and will be paid accordingly. This means that during the lean months of the Summer (no rehearsals, no Solemnities, etc.) my paycheck will be considerably smaller than the busy seasons. We'll also likely have our hours monitored so that if we come too close to being over the hours we're classified for, and thus be entitled to overtime, our hours will be cut so that the total at the end of the fiscal year will work out. (For example, 20 hrs/wk = 1040 hrs/yr. If you make over 1040 in the year, they must compensate you for the overtime.)

    The art and craft of sacred music has been reduced to an hourly piece-work endeavor, like manual labor or working in a factory. No longer does having an advanced degree with the skills and talents that go with it, nor lengthy experience, mean anything, unless you are fortunate enough to work for a parish that can afford to pay more than $50,000 per anum. The janitor and the organist are both alike now in the eyes of the Federal Government. Even worse, this threshold will increase annually with inflation, making it systematically more difficult for churches that currently can afford the threshold to keep up with it.

    Read more about it here: https://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/final2016/faq.htm
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,907
    This is a huge problem. I wish I understood the reasoning behind the sweeping decision.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,280
    the reasoning behind the sweeping decision


    hahahahaha
    HAHAHAHAHAHA
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,420
    It's because the Obama Administration wants to incentivize employers to lay off as many people as possible and to give any remaining employees as few hours as possible.They're doing their best to redirect as much of the economy into their own ambit.

    In other words, more Hope and Change.
  • I do not believe these new rules should apply to music directors such as yourself. If I understand the link right:

    * You're a creative professional, so in theory you should be exempt and thus, not subject to the overtime rules. (See the link in Q1.)
    * Even if they determine you're not exempt, the rules say you're not required to punch a time clock/fill out time sheets.

    I would push back, and soon. The diocese and/or parish seems to be getting this wrong, at least in your case.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    In a nutshell, the case that brought this to a head involved a CVS Pharmacy employee who was hired as a salaried manager (at a redicilously low salary) but who worked 60+ hours a week, often filling in for hourly employees who didn't show up. She sued claiming that she was doing work not specified in her contract as a part of her responsibilities and claiming that she was entitled to overtime pay as a result.

    He Who Must Not Be Named issued an executive order in 2015 instructing the DOL to revise its regs governing salary thresholds and definitions of salaried versus hourly employees as well as the definitions of executive, managerial, supervisor and professional.

    Never let a good crisis go to waste so as to allow the government to overreach.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    I think Tim has it right.

    In the FAQ's, we read the following:

    To qualify for the creative professional employee exemption, all of the following tests must be met:
    • The employee must be compensated on a salary or fee basis (as defined in the regulations) at a rate not less than $455 per week;
    • The employee’s primary duty must be the performance of work requiring invention, imagination, originality or talent in a recognized field of artistic or creative endeavor.

    Doing the math (not common core, by the way), an organist/music director who is paid $24,000/yr would be exempt under this exemption and therefore not required to fill out time cards.

    This needs to be addressed immediately with any diocesan officials who are mandating hourly structures on their musicians.

    UPDATE: This was info from the regs effective 2008. On 12/2016 the minimum threshhold income changes to over $900/wk.

    So, we're right back where we started from. If you're an organist/music director and making less than $900/wk, you're going to have to file time sheets and be subject to all of the applicable hourly income laws.

    A sad day in America.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen eft94530
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,880
    In a nutshell, the case that brought this to a head involved a CVS Pharmacy employee who was hired as a salaried manager (at a redicilously low salary) but who worked 60+ hours a week, often filling in for hourly employees who didn't show up. She sued claiming that she was doing work not specified in her contract as a part of her responsibilities and claiming that she was entitled to overtime pay as a result.

    He Who Must Not Be Named issued an executive order in 2015 instructing the DOL to revise its regs governing salary thresholds and definitions of salaried versus hourly employees as well as the definitions of executive, managerial, supervisor and professional.

    Never let a good crisis go to waste so as to allow the government to overreach.


    Sounds like a knee-jerk reaction. This happens all the time in our jobs: legitimate problem, lawsuit threatened/prosecuted, rules change so lawsuit doesn't matter anymore. previously illegal/unethical practice is now ok/management backside covered.
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 749
    What about paying a choir section leader, a cantor or organist per service? That is neither salary or hourly but stipend.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,003
    Occasional musicians, usually including choir section leaders, are generally paid as 1099 self-employed musicians. (I know - that's a whole other discussion!)

    FWIW, there are some parishes pay regular musicians a set number of hours per week/paycheck. I guess you could call it a faux salary.

    It looks like the IRS is directing things to the "Corporation Sole", and probably won't be able to get all the way down into the parochial level. Most Diocese have gone to using universal offsite payroll processing companies - universal in that EVERY Diocesan entity MUST use this same service so that reports on employees' payroll, health insurance, and retirement accounts are easily accessible to the Diocese, and from there to the IRS.
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  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    In one diocese, they've all but done away with 1099-Misc employment. Apparently in 2014 the IRS issued new regs governing who is or is not an "independent subcontractor". In short, because cantors, section leaders or instrumentalists (including substitute organists) do not set their own schedule and are instructed as to specifically what they will sing or play and when, they do not qualify as a "sub contractor" and therefore had to be registered with the parish as an employee, with all the paperwork that entails.

    It's all a hot mess worthy of the Vogons.
    Thanked by 2Adam Wood eft94530
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,003
    There is a check list - actually two check lists - published by the IRS. If a person fulfills like 10 of the 15 questions, he/she is probably an employee. OTOH, if a person fulfills ANY of the other questions, he/she is probably an independent contractor. It has been a gray area for decades. The only hard and fast rule is that no person may be paid by one employer as both employee AND contractor at the same time. And this holds true for all employers.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    I stand corrected. I was looking at a reporting sheet that hadn't been updated for the new regs. See my comments above.
  • Marc Cerisier
    Posts: 353
    The guidance for non-profits issued by the DOL says that while an employee may be hourly, they don't have to "punch the clock," and there are various options for how it can happen. The regulations require tracking how many hours are worked in a week, but not which specific hours are worked in a given week.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    It's going to take a lot of time and effort for HR departments to slog through all of this crap and sort it out.

    It's a waste of time and money and a (wait for it) distraction from other things being done to us.
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • NihilNominis
    Posts: 266
    If your job (as most FT parish jobs would) involves an education component, teachers have no salary test (go figure). I imagine this will be the work-around in most places.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,907
    Or, move basically all your planning to summer. As much as possible, make worship aids, download each week's Psalms, etc. Frontload the whole organizational component of the job.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,803
    organ practice is a minimum of four hours a day.
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,488
    Another related problem not part of the linked webpage. Reporting hours for benefits determination is another item to be managed. If during the Current year a threshold is crossed during a period then the employer must in the Next year offer benefits.
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,488
    organ practice is a minimum of four hours a day.

    Any of us can practice however many/few hours per day we want.
    The question is, does your Work Agreement
    specify total hours and a task list AND include practicing as a task
    (and maybe even allocate a specific number of hours for this particular task)?
    Thanked by 1francis
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,003
    Our parish does not pay for personal practice time. I don't think most parishes do either.
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 880
    What does "personal practice time" mean? Are you referring to music that we will never perform at Mass? What about scales, arpeggios, or etudes? Working on developing our skills in improvisation?

    As far as I'm concerned, "personal practice time" is part of the job. How well could we perform on Sunday if we only played on Sundays? Never practiced the hymns, service music, or choral accompaniments? I think that would lead to an awful lot of sloppy, inaccurate playing, greatly impoverishing the liturgical experience. Are we never expected to develop our skills in order to improve? Don't they want us to be better next year than we were this year?

    Am I misinterpreting what you were saying, @Steve Collins?
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,003
    You are interpreting correctly. We don't get paid for practice time on our instruments. We do have dues paid to professional organizations for memberships and there is a budget for continuing education and attending conferences - at the Pastor's discretion. I do think this is fair.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,465
    Yah, well, one might consider attending conferences--when the parish pays for it--to be "time worked." That's the way it is for many other professionals. So there's an overtime-pay exposure there, too.

    How-some-ever: it is not likely that the Feds will be sending auditors to every parish in the land over the next couple of years. Generally, audits will only follow complaints, and there have to be quite a few to trigger action by the authorities. That being said, God help the Diocese which has a bunch of disgruntled musicians, or for that matter, parish administrators ("Yout' Catechists, e.g.) who are not paid by the hour.
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,003
    I don't see how you can automatically call the time worked during attending a conference as overtime pay exposure. These hours are almost certainly incurred IN PLACE OF hours worked on the campus of the parish - unless you've figured a way to bilocate!

    I agree that IRS auditors are not going to show up on doorsteps without reasonable cause. On a more basic issue, we musicians (or any other positions) agree to the working conditions with our God-given free will. If we don't like those conditions we also have the free will to look for another position elsewhere.

    And we don't need the stinking Federal Government interfering in that process.

    As to receiving pay for "personal practice time", I'm quite sure you will not find any other professional musicians, even under Musicians' Union rules, receiving compensation for private, personal practice time. Group rehearsals, performances, and anything else agreed upon in the musicians' contract. I don't believe it should be any different for church musicians.
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 880
    If you look at the AGO website, you'll find something called a "Worksheet to Determine Time Requirements for an Organist and/or Director of Music in a Church Position."

    I'll try to stay germane to the discussion at hand!

    There is a section in this document that discusses organ practice:

    3. Organ practice ___hrs./wk.
    (Hymns, service music, prelude, postlude, anthems, registration)
    Minimum of 4 hrs./wk. for each non-identical service


    It seems that the AGO very much considers personal organ practice to be a compensated part of an "Organist and/or Director of Music in a Church Position."

    https://www.agohq.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/timreqwork.pdf
    For some reason, I can't figure out how to make that link go to the other page, rather than bring you back to this one. Probably best to highlight, copy, and paste into the address bar due to my technological inadequacies.
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,003
    Well, I'll just say that I stopped having anything to do with the AGO many years ago. I don't agree with most of what they stand for. Maybe they serve their mainstream Protestant denominations' organist really well, but I want nothing to do with them; They don't speak for me in any way, shape, or form.

    Again, other professional performers, even represented by unions (another entity that I want nothing to do with) do not get paid for personal practice time. I see no reason why church musicians should be treated differently.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,907
    Steve,

    I've often wondered about this. I'm wondering why it is fair to pay an organist for a rehearsal with singers, for the Mass, but not to pay an organist, to prepare him/herself for the Mass?

    Why pay professional choirs for rehearsal?

    Etc.

    Although the organist isn't part of a group, s/he still needs to set stops, think through the timing of the verses with the liturgy, manage congregational breathing in a particular space, rehearse new arrangements and preludes/postludes, and a ton of other things. It's not "personal practice time" but practice time for the liturgy itself. Or am I missing something?
    Thanked by 1francis
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,003
    If that is the case for organists, then they are a special breed of musicians. Nobody else gets paid, on the clock, for personal practice time. Even the choirs that get paid for rehearsals are not paid individually to learn their parts before the come to rehearsal. Indeed, I hear complaints from all sorts of musical groups about individuals showing up not knowing their parts, and using rehearsal time as practice time - and that is not considered professional attitude.

    As to all of your concerns in the last paragraph, I feel sorry for anyone who has to put up with new and different liturgical timings constantly! Our Mass timings are very constant, as I believe they should be.
    Thanked by 1CCooze
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,803
    baloney

    I usually pay a cantor 200 or more for a wedding. That includes their personal rehearsal time. There is no such thing as "personal rehearsal time" unless the end means playing for (or with) yourself. Get real, people. You are being shortchanged if you buy into this philosophy.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,003
    That's about what we pay cantors as well, but not as full- or part-time employees. It includes, maybe, a run-through before the Liturgy begins, but NOT their learning the repertoire in the first place, much less keeping their vocal technique sharp. That is their musicianship that they bring to the workplace.

    Unless you are considering $200 way more than enough for the actual performance, and therefore including some compensation for their own preparation time. But you and the church have not control over that time actually being spent. You are simply hiring a competent musician who has a track record of good performances. The $200 was for the actual performance, no matter what they needed to do to be prepared for it.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,003
    I think the more important aspect of the original post is the Federal Government's interference with how we musicians and our employers work out our own private sector working relationships. I'm frankly sick of their meddling. And this includes every aspect of Obama-care. Our Dioceses seem to be running scared of everything the government decrees. I guess they really fear the revoking of the Church's non-profit status. That's what we really need to be concerned about - and STOP VOTING FOR DEMOCRATS!
    Thanked by 1Jeffrey Quick
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,803
    the sevice is 15 - 60 minutes. Compensation pays them both to learn the music beforehand and to perform it well for the liturgy. They don't get $200 an hour.
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,003
    Correct. And they are NOT employees either. They are self-employed contractors. It's a different story for musicians that ARE being paid as either part- or full-time employees. Those are what the Dept. of Labor are looking at.
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  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,803
    Yes, and it should not matter if it is an employee or not. Practice is practice, and it is for the performance of music in the job that requires the practice.
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 880
    So, Steve, if I am hypothetically hired as organist for a parish with one Mass (of Anticipation) on Saturday and one Mass on Sunday with different repertoire for the two Masses, then am I a 2-3 hour per week employee of the parish? Everything I would need to do in order to prepare preludes, interludes, postludes, inventive hymn accompaniments, registrations for choral accompaniments, etc. is on my own time?

    I'm not doing that work for my health; I'm doing it to provide a quality musical product, worthy of the sacred liturgy. This is done on behalf of my employer, and they should compensate me for it. This is absolutely standard in this industry. I can't comment on what orchestral musicians get paid or don't get paid for.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,803
    If you practice for free, you are being taken advantage of. The only thing I WILL NOT do on company time is compose music, because then they own it... unless they are paying me a handsome per hour fee (Work for Hire). No one will own my comps except me (on behalf of God). Publishers... for the most part, leaches of the creative enterprise until they fairly share the wealth and stop keeping creatives captive.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,003
    irishtenor, if you were being hired for two Masses, and that only, then you wouldn't, or shouldn't be considered a part-time employee - IMO. I would not even consider taking that job, and I don't believe that is typical in the Church. If it is, then that does need to be addressed.

    I believe the Labor Dept. is looking for actual employees working reasonable hours. And these hours would include preparation for the Liturgies - but that's not personal practice time.

    I'm not working for my health either - nor am I working for the Diocesan health benefits - I purchase my own insurance. Nor do I work to get "rich".

    Preparing for a Liturgy is different from one's regular, personal, practice time. IMO, anyone being paid an hourly wage for practicing non-liturgical repertoire or whatever scales, arpeggios, etc., is taking advantage of the employer.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,151
    I would practice anyway whether it be considered "on the clock" time and I suspect most musicians do the same. A block of my time includes scheduling, collecting music for distribution to singers, arranging rehearsals and facilities, and other administrative duties. Practice is somewhere in the admin stuff and not broken out as a separate entity.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,224
    It isn’t so unreasonable to compensate a church musician for time spent practicing for the liturgy or concerts under his direction at his church of employment at least if it is done during regular hours that the musicisn is expected to work. So for instance, my own parish DM (now former DM) would come in, work in his office, play Mass, get lunch, and practice and/or rehearse. I don’t know how his pay worked, but let’s say he was hourly under one interpretation of the new regs. I would want him to be paid for as many hours of work in the church and office as possible, since he is doing what he was hired to do!

    Steve, your comment about the AGO is a bit belligerent and unhelpful. Several posters here and many others affiliated with the CMAA are AGO members, and while it has its limits due to the different needs of Catholic churches, it’s still helpful nonetheless.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,003
    Right. If all the prescribed duties of the position are up to snuff, then practice away. I just don't believe anyone should expect that personal practice be included in a job description.

    It's like your job description specifies X,Y, and Z that you will be paid for. Your doing A,B, and C to maintain proficiency levels of L, M, and N in order to perform X,Y, and Z is your responsibility - not your employer's.

    Apologies if my AGO comments don't help, but I do not feel that the AGO helps us as Catholic musicians. I was a member back when I was also building and maintaining pipe organs while also playing organ at Mass. I dropped out way back then as I found everything they do of no use to me. All of their "business" directions are aimed at the type of performances required at Protestant churches and the employer/employee relationships the ensue. I do not believe the Catholic churches need to emulate that. We emulate enough Protestantism in our modern Liturgies.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,224
    Also, this is why you need everything in writing right away.
    Thanked by 1Steve Collins
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,465
    don't see how you can automatically call the time worked during attending a conference as overtime pay exposure


    Not what I meant. But my terminology was unclear.

    Conferences/workshops (etc.) can be pretty intense. AM session from 9-noon, PM session from 2-6, then evening session 7:30-9. That's 8.5 hours. And of course, travel time is "clock time" for salaried and hourly people.

    By "exposure" I meant "risk"--and in the case outlined above, assuming 6 hours travel each way and a 4-day "conference," you have 46 hours total worked. That is certainly NOT the case for every conference/workshop--but it's not uncommon.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 946
    I hate to wade into this, but practice time SHOULD be paid without equivocation. When I fill out pay requests for diocesan events, I ABSOLUTELY include a notation about practice time. We also frequently have this issue with staff members who think musicians should be compensated at some sort of quasi-minimum wage level. Musicians necessarily have a specific talent that, in and of itself, is worthy of a premium in payment. In my role, I also expect them to be practicing. So, a soloist should not be paid the same hourly rate as a relatively unskilled job.

    I also, as a father of three, vehemently disagree with Steve's assertion that we should not try to professionalize music apostolates (and their employees) within the Church. Sacrosanctum concilium clearly states that music is the greatest sacred art, and it is to our great deprivation that parishes "of means" do not employ a sufficient skilled and adequately compensated director of music. In addition, we should be paid at least a living wage, and for those of us who are expected to make use of some of the trappings of the business world (suits, etc.), that should be considered as well.
    Thanked by 2francis Elmar
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 667
    First off, I'm not an organist.

    Now that that's out of the way..

    I am primarily an instrumentalist - one which requires me to basically remake the main component of my instrument on a semi-regular basis.

    One simply can't call oneself a professional musician if one only practices when compensated. I'm not sure one would truly be a musician at all, with those requirements, but simply a hobbyist.
    Scales, arpeggios, various musical techniques appropriate to the instrument throughout history, etc. for any instrument/voice is necessary whether there is money in it or not. (This being said by someone waiting her full postnatal time before playing her instrument, just in case.)

    That's sort of like a music teacher insisting on getting paid for his own practice time so that he'll be up to snuff for teaching. It's part of the job. Musicians must practice, period. We can't hold professional sound hostage and still claim to be professionals.
    Thanked by 1Steve Collins
  • BruceL
    Posts: 946
    I think you all are not seeing the forest from the trees: yes, of course we MUST practice. But, we should be compensated for it for the very reason that yes, we MUST practice. Now...

    I am an organist by profession and education, etc. However, my current role requires skill as a choral conductor, singer, chantmaster, etc. So, not only am I doing my practice for the organ (as I still need to provide voluntaries of the finest quality every week), but also in other roles.

    The reality of being a professional musician is that this is involved in any musical job. If this is not true, are wedding trumpet players really getting paid $200/hr for playing? Does that not include practice time, etc.?
  • MarkS
    Posts: 207
    It might be useful to differentiate practicing that is required for the daily/weekly execution of one's position from practicing that is directed at more 'personal' goals, but from which one's job performance would certainly benefit. At the Episcopal parish where I am proud to serve, I need to prepare each week 4 hymns—and we cover a huge part of the Hymnal 1982 (loud boos?) and introduce new hymns fairly frequently— and at least 3 pieces of what we call 'service music' (i. e. the Episcopal equivalent of the Ordinary) in addition to the choral anthem if it is accompanied, and a suitable prelude and postlude (in the tradition of 'big' preludes and postludes—typically 4-5 minutes each, with 'bigger' works to mark the big occasions).

    My position is described as a 3/8 position, and it is expected for the purposes of my contract that my job can be performed in 15 hours a week, split between rehearsing the ensembles, doing all of the administrative stuff (planning, filing, maintaining the music pages on the website, planning the church's recital series, etc...) and, yes, practicing. I can choose to play music already in my repertoire and be content with my current level of proficiency at the organ (really, I'm pretty good), and easily fit practice time and other responsibilities into my expected 15 hours, but if I want to continue to expand my repertoire and skills (and which one of us doesn't feel this way?) it is my choice to practice outside of the allotted 15 hours. Which, of course, I do!

    (And of course, I put in significantly more than my 'expected' 15 hours most weeks, regardless. As I'm sure we all do.)
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 880
    I'm really baffled by some of these responses. I don't want to infer something that you don't really mean.

    Is anyone asserting that I ought not to be paid for practicing my prelude and postlude this week? That preparing the music I will use at Mass this weekend is something I should do off-the-clock? I shouldn't be over in church using the organ during business hours, because I would be taking advantage of my employer?

    Maybe I've been fortunate to never have an employer who shares this view of my work responsibilities.

    If any of this is true of your sincerely-held position, then I recommend you reconsider. Some of us are trying to support a wife and children through our work as a church musician!

    Please forgive me if I am mischaracterizing anyone's position or reading in things that aren't truly there.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,151
    (And of course, I put in significantly more than my 'expected' 15 hours most weeks, regardless. As I'm sure we all do.)


    I put in more than my expected time, as well. I suspect we all do. One thing I have consistently said is that if I needed the money in the first place, I couldn't afford to work in church music.

    However, I have concluded that most non-musicians have no idea what we do. They don't know how long it took to arrive at the point where we can play those pieces we play. Of course it looks effortless. It generally does for people who know what they are doing, and that is true in most fields.

    What we need is a whiskey allowance for dealing with some of the "Christians" we are afflicted with. No wonder Nero wanted to kill them!

  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,524
    Church musicians should be salaried and left alone - never questioned about hours, methods, what they're doing, or when they'll be where. This career is one best kept in deep secrecy and hidden from government, church hierarchy, and the general public. Only in the cover of darkness and hidden from society can we truly practice our craft.

    The church musician should then, in response, always be dependable and never late for anything. They should always execute music at the level expected or better and shouldn't complain about anything. They just do church music and money appears in their bank account. When at meetings they should be professional and not talk to much about church music. If they're required to speak, do so in as few sentences as possible. Then back to church music.