organist paid with gift card?
  • My 17yo daughter has been asked to play the organ for a memorial Mass at our parish where my son is the regular organist since he will be out of town that day. She was told she would be paid an undisclosed amount, apparently the same amount my son would have earned ($50/hr by clocking in) with an Amazon gift card. I have never heard of such a strange arrangement, have you?

    When my older son was the the parish organist, our pastor, the same one we have now, established the policy for funerals that we are to make arrangements for the music and payment directly with the families. We set a base fee of $100 payable before the Mass or service begins and have continued this policy since it was first established with no problem.

    In the current case, we were not notified of this Mass but my dd was just asked at choir practice last week to do this and given the music. I have notified the choir director that his is an unacceptable form of payment, reminded her of the standing policy and that this will have to be resolved satisfactorily before my daughter accepts this job.

    This is the second instance in the last few months of our pastor changing established policies regarding the organist without explanation.

    Kathy
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,388
    This happened to me one time. I played a funeral for a couple's daughter who had a promising career and all the advantages, but took to drugs and crashed into something and died. They gave me a gift card to a popular restaurant chain that I have never frequented nor ever will. I gave the card to my nephew and wife which they enjoyed, being a young couple with limited resources. Our funeral fee structure was a bit fuzzy before that, so I talked with pastor and office staff to make sure our fees were clear before anything else was scheduled.

    Your pastor? Forgetful, maybe? Doesn't want to offend anyone - except you, of course. You know him, I don't.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,956
    Is this a funeral Mass, that goes through a funeral home? Or a separate memorial Mass for which they're paying the minimal parish stipend for a daily Mass?
  • It's a memorial Mass. I have no idea what arrangements they've made with the parish. It's not a daily Mass, but a special Mass on a Saturday when there wouldn't be one otherwise.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,544
    Truthfully it sounds to me like they might be having financial difficulties and might be trying to pay for things with gift cards that can be bought on credit. If someone asked me if I'd accept a gift card, I'd probably waive my fee.
  • This offer has come from the parish, not the family. If my son, the regular organist, were available, they would have had him clock in and get paid that way (which, in itself, is outside the established protocol). I do not understand why the parish cannot just write a check to my daughter instead of a gift card. I believe she is being taken advantage of and the parish is not dealing fairly and forthrightly with her. We have multiple examples of our parish, and this particular pastor, dealing unjustly with our family over the past six years. I won't allow more if I can help it, especially when it involves my children. They can do to me whatever they want, but don't touch my children. grrrrrrrrrr!
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,351
    Many states have provisions in law that wages must be paid in cash, a check, or a direct deposit.


  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,341
    I would have a conversation with the priest. If this kind of thing happens again, she doesn't play.
  • She's not going to play this time if this isn't resolved satisfactorily. They can just use the synthesizer which they seem to be happy with most of the time. (My son only plays two of 12 Masses per month normally; the rest are led by synthesizer or guitar.)
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,956
    One caveat, I 'd go easy on the priest, at least initially. Sometimes office managers or accountants are the ones pulling financial shenanigans.
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,462
    At least make it a Visa or Amazon gift card.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,351
    (see the original post)
  • A 17 year old girl does not need a gift card. She doesn't need more "stuff, doesn't want more "stuff", and shouldn't be encouraged to get more "stuff" by giving her a gift card. She should be paid for services rendered in US currency. It's simple.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,341
    A 17 year old girl does not need a gift card. She doesn't need more "stuff, doesn't want more "stuff", and shouldn't be encouraged to get more "stuff" by giving her a gift card. She should be paid for services rendered in US currency. It's simple.


    As the mother of a 16 and 18 year old, I concur! Smart daughter. Smart mother.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • No Visa gift cards. No gift cards for pay. Period.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,956
    I agree with all of the above.

    On the other hand, looking down the road, because of the way your children have served at this parish, they will have a good-paying job, if they want it, for life.

    That includes one of the best possible part time jobs during college.

    It is wrong of the parish to assume your children are apprentices, and treating them accordingly, but, it's actually very valuable training as well.
  • A 17 yo is a minor.

    I cannot think of any situation outside of youth ministry when it would be appropriate to have a minor on parish staff, either on-going or as a one-off contract basis. Among other things, the need to have at least two adults (at least one police vetted) with them at all times would make things tricky. And I would not expect a 17 yo to have the life-experience to deal with the sometimes difficult pastoral situations that come with funeral or memorial events. Even in youth-ministry, 17 would be very young to have as a staff member rather than a volunteer. It's quite possible there is a diocesan policy that all paid staff need to be 18+, and so it's not possible to pay cash.

    The only people who should be paid-to-play at church services are qualified musicians who make their living through music.

    It's lovely that the parish are offering your daughter a gift in return for her services. But if she really has a heart for serving God and God's people, then receiving anything back this side of heaven should not come into the discussion.
    Thanked by 1mattebery
  • Pax, I can imagine that line of thinking is behind this (though I think it's ridiculous and each of my three boys has been paid in USD for working as musicians at this parish when they were minors). I can't fight ridiculous diocesan policies (I've tried), anymore than I can fight ridiculous US security procedures (recently experienced on returning from a trip to Israel via Jordan where both countries have strict, but sensible, airport security procedures).

    Anyway, I figured a way out of this: I'll take the gift card from my dd and give her cash in return. I can always use more stuff :-). It is a valuable opportunity for my daughter and I want her to take it.
    Thanked by 2Carol CHGiffen
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,341
    The only people who should be paid-to-play at church services are qualified musicians who make their living through music.


    My eldest two sons (teenagers) have been sought out by a parish outside of our own to cantor for Mass. This parish is desperate. The problem is, of course, that no one thinks ahead to provide any kind of training for youth to learn to sing properly. My sons sing for free for one Mass a weekend at our parish, and receive a small stipend to sing at Masses outside of this Mass and at other churches. They also give of themselves for various special occasions at our parish.

    I don't think it is reasonable to expect someone, youth or otherwise, to sing at three Masses, be prepared to sing different hymns and Mass parts and travel for free. They have to be there, and it is generally not convenient for their schedules. In my opinion, one Mass is a reasonable expectation; more is not.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW Carol
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,388
    The statement, "This parish is desperate," highlights something I noticed years ago that hurts Catholic parishes. I received my music and education degrees from a Baptist university with a fine music department. Of course, I came in contact with not only Baptist musicians, but saw how their churches operate. They train children in singing and encourage instrument playing where the talent is noticeable. They provide opportunities for young musicians to perform, accompany, and refine skills. Catholic parishes locally don't do any of that. They hire, often someone from outside. With the Baptists, if they need musicians, they usually have several in-house musicians available.
  • Carol
    Posts: 326
    Other than for weddings and funerals, where the family is paying, I have never been paid to sing at Mass. My husband and I are semi-professional musicians performing frequently in folk venues for money. In over 40+ years of contributing my voice to my parish I have never been paid to sing for a scheduled Mass. We did receive a fruit basket one year at Christmas. I know a guitarists are not considered real musicians by most who frequent this site, but I have NEVER heard of a guitarist being paid as an accompanist which may explain, in part why most guitar music is abysmal(sp?) and despised by many. Perhaps you get what you pay for?

    A few years ago I did take a hiatus from acting as cantor when we had an organist whose choices were so awful and whose musical skills were nearly non-existent. My husband once whispered, "THIS IS MUSICAL MALPRACTICE!" to me during a particularly awful rendition of "Let Us Break Bread Together on Our Knees." We had to start going to the earliest Sunday Mass because it had no music.

    I consider it my privilege to lead the congregation in singing hymns and responses and when I feel appreciated by my celebrant, especially for choosing hymns thoughtfully I am pleased that he recognizes our efforts. That is enough reward. Disdain or apathy are not great motivators.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • The only people who should be paid-to-play at church services are qualified musicians who make their living through music.


    So much depends on the parish and the particular circumstance. When my son started playing the organ for our parish at age 15, he replaced a long-standing paid organist (widow who was not doing it for a living) so my son accepted payment as well. Had this been a volunteer position, he would have volunteered just to gain the experience.

    My next-in-line son took over when his brother left for college, and now my daughter is next in line. All my children are well-trained musicians, in various instruments and voice, remarkably so for their ages. My daughter volunteers as cantor often. I have volunteered as cantor and choir director.

    I do think playing the organ for Mass is different than singing and is worthy of compensation. I could argue, too, my children do this "for a living" since, at times, it was their only job in high school, and they had to make many sacrifices, including turning down other jobs, to keep this job.
    Thanked by 3canadash Carol CHGiffen
  • We have a resolution: Our pastor agreed we should follow the policy he had established, that we work out music and fees with the family. Apparently he had forgotten; it's been a couple years since we've been asked to play for a funeral.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,388
    . I know a guitarists are not considered real musicians by most who frequent this site, but I have NEVER heard of a guitarist being paid as an accompanist which may explain, in part why most guitar music is abysmal(sp?) and despised by many. Perhaps you get what you pay for?


    I think you do get what you pay for, but a classical guitar in the hands of a good musician can be quite nice. I have played for some masses written by Baroque Spanish composers where the guitar is a specified part of the ensemble.

    However, and here is the however. The guitar is not capable of effectively leading a large group in a large building. Sure you can amplify the hell out of it thereby ruining the tone. A pipe organ has powerful "lungs" and is much more effective at leading singing in large spaces.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • Carol
    Posts: 326
    I definitely see your point about the powerful lungs of the organ. However, it is also possible (but uncommon) to properly amplify a guitar and have its sound heard throughout the church pleasantly. Last year on Passion Sunday, my husband played "O Sacred Head Surrounded" on guitar at Communion and it was very reverent and lovely. One year our organist had to play a Mass at 10 pm in our church and get to another town for a Midnight Mass. SO we used "Silent Night" with guitar accompaniment for the recessional hymn very successfully. Of course, that was composed for the guitar. Can you cite the Baroque Spanish composers you are thinking of? Sounds interesting.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,564
    The only people who should be paid-to-play at church services are qualified musicians who make their living through music.


    Well, yes, and unicorns and pixie-dust.

    While there are more "actual musicians" who are being paid as full-time employees in metropolitan areas, as soon as you get into the countryside, the pay-per-service/part-time, (and often really NOT 'qualified') predominates. That has to do with simple economics: the parishes do NOT have the free cash-flow to cough up $20K/year or more (benefits included.) It's just not there.

    What I find amusing is that "actual musicians"--even those who were 'raised Catholic'--are often not really Catholic liturgical musicians. They may know from scales and rhythm, but they don't have a sense of the liturgy. Sometimes they don't even know Lent from Easter.

  • Carol
    Posts: 326
    Conversely, volunteer musicians may have a good sense of Liturgy without having a music degree or courses in liturgy. Even those who have both may actually be irreverent while carrying out their duties.
  • Even those who have both may actually be irreverent while carrying out their duties.


    Understatement of the year!
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • I simply can’t imagine disallowing a talented young organist from participating to keep the bench open for a professional musician. I started playing at my parish regularly at 10 as an “intern” of sorts to the music director and by middle school, was being paid, and by the end of HS was the organist for more than one church (whose individual schedules did not conflict). I then got a degree in organ, and worked my way through the ranks to eventually be diocesan director of music and cathedral organist.

    If the bar is set at professional musician, when will anyone get the opportunity to learn?
  • KARU27
    Posts: 87
    Funny about the Amazon gift card. At my house, they're almost a form of currency, since my father-in-law gives them for birthdays, Christmas, etc. I too often "buy" them from my kids. I wonder though, if the parish gets them for free if they sell scrip? I think the parish gets a certain percentage back for free. A former parish of mine used them a lot for door prizes for events.
  • and by middle school, was being paid,


    Sorry, but why did a middle school kid need to be paid to play in his own parish?

    I can understand it if you're playing multiple services or multiple churches - or doing substantial music programme administration. But I can't see that for a middle-schooler.

    Once you're being paid, you should be well past the point of needing to do more learning.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,564
    Once you're being paid, you should be well past the point of needing to do more learning.


    I don't think you meant what you said here, PM.
  • Well, as a matter of social justice—those who work for the church should be paid.

    In my specific case, I was working at 2 catholic parishes and 1 episcopal parish each weekend.

    I really won’t speak to the rest of your comment beyond saying, “wow...”
    Thanked by 1Incardination
  • Once you're being paid, you should be well past the point of needing to do more learning.


    Then only the dead should be paid.
  • Update: All turned out very well. My daughter played for the memorial Mass, paid by the family and all were very, very appreciative. Very good outcome!
  • Very glad to hear it!