Question about transitioning OUT of a career in music...
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,177
    OK. So, after working for about 15 years as a parish DM, doing additional work in Musical Theatre, and choral accompaniment, I think it's safe to say that I'm not cut out for the job. At least not in the Church.

    My faith has never been strong, and, I can honestly say, if anyone wants to lose their faith completely, work for the Church. I do not like my job--I enjoy playing the organ for recreation (though I don't seem to get much of that, these days, even with CoVID), and I enjoy singing; but the weekly rota of Masses is something I have come to hate with an intense passion. Several people have suggested other organist/DM jobs, and I have looked at them, thinking that maybe it's just my current position. But then, I think: "No, I just don't want to do this any more. It doesn't matter where or for whom".

    I know that I have two choices: Remain in Parish Ministry and lose my faith; or get out while I still believe in something and hopefully not lose it completely.

    When one has spent their entire life specializing in one field, and when money doesn't grow on trees, how can one go about changing careers? I don't know if anyone here as made a shift like this--but any help or advice would be, well, helpful.
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,306
    Sent you a PM on FB
    Thanked by 1Salieri
  • I can sympathize. After some years trying to participate in choirs I have discovered I am the world's happiest Catholic when I simply assist at Mass as a boring old PIP and relegate my singing solely to hobby status. My attempts at being involved in parish groups of any kind, musical or otherwise, have been near occasions of lack of charity, or even of pure loathing. I'm just not cut out for it. God bless those who are.

    Job-wise, as someone (50-some years old) who has rarely had the same kind of job for more than 7 or 8 years, I think you can risk it! Try be totally open to unexpected or off-the-wall options, and assume anything you get into might be temporary, in that it may just be an unexpected link to something else. Pray hard and trust in the plot twists God puts in your path.

    I'll keep you in my prayers.
    Thanked by 1Salieri
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,956
    I feel your pain. I played for NO masses and directed the choir for 20 years. I didn't lose any faith over it, but became increasingly frustrated with the liturgy and some of the people. I was in a parish that never respected musicians, and paid them next to nothing. Then there were those individuals plotting and scheming in the background because they wanted to run things. Fortunately, I didn't need the money so I think my attachment to some good friends there caused me to stay. I probably had too much loyalty to one of the pastors which kept me there, as well. Eventually, I retired to escape the situation and also exposure to the Covid virus. That virus is real and I know of one local musician who died recently because of it.

    There really are better places to work so don't give up on music entirely. I once played and directed for a liberal leaning Protestant church. But you know, they were nicer people than the Catholics. I get the mailers asking me to share my time, talent and treasure with the parish. Since my time and talent were not respected or appreciated, I have decided I will share none of my treasure with the place. I think being Byzantine gave me another place to go and that helped considerably. My faith has improved since leaving. Some places and people are just toxic and escaping both is the best solution.
  • Salieri -
    I am so sorry to hear about your sad quandry. I will be praying for you and will put you on the prayer list at Walsingham - I remember well the beautiful preces that you composed for us for evensong several years ago! You are not alone in your angst. I have known others who were tortured over such matters as concern you. There are so many endemic and institutionally negative and outright toxic factors that can affect negatively a church musician's sense of vocation and even challenge his faith. In noting this, one hastens to note that, also, there are many positive factors that affect positively one's faith and vocation. Too, dry, and even outright torturous periods, are and have been, as the mystics attest, to be expected in one's journey. Our faith, at times, is a struggle, a thing fought for, and victory may be hard one. Take heart and know that you are not alone. I had a friend once who was quite devout, well versed in theology, Aquinas, taught Latin in high school, was a fine choirmaster, husband and father, and was an admirer of the Benedictine life, who shocked me one day by saying, 'Jackson, sometimes I wonder if this whole thing isn't one giant hoax'. Still his faith remained, and, I think, never really wavered.

    Don't despair.
    Despair is the enemy of health, spiritual or other.
    Seek counsel.
    And, above all, don't allow this to destroy your love of music - or your faith.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,501
    One option is to revamp your resume to reflect skills/functions rather than positions.
    Thanked by 1Salieri
  • Carol
    Posts: 856
    Prayers for you.
  • JesJes
    Posts: 576
    This one is a good question.

    Take a sabbatical - priests do it all the time - we should do. Take a whole year and don't attend the parish you would be playing/conducting/singing at. Even if it means driving 3 hours to get to mass.

    If the priest won't let you do this then just leave altogether and do this. But it does give you plenty of time to properly discern and heal without the judgement from your "biggest fans."
  • jcr
    Posts: 132
    I understand your problem and recognize it as one common to this work. In my own case, having been brought up Protestant, I worked pretty regularly for 25 years or so at part time jobs in various churches along with teaching and performing . Some of those jobs were pleasant enough, but there were often problems such as you tell of. As a result of difficult conditions in a "Christian" college I found myself employed at a Catholic liberal arts college (soon to become a "university") where I remained for 22 difficult years. My wife was an adjunct faculty member there in the music dept. We left the university after the 22 years of my term there because of internal politics. In our private prayer my wife and I both came to the sense that we should leave the University (where I was a dept. head and full professor) and go into Catholic Church full time. (After 22 years teaching in a Catholic university I converted anyway). We took a job that paid $23,000 per annum for both of us which included funerals. Within a few months the pastor that hired us left and we had a period of substitute priests. When a new pastor was appointed it was clear from the start that he wanted nothing to do with us at all and made things tough enough to get our resignation. We had a 15 month period of unemployment during which we subbed in the public schools, and ran a private music studio in our home (voice and piano). We found that the nasty politics of the world in general permeates the schools, public and private, and that it is also true of the church-any church-in spades. We continued on to work in some other churches until a family situation required us to care for an elderly family member for several years. Our last job was in a Protestant Church that was being severely damaged because of national politics and disputes over things like homosexual marriage and other social or social-political matters.

    This stuff will follow you wherever you go. A period of reflection about your calling, strengthening of your own faith and commitment, and enough distance to gain perspective may help you to ascertain whether this work is what you want to do. As jobs go, they almost all have serious problems. Priests are a mixed bag, as well. I know one musician who asks pastors at her interviews if they could tell her what their particular maladjustment is so she can decide about the suitability of the position!

    Pray, reflect, maintain a sense of humor, and see what happens. We will pray for you.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,156
    Asking the intercession of St. Joseph, St. Jude Thaddeus, St. Cecelia, and Pope St. Gregory the Great
    Thanked by 1Salieri
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,501
    Apparently there is so much demand for help in this kind of transition that someone has found a way to make a living from it.
    Thanked by 1Salieri
  • Salieri,

    A danger might be this: as a DM, your experience may be largely quasi-managerial. As such, a manager position might be among the best other opportunities you could hope for, in terms of pay.

    However, it is this aspect of managing people that can prove most difficult in terms of temperament for those frustrated with the job of directing parish music programs.

    Add to that the loss of at least aesthetic and artistic satisfaction from the Sunday morning product, and the fact that in the secular world you are managing / working with people who fail to share your basic assumptions about life, which can for some add fresh headaches.

    You know yourself best, of course, but the grass can always be greener, too. You seem to have a lovelier than average parish that appreciates what you offer. That's an incredible blessing, even though (as I similarly know out here in the rural Midwest) it can still be a tremendous headache and make me want to quit some days (my daydream is always something truly bland and strictly 9 to 5, like a bank teller).

    My recommendation would be to play to your strengths. Start gigging more, teaching more, and see how much income you can draw doing that over a year or two. Don't live high on the hog, just save that money and live on your current pay rate. Then, when you have balanced the two, if your heart is still set on it, simply drop the church gig. You'll be living at the level of your means.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Salieri
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,177
    Thank you, everyone, for your suggestions--there is certainly much to think about.

    OTOH, it is what it is, and where you're at is where you're at.

    Music librarianship was kind to me, and I wish I had done it years before. That said, it's not a great time to go into the field: COVID is pushing the shakeout of Peak Higher Ed, many/most unis have hiring freezes in place, fewer music majors because why study for a field involving close personal contact. Also, it's totally SJW-converged, to the point where it would be emetic for anyone who takes his faith seriously. Also it takes retraining, especially in digital librarianship.

    Other than that, I got nuttin' but prayers; I've always been crappy at careersmanship.