What to look for (or intentionally put) in a job description
  • If you're trying to save yourself headache and heartache, what do you look for as automatic "red lines", both when you're looking for work and looking for a potential director of music?
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 419
    –Salary range

    –Clear language about status quo: “there is currently a folk trio and a Resurrection choir of six, but Fr. Pastor would like you to have the Westminster Cathedral Choir School 2.0 running by Christmas and there is no funding in place yet” is clear. “The St. Scholastica Schola has sung the Gregorian propers every Sunday since 1903 and is currently made up of 16 pro baritones, and funded by its own endowment” is clear. “Our vision for sacred music is based on these 5 encyclicals and beauty, catholicity, and liturgical suitability…” is completely unclear; could be example 1 or example 2, who knows.

    –Salary range

    –Duties that are part of the job (teaching how many classes a day in the school? How many meetings a week? Sending the prelude and postlude to a secretary, or designing the bulletin, printing it, folding it myself?)

    –Salary range

    –Approx number of weddings and funerals and current stipends for same

    –Salary range

    If these are there, I can decide if what’s listed suits me and will provide for my family.

    Red lines would be evidence of discord in the parish, poor engagement from the congregation, sudden changes (listing says “do Palestrina every Sunday” but churchwebsite.org/music still says “If you play the tambourine, we need you :)”, and sloppy liturgies (now easier to see thanks to live-streaming….
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,537
    I personally think teaching music in the grade school, playing for four masses with three different groups of musicians and designing worship aids is too much for one person within the confines of a normal work week. Especially if the common “other duties as assigned” clause is thrown in.

    Also, if you interview, you’ll want to make sure that practice time for yourself at the organ is included in your work time/duties. Postludes don’t learn themselves. For years I did normal work during the day and then practiced at night or on Saturday mornings at home. This is something that I am now avoiding as much as I can.

    Also, lots of pastors want the music program to “grow”. This is great in principle, but if you interview, you need to sus out whether or not they understand that some of the conditions are beyond your control, and that you won’t be considered a “failure” if the program doesn’t. For instance, at my current job, more than half of the parish is Hispanic and I minister on the Anglo side. The Anglo side is dying (average age has got to be mid 60’s), and after four years, I haven’t managed to attract many to join the choir, although we receive complements regularly from parishioners and visitors alike. We’ve even become a “destination parish” for a few people (because of the music). So I know we are on the right track and the good music we are doing I s appreciated, but no matter how many people I personally invite, and no matter how many clarion calls I’ve made either before mass or in the bulletin, I just can’t get people to join. There’s a broader cultural trend that is stronger than me. I’m keeping at it, but at this point it is up to God to send me souls.
  • "Welcoming Faith Community Community"


    Once, eons ago, I was informed by a pastor that I would meet with the committee and that, if I wanted the job, I would avoid mentioning Pope John Paul II (then reigning) and Cardinal Ratzinger (then at the CDF), except perjoratively. I mentioned both glowingly, and was not offered the job.

    Any advertisement which mentions "Vatican II liturgy", especially "embracing Vatican II liturgy" sends up neon-red flags.
  • I feel like the term "Faith Community" in general is watered down nonsense. Adding "Welcoming" to the beginning only makes it more so.
  • tandrews
    Posts: 124
    I feel like the term "Faith Community" in general is watered down nonsense.


    We have Area Faith Communities, a fancy term for "rural parish clusters." Just call it what it is!
  • Does "knowledge of the Liturgy documents of Vatican II" say "Green Light" or "Red Light" to folks?
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,524
    I read descriptions to understand what's going on, not to apply, because I sing, but I don't play organ, etc. (I wish that I could!) That often is a yellow light, even if one does not think so strongly like I do, because it sometimes is revealing of the kind of pastor who is hiring.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 419
    Does "knowledge of the Liturgy documents of Vatican II" say "Green Light" or "Red Light" to folks?


    For me that’s a Signal Ahead sign; red if subsequent mention of Gather, green if mention of Mundelein Psalter.
  • Part-time work.... when the duties are clearly full-time in scope:

    Ministry is part-time with no benefits for 6 Masses a weekend, bell choir, occasional weddings and (more often) funerals included in compensation. Ideal candidate needs to be a team player who empowers others to reach their full baptismal vocation. Practice time is at discretion of organist, but is not compensated. Three weekly meetings of an hour each (estimate): one with the pastoral associate, one with the liturgy committee chairperson, one with the full committee and one with the association of disgruntled parishioners.
  • For me, the kiss of death is a church that proudly notes that they have a Steirnway grand piano. (In addition to some of the above comments).
  • jcr
    Posts: 116
    I once subscribed for a time to a church music newsletter published by a Texas Baptist musician. He posted open jobs and often would include notes when he knew something of interest to an applicant. On one occasion he included a note stating that the congregation in question had employed seven (yes, 7) DM's during the past two years and that anyone considering applying ought to be aware of that fact before submitting a resume or interviewing.
    My wife and I responded to a notice for organist/choirmaster stating that the successful applicant would be familiar with Gregorian Chant as well as other musical "styles". After being hired it became apparent that the pastor had no interest in plainchant at all and that he had included this at the behest of a woman in the parish who thought it a fine thing to do chant now and again. We departed the position after seven months because there were too many intolerable things including a very much too micro managing pastor, a resident prima donna whose "fans" in the congregation would be angry if she didn't sing more often and the like. BTW we never prevented her from singing in spite of her unreliability and terrible attitude.
    It is always wise to investigate a parish through people you may be able to contact. Often information can be obtained through a few phone conversations.
  • TCJ
    Posts: 802
    "Vibrant parish" means that either it isn't or that it was made "vibrant" by merging two or three non-vibrant parishes together. Avoid.
  • TCJ,

    Yes, the word "vibrant" is right next to the expression "Spirit-filled"!

    JCR,

    Indeed "styles" is a good indication that someone who doesn't really have a Catholic compass wrote the description.

    Jackson,

    Pride in a grand piano can be a very good thing, but not in a parish looking for a serious Church musician. Similarly, proudly advertising a Rodgers organ or a Wurlitzer (yes, I know that they're different) indicates an iron clad commitment to mediocrity.
  • jcr
    Posts: 116
    It occurred to me that the absence of a salary range (often replaced by "commensurate with qualifications") is a warning sign, unless the matter is an up-front part of the first phone conversation.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,537
    I was a finalist for a job a little while back at a large destination church that had 200 weddings a year. Big program. I asked toward the end of my interview what the salary was, and they wouldn’t tell me. I was a finalist and had driven 2.5 hours to be there and they still hemmed and hawed.

    Part of it was, I believe, the pastor not wanting to mention it in front of the interviewing committee (which included some choir members) but ultimately it really bothered me that a seemingly obvious question was avoided DURING THE INTERVIEW. Again, I had come great distance to be there and I didn’t ask until about an hour into the interview. (Yes, an hour. It seemed like we were a good match, and I found out a few days later that I was the runner-up choice. I believe the other candidate was offered the job because he didn’t have a young family, and the time demands of this position were a bit strenuous.)

    It is such a simple thing to tell candidates what you’re willing to pay. It’s entirely possible that had I known the salary range, I might not have bothered to waste an entire day driving to a city nearly 3 hours from where I lived.
  • Caleferink
    Posts: 389
    Perusing a few job postings on another page:

    Red flags:
    * Music directorship combined with that of a communications director (or any other non-liturgical job)
    * "Founded in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council" - I think we all know what that means, but then they leave little doubt: "welcoming, inclusive parish"
    * "Current hymnal is Gather 3rd edition...and much of the parish repertoire highlights the themes of Eucharist, unity, justice, and creation."
    * "An appropriate balance of traditional and contemporary music styles..."
    * "...ensure that all liturgies are well-planned and vibrant"
    * "Oversee livestreaming/video of our Masses and special liturgical events..." (from a post not advertised as a communications director)
    * "...provide liturgical experiences that are welcoming and inclusive"
    * "... a person of faith who embraces stewardship as a way of life" - translation: you ain't gettin' paid what you're worth here
  • jcr
    Posts: 116
    How about no salary in the add. The pastor calls before the interview and asks what you are being paid where you are now. (Never answer this question) At the interview he gives you a sample contract that has the salary filled in at the same salary you told him about. You notice that the salary amount had been whited out and, holding it up to the light see that the amount in the previous guys' contract was $11,000 more. Nice guy! He was after the lowest bidder. This is all too common.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,537
    Another huge red flag: no weekends off all year. (I am only permitted to miss one Sunday a year, and this is a point of contention with my current employer.)
    Thanked by 1MatthewRoth
  • The recent post from New Britain, Connecticut, illustrates one of the warning signs: you'd be brought on, full-time, to be the music director of music for four parishes in the midst of a consolidation. The opportunity for growth and development certainly exists, but playing referee among aggrieved parties as their parishes are consolidated shouldn't be the job a new-comer has to tackle right out of the gate!

    Thanked by 2tandrews MNadalin
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,524
    You know, speaking of posts on the forum, it'd be interesting if the ads had to have certain things, like the salary band, benefits, weekends off, etc. There are a lot of duties, some of which don't belong to the music director or which are obvious ("expand/maintain and organize the music library" — maybe the clergy have volunteers or part-time musicians who don't do this, but this is par for the course for full-time work…)
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • Matthew,

    I won't speak for our esteemed host on this, or the CMAA, but it would seem logical that the requirements (except that they be for Church positions and that they avoid lewd or graphic pictures or language) would be dependent on the job postings and the needs of the parish. You're quite right that, to attract the right candidates, the details you suggest are logical to include, but not everyone thinks of everything all the time.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,537
    True, CGZ, but that's where a little message back to the poster saying,

    "please include the following in your job post per our forum guidelines: "

    could solve that problem.
    Thanked by 1MatthewRoth
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,524
    It's your experience that you mentioned above which makes me a little insistent… like, why do people waste time like that with prospective employees?
  • Matthew,

    Sorry? To whom is your comment addressed, and to what particular point?
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,537
    CGZ- I think he means me, driving 2h30 to an hour-long interview and then still not wanting to tell me their intended salary.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 422
    What to think of a job opening for a DM (posted today) saying 3x "starting September 2021" ...
    Thanked by 2tandrews MatthewRoth
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 872
    offered the job because he didn’t have a young family, and the time demands of this position were a bit strenuous.


    How often does a parish advertise for a "practicing Catholic" but then is prejudiced against one with a family, by either expecting/demanding too much time away from the family or not enough remuneration to support a family or both.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,537
    or not enough remuneration to support a family
    This is usually the issue.

    I actually had an 'amusing' situation crop up a few weeks ago when I was speaking with the parish secretary. Without thinking she was recounting how much she LOVED staying home with her kids when they were little. And then she looked at me, blushed, and apologized profusely, knowing full well that I couldn't afford for my wife and children to stay home. (I suppose it would technically be possible... anything is possible... but we would only live on rice and beans.)
  • Another red flag is when a job is accepted, and later on a job description is "found" which was not used during the interview or hiring process, and there is an expectation that the hitherto unknown document becomes the basis for the position. Shows not only disrespect but categorical disorganization...
    Thanked by 2MatthewRoth Elmar
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,524
    I note that a recent job posting here is short, sweet, and to the point. Good, and thank you, Fr. Pastor for that.
  • Knowledge of the Roman Catholic musical tradition helpful, but not required....
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,537
    CGZ, I agree on the whole, although I think this particular point has to be nuanced a bit. Relatively few (even among the highly musically trained) have had the opportunity to study liturgy in any formal sense. My pastor, who is MC for our diocese, brought me on and has tucked me under his wing, and taught me a TON. Granted, I was eager to learn, and we had an understanding, but still, I think the more appropriate thing to screen for is the right disposition and desire to learn about the liturgy and then implement what you're learning. I have an MM in organ performance and yet have never once been afforded the opportunity to formally study roman liturgy.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,233
    Here's the problem with that, though, @ServiamScores -- Where would you go to study Roman liturgy? Even The Liturgical Institute is nowhere close to what it was under Cardinal George, with recent graduates not only passionately arguing in favor of removing altar rails and communion-in-the-hand, but treating those positions as if they are matters-of-fact, and self-evidently correct.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,537
    I guess I'm confused at why you seem to be disagreeing with me; as I said, I don't think it necessarily fair to require someone to have extensive knowledge of the liturgy. It is great if you can find someone with the requisite knowledge, but formal liturgical study isn't all that common anymore. I attended a university with one of the larger organ studios around, with every level from undergraduate to DMA candidates, and we didn't have a formal liturgy course, and even if we did, it wouldn't have been offered with a catholic lens since it was a large state school. There are only a handful of places [that aren't seminaries] that offer this type of study, and it seems odd to try and pigeonhole everyone through those few schools to be eligible for employment.

    This is why I said I think it more proper to seek candidates who are willing and eager to learn on the job and implement what they learn.
    Thanked by 1mattebery
  • Serviam,

    Would you take "being a practicing Catholic" more important, then?
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,537
    Absolutely.

    I can only guess that our Lord would prefer an imperfect liturgy with holy souls striving to constantly do better, than a technically perfect liturgy with souls he finds unrepentant and loathsome. I know of one town where the two Catholic organists (both men) are in an illicit relationship together and no one has any idea save a few of their closest friends. One of the two, in particular, fosters truly excellent liturgies. And yet he is actively engaging in activity that cries out to heaven for vengeance. I cannot imagine this is pleasing to our Lord. Contrast that to a run of the mill country parish where the people are simple and humble, and have the simplest of liturgies because they have neither the training nor finances to achieve high liturgies. It would seem to me that this is preferable in the spiritual, if not material, sense.

    Again, people who are willing to do the right thing that just need to be shown seem preferable to those who might know what to do but live a live in overt contradiction to the gospel.

    Also, is it any wonder that we are suffering from a mass identity crisis when we outsource the responsibility to those who do not believe what we believe?
  • PaxTecum
    Posts: 241
    Run away from anything that uses the word "committee"
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,233
    I'm not disagreeing, @ServiamScores -- Just legitimately wondering, "to whom shall we go?" in terms of studying the liturgy in a faithful way. I'm not convinced that any of the programs which offer formal study in Catholic liturgy can be trusted not to be absolutely riddled with modernism. If there is a decent program out there, I'd be glad to learn of it.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,537
    There are certainly bright stars here and there; I certainly feel comfortable turning to Jennifer Donelson, for instance.
  • Caleferink
    Posts: 389
    Here's another red flag to me: if the position is advertised as directly accountable to someone other than the pastor/rector/parish priest. If I were to have to report to some "Director of Parish Life" or a parish/business manager, it tells me that the priest in charge sees the position as superfluous and that when a conflict arises that needs pastoral intervention I would be the one hung out to dry.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,537
    “Directors of liturgy” who aren’t the priest make me nervous too…
    Thanked by 1LauraKaz