How can one possibly be a bread-winner in this line of work?
  • tin_j
    Posts: 5
    Apologies for the blunt title! In my years as a director of music, I have always come to the forum and have found answers to many pressing questions in the day-to-day business of this work. So, I come to you asking a question that has been bugging me for a few years now:

    As a father and husband with a growing family, it seems that the time and skill required to be a true director of music for a parish are not adequately compensated. I suppose I wanted to ask other colleagues on this forum how they manage to support a family on what seems to be the typical annual salary of 40-50k. Is there something I'm missing? I don't want to seem like I'm in it for the money (that would be quite silly) but I do have real responsibilities and bills to pay.

    I would be sad to have to give up this work because the salary is almost a poverty wage unless your spouse also works full time (something that can make it difficult to have a large family), but I have found that, during the pastoral year, I am asked to give an incredible amount of time to what amounts to a part-time salary. Is that just the standard? Does it effectively cut off musicians who also have young children? I know that I can do many other things in music to make up for it (composing, lessons, arranging, engraving), but it would cause me to drop some of my effort in building and maintaining choir membership, or developing worship aids for the children's choir, etc.

    So, any insight is deeply appreciated! I am still young and dumb, so please be merciful if I have any glaring blindspots in my view of things. I really love what I do, and I'm just trying to figure out how to make it work.
    Thanked by 1MarkB
  • 50K isn't "poverty wage" in every part of this country.
    Thanked by 1kenstb
  • tin_j
    Posts: 5
    I suspect so, but I don't have a frame of reference. What parts of the country can a 50k salary support a family? Where I am currently, it is definitely too small of a wage, which can be frustrating, but being in a high cost of living area certainly limits my perspective.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,393
    Perhaps someone should draw the attention of Francis to the plight of church musicians... Depriving a man of a just wage is a sin. Although you never know with Francis if poor means all those that are poor or only a sub section of the poor.
    Thanked by 1MatthewRoth
  • LarsLars
    Posts: 77
    Complaining about 50k salary, lol what? Most of us get €20 a week, if that.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,894
    I feel your pain. It’s true; I’ve often made the observation that there is a disparity between what the church asks of musicians (live according to the tenants of the faith, in particular, a natural marriage) and then not pay a wage that would permit your spouse to stay home and care for the kids (also traditional). Of course, I suppose we need to adjust our expectations insofar as lifestyles are concerned, but 50k doesn’t go all that far when you have groceries, a mortgage, car payments and insurance, and other bills (to say nothing of the typically poor diocesan healthcare). I was very pleased when a priest recently reached out to me about a job he was offering; he had secured a commitment from a wealthy family to subsidize a supplement to the musician’s salary to push it up to 70k for a minimum of 5 years. He really wanted to secure a good musician and see the program grow, and he was thinking outside the box to make it happen. I wasn’t at liberty to take the job, but it did give me hope. But that posting was a bit of a unicorn… so I’m not holding my breath that a similar offer will float by anytime soon.
    Thanked by 3tomjaw stulte LauraKaz
  • I was recently made aware that the newly ordained we just received is actually making 40% more than I am, with his guaranteed two days off per week.... so yes I've begun the search for a secular career.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,894
    In my previous secular career, I fought to have the salaries of our current employees not only raised, but raised to exceed the compensation of the new incoming employees, because I thought it was so awful and immoral that new employees were being given better treatment from the start than people who had given 10+ years to the company. The fact that the upper management even considered paying strangers more than faithful employees just blew my mind. Mercifully, at least in that case, the employee's salaries were raised, and one woman, in particular, received a well-deserved windfall. They would have collapsed without her and she'd been there longer than anyone.
  • NihilNominisNihilNominis
    Posts: 814
    I suspect so, but I don't have a frame of reference. What parts of the country can a 50k salary support a family? Where I am currently, it is definitely too small of a wage, which can be frustrating, but being in a high cost of living area certainly limits my perspective.


    The flexibility and understanding of your employer is equally as important as, if not more important than, the salary.

    Let me say that again: if your pastor is willing to be flexible about when you do your job, he is effectively paying you a much higher wage, provided that you are self-motivated and opportunistic.

    A pastor who expects you to keep 8-5 office hours (remember the halcyon days of 9-5 jobs? no? Mandela effect?) 4-5 days a week, as well as evening rehearsals and weekend liturgies, for that salary is being seriously unrealistic.

    An employer willing to give you the flexible hours you need to set your schedule based on tasks, rehearsals, liturgies, prep, and practice, and then to take on private students, side gigs, sub gigs, etc., is compensating you (in flexibility and opportunity) to the tune of $10-15k above and beyond the $40-50k base salary.

    And if you have flexibility in your schedule, but are assessed as full-time, then you are in a glorious position of having benefits taken care of, with the ability to earn extra income, with any additional income going straight to needs or to savings.
  • MarkB
    Posts: 858
    I discourage any young people who ask me about it from aspiring to work for the church as professional lay parish ministers, whether in music or catechesis. I explain they will barely be able to support themselves on what they will be paid, and they will not be able to support a family. I encourage them to get trained in a skill that will enable them to land a lucrative secular career, and then they can volunteer for the church in their free time.

    You think it's bad now? The church in the U.S. is going to experience a demographic collapse in 10-15 years, and parishes will close and merge.

    A big reason so many parishes have terrible parish Mass music and catechetical programs is because they get what they pay for. The church pays its lawyers and finance people well. Shows what it values. Parish lay professional staff are considered unimportant, as shown by what they are paid, and if pastors can get away with having volunteers, many are happy with that, regardless of quality.

    Look at what Apple, Microsoft, Tesla, Google, Meta (Facebook) and other companies have accomplished and how they have grown in less than forty years. They did that by hiring highly talented personnel and compensating them well. When the church scrapes the bottom of the barrel to get parish staff because the pay is so poor, it's no wonder parishes languish.
  • TCJ
    Posts: 842
    I live in a rural county with a fairly low cost of living, get paid just a little above the poverty line (parish really can't afford a lot, so the pastor is not being cheap), have three children, my wife doesn't have an outside job, and I have no problem whatsoever supporting my family. My pastor gives me flexibility so I can switch my hours week to week if needed, have time to give private piano lessons, and also earn extra from weddings, etc. The extra does boost my wage considerably, but people would (and do) still consider me poor.

    Having a wife who works a full-time job likely wouldn't bring in a bunch of extra income when all the restaurants/packaged food, baby-sitting/daycare, and other convenience expenses are added in. Having a stay-at-home wife means meals are much cheaper, travel is much cheaper, etc. We are very careful in how we spend money and when. It helps that both of us learned to live on next to nothing before we were married and we carried that on into our marriage even when we didn't need to.

    Results from my "near poverty" pay: I've been able to add a new kitchen, put an addition onto my house, maintain two vehicles, own my own house (after paying it off in three years), put on a new roof, new windows, etc. In seven years.

    Do I think church musicians should be paid more? Absolutely! I also think the average American is very bad with finances. Add those two things together and you get some disastrous situations.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,133
    The church in the U.S. is going to experience a demographic collapse in 10-15 years

    I admire your optimism: Maybe it was 10-15 in 2019, but CoVID accelerated everything, I give it 5-7 years.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw hilluminar
  • DavidOLGC
    Posts: 7
    Paid to be the organist?

    Our small and not-so-rich parish can't afford to do pay musicians, so I have been donating my time by being a volunteer musician.

    At this stage in my life I can afford to be an unpaid music minister.
  • tin_j
    Posts: 5
    An employer willing to give you the flexible hours you need to set your schedule based on tasks, rehearsals, liturgies, prep, and practice, and then to take on private students, side gigs, sub gigs, etc., is compensating you (in flexibility and opportunity) to the tune of $10-15k above and beyond the $40-50k base salary.


    Thanks, this is all great info. I think, perhaps, the most realistic thing is having a pastor who understands that I need to be flexible to earn extra income as a freelance musician. My question is, what are strategies for relating to a pastor in this regard? What is your experience in terms of creating this type of relationship? What are some times where there was conflict with this approach, and how did you deal with it?

    I get a sense that there are some doomers and some optimists here, but I think that NihilNominis' take seems to be the most reasonable.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • francis
    Posts: 10,034
    I admire your optimism: Maybe it was 10-15 in 2019, but CoVID accelerated everything, I give it 5-7 years.
    hopefully we can survive the next six months?
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • I'm sorry, everyone. I've given the wrong impression. I'm not accusing the OP of whining, or anything of the sort. Rather, it is important to evaluate the situation with adequate context.

    Here's my advice: investigate the devotion to the Infant of Prague. When I was teaching in a brick-and-mortar Catholic school, my headmaster had the students pray every month to the Infant of Prague, and when the school got in an especially tight and frustrating spot (owning land but not having funds to build the new campus, while populating a decaying downtown building, he asked us to pray, school-wide, a novena for the $350,000 we needed to advance the project. On the 8th day, I managed to catch sight of the headmaster, who had the general demeanor of a giddy school boy, which was, to put it mildly, not his usual demeanor. He didn't explain, that I recall, but on the 9th day of the novena, he reported to the students and faculty alike that a single donor had come through with $500,000. The school built the new campus.



  • MarkB
    Posts: 858
    Another factor is the cramp that the cathedraticum places on parish budgets. In my diocese, the cathedraticum is a 20% off-the-top tax on parish offertory collections. That 20% would go a long way toward paying decent salaries for staff.

    In addition to the cathedraticum, the diocese also has its annual appeal, with an assessment that each parish has to cough up. In all, I estimate about 35% of parishioners' contributions are siphoned off by the diocese.
    Thanked by 3tomjaw Liam LauraKaz
  • Mark,

    Look at what Apple, Microsoft, Tesla, Google, Meta (Facebook) and other companies have accomplished and how they have grown in less than forty years. They did that by hiring highly talented personnel and compensating them well. When the church scrapes the bottom of the barrel to get parish staff because the pay is so poor, it's no wonder parishes languish.


    ok, but look at what those companies produce!
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,773
    Complaining about 50k salary, lol what? Most of us get €20 a week, if that.


    The majority of this forum is, however, based in the US and tries to cater to directors or salaried organists as much as, or more than, people who are paid per call.

    NihilNominis is right to an extent. I remember one DM that I've come across who played for conventual Masses at a convent of nuns (except on some feast days or other occasions when he would play at his church of employment). Unless he had a wedding or feast day (and First Friday), he was largely free to take on other work around town from what I could see. But, that said, such flexibility with a fairly limited schedule does work best in trad world, where you have weddings or funerals, but not an evening Mass on top of it. Further, it only goes so far when you have mouths to feed and bodies to cloth…

    The Christmas and Easter collections in a diocese where I used to live are heavily taxed, but they would go a long way to helping parishes, which is why the diocese taxes those collections above and beyond the normal rate.

    Salieri is right, and I would add Dobbs to the mix. People who hadn't come to Mass much if at all had left on e-giving or sent occasional checks, but they've stopped.

    MarkB reminds me of what Dr. Mahrt once expressed to me when I told him that people complained about paying parish musicians, thinking that they should instead "sing from the heart." In his words, "Would you pay a plumber?" Now, I do think that we should pay practicing Catholics for staff singing, playing the organ (if the DM doesn't or needs a second musician), or other things done for the benefit of the church and should otherwise strive to build up a program comprised of parishioners instead of farming most things out to people whose moral commitments lie elsewhere, lest the performance be too concert-like, but that this problem would arise wasn't evident at the time I saw Dr. Mahrt and mentioned this to him, and it doesn't remove the need to pay people fairly.

    I do like the suggestion to pray to the Divine Infant of Prague.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,716
    Many church musicians would think they had died and gone to heaven if they could get $50 K a year. Most are lucky to get 20. I was fortunate enough to have a job with a government agency, lived frugally, and had other incomes. I really didn't care so much about the money. Perhaps I should have since there always seemed to be money for whatever Father wanted to squander it on this month. And squander it he did leaving the parish $2million in debt when the bishop forced him to retire. If you can do it as a side job or a labor of love, fine. If you are trying to make a living, you probably can't make it on a church musician's salary, especially if you have children. I am talking only about the Catholic Church. Some Protestant denominations actually do pay well.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,894
    As do I.
    "The more you honor me, the more I will bless you."
  • tin_j
    Posts: 5
    If you can do it as a side job or a labor of love, fine. If you are trying to make a living, you probably can't make it on a church musician's salary, especially if you have children. I am talking only about the Catholic Church.


    If you are correct on this, it is incredibly sad. Especially since I find the Church to be more welcoming to children and family than any other group or institution or the culture at large.
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • MarkB
    Posts: 858
    For a real-life example, look at this job announcement posted today. Completely unrealistic about how much work is expected for the salary range:
    https://www.catholicjobs.com/job/12982154068

    But what's weird is that this Director of Music position doesn't seem to require being a musician. There are so many red flags in this confusing job announcement and description, besides the very low salary.
    Thanked by 2ServiamScores tomjaw
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 479
    Tin_J, you and I may be about the same age (~30). I presently have one child, an MM, and thankfully only a little bit of student debt left thanks to really generous scholarship aid in undergrad.

    I’ve been able to do it 3 ways in 3 FT jobs since 2017:

    1) DoM/Organist for clustered parish in low cost of living area, $43k base salary, an additional 20-30k yearly to be had playing for funerals, weddings, novenas, etc. This involved something like 60 hours a week between running 3 choirs, teaching in the Catholic high school, and playing back-to-back funerals and weddings and Masses. My wife also worked about half the time we were here, before our kid was born, so we paid down debt and saved like mad. This came to an end with Covid and led to a cross-country move to

    2) Assistant organist at one of the largest Episcopal churches; extremely high cost of living area, $45k salary with minimal possibility for additional income with few weddings/funerals. This only worked because we saved enough at #1 and from COVID stimulus to be able to buy a lousy little place and pay an $1,200/mo mortgage thanks to historically low interest rates, instead of twice that to rent a 2br apartment. Our kid was too young for daycare, so we didn’t have that expense. I think we ate takeout or in a restaurant less than 10 times in 2 years. Really, we lived like misers. Nevertheless as the inflation started my wife eventually went back to work PT at Starbucks to get their cheap health insurance, instead of paying a ridiculous amount for the church plan or on Obamacare. So I was working 40h, she was working 20h, and when one was working the other was being a solo parent. We didn’t sleep very much, but it was the next step on the ladder to

    3) (RC) Cathedral organist job in a major city, approx 75k/yr. A real unicorn job with no issues and I’m going to stay until I decease. I cannot really claim credit for getting it; whatever reason, my path has been what it has been, and God has taken me in directions I did not think I would go, but I have not starved and somehow am still able to do this, which I take as a sign that I’m in the right field, and so I’d better do my very best and not get discouraged.

    It’s not my place to tell anyone what career they should pursue or to second-guess another family’s decisions, but I am aware that I would not be able to do this without

    -an heroic and even selfless wife who believes in what I do, can manage money extremely well, was happy to work lousier jobs than mine, doesn’t mind being with our kid for the time being, and doesn’t gamble…

    -good enough financial aid in undergrad that I could become a good organist, do a half-time church job, and practice for hours on end, instead of working nights at McDonalds

    -a healthy family that needs only routine medical care

    -being able to get by with one (10-year-old) car

    -extraordinary financial good luck in relation to world events and when we bought and sold our house

    -an extended family that does not need my support

    -those years in job 1 to build equity

    -good professional connections who came through when I needed them

    -one child

    If any of these things were different I probably would have had to do something else. Colleagues who have quit FT work do report being very happy playing once a weekend and enjoying the rest of their life. For me I don’t think I’d be so happy; maybe you would, though.

    You are in my prayers as you discern.

    PS While it is great that we now have lay musicians, catechists, parochial school teachers, administrators….it is curious that after all these years, the salary a typical church offers is still only approximately enough to support one celibate monk who already has housing, healthcare, and a retirement plan, and doesn’t mind eating gruel and never traveling.
  • stulte
    Posts: 339
    I'm of the opinion that, in the majority of cases/places in the USA, you can't be a bread winner for a family as a church musician. The pay just isn't there.

    @MarkB: Thanks for providing that listing as an example. The annual salary in the ad works out to $16.83/hr assuming one only works 40 hours per week doing the multiplicity of tasks listed. These days, that's not much more than the Taco Bell down the road from me (and the Taco Bell is offering a sign-on bonus). That kind of money just isn't enough to support a family by itself.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • davido
    Posts: 642
    tin_j here are some benefits that need to be a part of church jobs to make them financially feasible:

    - approval to teach private lessons on church campus
    - ability to purchase resources. An example: Making worship aids is time consuming. Pastors like to spend money. Get him to buy you books
    - relaxed hours. If salaried, try to spend no more time at work than strictly required. Side gigs take time from family, so be careful going the extra mile at work and eating up more time
    - parochial school tuition discount. I am getting a huge raise this year.

    Keep this two things in mind:
    1. a musical career is composed of many gigs; a “full time” church job is only part of a musical career. Develop additional income streams.
    2. Streamline your job. We don’t get paid for the extra time we put in. Do a good job, but run your program as if you were about to hand it off to your successor. Making the job so complicated that only you can do it means you are probably putting in too much time.
    Thanked by 2Bri John_F_Church
  • davido
    Posts: 642
    Also, the idea that a single church job would be the sum total of a musician’s earnings is not a historical idea.

    J.S. Bach for example was full time in Leipzig, personally ran music at one church, supervised music for 3 others, and had full time teaching duties. He wrote music, regularly tried to get extra gigs with nobility, consulted on new organs, and played recitals.
    Healey Willan, famous for his church music, was a full time professor and a part time church musician.
    Example could proliferate…
  • lmassery
    Posts: 356
    After a few years of full time work it was clear that we would not be able to make it on my salary. I went back to school part time and after finishing that degree, transitioned into a full time job as a speech therapist and went down to part time at the church. Even now, with double what I made before, we are stretched financially at times, if we want to also put money away for retirement, save for college, afford to go to the doctor on my crappy insurance, etc. there are many paths. Take a computer programming course for a few months for example and make way more. I wish you the best with what you decide. I have 4 kids btw
  • stulte
    Posts: 339
    Also, the idea that a single church job would be the sum total of a musician’s earnings is not a historical idea.


    In our times, so long as churches want musicians to work full-time hours for them, they should compensate said musicians accordingly.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,894
    I think what's forgotten here is that what we do is a *specialized trade*. I didn't get a MM in organ performance to just twiddle my thumbs. I can do something that very few people in my area can do at my level. I expect it's the same for many of you. Plumbers make way more than I make, and they didn't have to study intensely and practice "plumbing" until 2am every night for years to make that salary. But such is the way of art. Always has been, always will be. I hope to one day find a unicorn job (would be even better if it was TLM) but I'm not holding my breath. I was offered one such job but the timing wasn't right. Hopefully another will come along eventually. I'm happy where I am for the time being, but considering how the demographics are shifting, I'll need to be fully bilingual in the relatively near future or I'll struggle to keep my job. sigh.
  • Serviam,

    The two languages are Latin and ....?

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  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,089
    FYI, A licensed plumber spends about 2 years as an apprentice and 2-6 years as a journeyman and has to pass 2 licensing exams (1 for journeyman, 1 for master). Plumbers have to buy their own tools, have to pay an annual license fee, have general liability insurance, provide their own medical insurance, both halves of their social security taxes, a work vehicle (either a pickup truck or a panel van) which they will have to replace every couple of years, etc. They are highly skilled workers in a job that requires manual dexterity, physical strength, and a knowledge of the plumbing code (which runs about 500 pages and is updated every 3 years). Fixing toilets and unstopping sinks is only a small part of what they do.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,894
    Ahem. Trilingual, as it were. Spanish. Our area (not just our parish) is flooded with immigrant families, and the numbers are clearly tipping in their favor. We currently have six masses per weekend, with three of them being in Spanish. They are lovely people, to be clear, and are full of good will and a desire to sing, albeit terribly to awful music. My hope is to pick up enough Spanish (I do speak French, so I have some language learning chops) to be able to help redirect the music for the ‘other half’ of the parish. It’s a train wreck of good will at present.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,894
    I didn’t mean to demean plumbers in any way. I’m just drawing the comparison that what we do is also a skilled trade. And much of what you observe would only apply to independent contractors. The men who work for rotorooter aren’t replacing their own trucks. But point taken.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw LauraKaz
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,894
    I had to pay for two degrees and all my music (which isn’t cheap), and composition software (also not cheap) and recording equipment, and… and….
    Thanked by 2tomjaw LauraKaz
  • tin_j
    Posts: 5
    Also, the idea that a single church job would be the sum total of a musician’s earnings is not a historical idea.


    I agree, and I often wish I knew more about the music business of the 17-18th centuries, seems like there is some sort of analog with our own time there.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • By diversifying your income stream and having multiple jobs in the local music scene.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,716
    Latin seems to be falling on hard times in some places. Given the current administration in Rome, we may be hearing less and less of it if trends continue. Spanish, or more appropriately, Latin American Spanish, seems everywhere. So did we go from bad Latin, to bad English, to bad Spanish? Who knows. Salary wise, I think a big problem is that the church in the U.S. expects everything for nearly nothing. From Aunt Bessie who played for the glory of God and no money, and nuns who worked for nothing, the expectation is that the church should get by on the cheap when it comes to musicians. Not playing that game any more and glad to be retired.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw LauraKaz
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,133
    The problem with the 18th century model, c.f. JSB, is that it doesn't work. The way Leipzig was arranged, the churches had their services at different times, in order to allow Bach to do what his job required. In my area, every parish has Masses at 4:00 on Saturday, 8:00 on Sunday, then the second Mass on Sunday at 10:00 or 10:30: to do what Bach did would require bi- or tri-location, and most priests would simply expect the organist to play two services simultaneously in two different places, and if we complained about it they would tell us to "offer it up".

    The problem with music in Catholic parishes in the U.S. is that quality was never a high priority, and most priests were perfectly happy to get their organists from among the widows of the parish who played (to an extent) piano in their childhood. Now that childhood piano lessons are no longer de rigeur, the number of widows available to take Catholic organist positions are fewer and fewer, and priests are finding it difficult to find musicians to play for tuppence a month. There are some parishes in my diocese who hire an organist for Christmas and Easter, and have Masses without music the rest of the year. This isn't because they don't have money (they do), but because they're cheap.
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,142
    There are places that pay a good wage. I asked at my current job for a salary that I could manage when I interviewed and it was given. I just received an 8% raise this year after 7 years ( my second raise). There are priests who will spend the money and that is becoming more and more the case.

    One just has to look, be willing to move and find that priest. Do not settle for a pittance.
  • LarsLars
    Posts: 77
    In the cathedral where I used to play for almost two years I received not one penny, despite being basically unemployed(they knew my financial situation), I even spent my own money to travel, etc.. I asked and I asked for some compensation, eventually gave up. Went on strike so to speak. Well, the moment I left, they just started playing a CD, a four hymn sandwich of CD music, and not even a good kind, lol. So yeah, pay me or I wont play bluff didn't work.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,894
    At a cathedral to boot…. Even if lowly country parishes cannot afford it, even the humblest cathedral could (and absolutely should as the mother and principal church of the diocese…)
  • Reval
    Posts: 166
    What would the historical model be?
    Were Catholic musicians ordained or in a religious order? Or were they typically laymen? How did it work?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,716
    Historically, patronage was often a factor. Some wealthy nobles funded musicians or the state funded church operations through taxes or outright grants. That model is pretty much gone. Certainly, there were monastics and religious sisters who provided music, again depending on the place. As far as, say the U.S. church, there is no uniform model and pay varies from parish to parish.
    Thanked by 2Reval LauraKaz
  • MarkB
    Posts: 858
    The USCCB has committed itself to this, which isn't much, but it's something. From "Sing to the Lord":

    52. The service of pastoral musicians should be recognized as a valued and integral part of the overall pastoral ministry of the parish or diocese; provision should be made for just compensation. Professional directors of music ministries and part-time pastoral music ministers should each receive appropriate wages and benefits that affirm the dignity of their work.
    Thanked by 2DavidOLGC stulte
  • DavidOLGC
    Posts: 7
    My parish does appreciate the music ministers, but it's a "poor parish" that had just started a Catholic school for working class folks and needs a lot of building repair.

    At my age and circumstances, I'm happy to consider my services as a donation to my church. However, at earlier stages in my life I would have liked to have been paid staff.
  • Ken of Sarum
    Posts: 406
    Long ago in the '80, I worked as music director (choirmaster and organist) at a major church - 5 masses on the weekends, 2 mid-week rehearsals, average of 2 funerals and 3 weddings every week. My salary was 24k. I taught private music lessons an average of 15 students per week - $375 per week for 40 weeks = $15k. So my total was $39k to 40k per year. That did not take into account all the practice, arranging, meetings, composing, etc. That church position now pays a salary of 90k.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,655
    The running practical assumption among US Catholic pastors seems to have been that the Platonic form of music director/organist was a religious sister whose order might be paid a modest stipend.
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  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,773
    but, they all had to be housed, fed, etc. and that money didn't come from nowhere either!

    It also depend on what period one has in mind when asking about historical means of making a living. A number of composers were clerics and attached to the church for which they composed. That model couldn't exist after the French Revolution, and even before, musicians of the Chapelle Royale also wrote music for the court in addition to sacred works…
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  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,133
    Throughout most of history, it seems that the average standard of living for [church] musicians was/is abject poverty: things might have just seemed better when housing was part of "payment", cf. Bach, the Mozarts in Salzburg, Haydn, Salieri, et al.; or when patrons or devoted friends helped out: cf. Beethoven, Schubert, et al. There were some who were lucky enough to be able to make a considerable fortune performing and/or composing, like Handel or Liszt, but they seem to be the exception. Unfortunately, income tax has put an end to eccentric millionaire widows anonymously patronizing musicians.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,393
    Another source of income would have been the chantries, but all that money has been stolen by Henry VIII and other obnoxious individuals.
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