What is a "Just Wage" for music directors?
  • In light of Jeffrey Tucker's recent post on music salaries...
    Agreed, proper compensation is one of the central problems both with retaining excellent musicians and with inspiring younger people to follow this path as a feasible career. How do we determine "just wage", though? There are two competing factors at work - the idea of competitive salary (relative to other highly skilled professionals) vs. the idea of vocation - music as service to the church. Is a 'just wage' simply enough to sustain life (room and board) or does it have to compete with the 'american consumer dream''? There needs to be a balance here - this seems like a question that has developed into two opposing camps (either do music for free or expect a high professional wage). The idea that we should offer service without expecting material gain has been abused to the point of becoming insult and mockery (I speak as a professional church musician with a family), but there is some truth to it. Maybe this question is too subjective, but I don't see how we can make headway on 'reasonable' or 'comfortable' salaries until it is discussed. Maybe more would be gained by pastor and musician having this difficult discussion, instead of comparing AGO guidelines and professional salaries on one hand with parish budgets on the other. My point is that there is a spiritual component and the element of conscience on both the musician's and pastor's part. How do we approach the problem in light of Church teaching and moral principles? I'm especially interested in insight from pastors/spiritual directors here.
    My own example: After I finish my organ and choral doctorate, should I grab the AGO guidelines and ask for a high 5-to low 6 figure salary? I'm asking if this is my proper starting point as a Catholic, not whether it is practical (i.e. whether I would actually find a job that paid that much). My feeling is that this is a more defensive approach, and it is tempting because from past experience it seems I can't trust priests to be men of integrity and justice where salary is concerned.
    Thoughts?
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I think a just wage depends on the work done. For most, I recommend the AGO guidelines. After going through all the work of a doctorate, I'd say you're entitled to some luxury, kirchen.

    On the other hand, at NLM when this comes up, there are those who cite eastern churches where the musicians are unpaid. But that's not apples-to-apples. The Eastern rite has ONLY the music appointed. If a western rite musician were to show up to Mass, not play the organ, sing the chants from the Gradual or direct a schola, and do no motets or hymns, I'd say that while they are doing a valuable thing, they deserve at most $50 for their service and probably shouldn't expect much more than sincere gratitude. (un?) Fortunately, we in the west add to our liturgy. We add organ music, hymns, motets, polyphonic propers and ordinaries, which requires practice, planning, and people skills. We do need to be reimbursed for the time, talent, and effort put into these, and I'd say a just wage is dependent upon *the hours required, *the means of the parish, *the cost of living of the region, *the needs of the musician (although I wouldn't mind making the same amount as someone with 8 kids). I almost mentioned the ability and qualifications of the director, but I think this has nothing with JUSTICE, but rather if you have a doctorate you can afford to tell a parish offering $35/sunday to screw off.

    I mentioned gratitude. Isn't that the heart of this? It doesn't matter if we're the lone cantor singing at high Mass or the music director of 5 choirs, people don't APPRECIATE us. Oh, they'll thank us if they get their way, but when's the last time you were shown gratitude for your work, just because you did it? No, we're the people who make Mass too long and force people to sing the confusing Italian (yes, I often get people who think Latin is Italian) hymns and drive out the young people by playing organ instead of drums. How many of us would have a problem with our salaries if we got just 2 different people each Mass saying "thank you, I enjoyed that"? That's why I'm glad to work at an Episcopal church now. People stay for the postlude, sing the hymns, and even if they don't like the particular music or I play poorly they always thank me, just for being a musician. We shouldn't be after glory, but people don't realize how much a well-executed liturgy with no "thank you" at the end can hurt.
  • G
    Posts: 1,387
    I mentioned gratitude. Isn't that the heart of this? It doesn't matter if we're the lone cantor singing at high Mass or the music director of 5 choirs, people don't APPRECIATE us. Oh, they'll thank us if they get their way, but when's the last time you were shown gratitude for your work, just because you did it?


    After virtually every Mass. Every Mass.

    When was the last time we told a server what a good job he was doing, thanked the ushers, gave a party for our choir, mentioned to the maintenance guy how nice it was not to be freezing because of the way he managed to keep the ancient boiler working last winter, admired the altar linens to whomever is responsible for them...

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • How much income does your program bring into the church?
  • "it seems I can't trust priests to be men of integrity and justice where salary is concerned. "

    I love it! I got a self-trained organist who has never had a lesson (she's the first to mention it) a raise from $35 a Mass to $50 a Mass, convincing the pastor to do it to keep her happy and keep her playing, he agreed, I reported this to the book keeper and the organist. When it came time for raises to go into effect, he called her in, did not offer her the $50, did not seem to remember it and put her on salary instead...so now she doesn't make $50....in fact, on busy weekends she makes less.
  • paul
    Posts: 60
    I think the problem with our profession is that no matter how good you look on paper, no matter how well you play your Bach or sing whatever it is you sing, you still need to prove yourself before anyone is going to be willing to pay you the big bucks (or even the medium bucks). And connections, like it or not, are VERY important. I know an excellent MD who was making okay wages. The associate pastor at her church (with whom she worked very well) got his own parish and managed to take her with him because he offered her more than her pastor was willing to pay (and of course he knew EXACTLY how much to offer her--remember, there is no honor among , er, clergy).

    The problem with the AGO scale is that it doesn't take into account the other VERY important attributes of a good MD. How are you at working with volunteers as well as the staff. Do you have an innate sense of what works in liturgy and what gets in the way. You can only show these things on the job. If you're capable, word gets around. If you're not, it also gets around. It takes a little time, but it seems to be the way of the world. At least the world as I've experienced it.

    So, I'd say, just count your lucky stars if you can get your foot in the door and don't worry so much about getting cheated out of what you should be getting paid. Be honest about who you are and what you can and cannot do well, and above all believe in yourself, but stay humble. Kinda wait for your second gig to set the world on fire-use the first gig to just not get burned. After people get used to how good they feel when they sing with you, you can push the salary issues. My experience is that Pastors HATE to look for MDs and if they think they have a good one, they'll pay more to keep you.
  • Yeah I'm with G. I know there are many instances of underappreciated MDs, but also plently of curmudgeonly MDs who don't necessarily know how to be good
    colleagues. The more I embrace my MD job as a ministry/vocation, focusing on prayer/humility/servanthood, the more our people seem to like the music. And as Paul has pointed out, this can help in the compensation department too.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    Once again, we're failing to take into account the history of the Catholic Church in this matter.

    For instance, De musica sacra et sacra liturgia (1958), reads in pertinent part:

    101. It would be ideal, and worthy of commendation if organists, choir directors, singers, instrumentalists, and others engaged in the service of the Church, would contribute their talents for the love of God, and in the spirit of religious devotion, without salary; should they be unable to offer their services free of charge, Christian justice, and charity demand that the church give them a just wage, according to the recognized standards of the locality, and provisions of law. (Emphasis mine).


    Now, first of all, when was the last time any other member of staff (DRE, youth minister, etc.) offered their services free of charge? I'm sure there are some out there, but I defy you to find one who believes that their services should be "contributed without salary." Oh, no. They work too hard and are too important for the "life of the parish" (read, programs) to not be properly compensated for the work they do. They're helping teach the chiiiiiildren, after all.

    Second, and more important, just what does "according to the recognized standards of the locality, and provisions of law" mean? Minimum wage? Sure, I'll work for minimum wage, and I'll want overtime for every minute past 40 hours I work. If it's the middle of the Sunday 10 AM Mass, and the 40 hours are up, my hands are off the console and I go home, unless there's some guarantee that I'll get overtime. And, I'll only work 9 AM to 5 PM, or some other regular and predictable schedule, 5 days a week. No funerals or phone calls on my days off, no Holy Days of Obligation that aren't on one of my regularly scheduled days, or it's double over time. All of this, by the way, would be governed by the "provisions of law." Check out the definition of "exempt" versus "non-exempt" employees under federal employment law.

    Of course, none of this is within the realm of reality. We know that the majority of clergy are completely unfamiliar with the economic realities of earning a living and taking care of the day-to-day needs of life (cleaning, cooking, shopping, maintaining the house and property, etc.) and have never had to worry about their next paycheck or making ends meet. The only exception would be those who became priests as a second vocation. But then the problems are often worse. In the case of an "administrator"-minded priest coming from the corporate private sector, he's only looking at the bottom dollar, and will squeeze out work on the cheap from anyone on staff he can. Who's usually at the top of that list? Not the maintenance staff, not the DRE, not the school principal. It's usually the organist or DM, because, after all, they only show up on Sunday and play the organ for a couple of hours. (Never mind the hours of practice, preparation and planning, rehearsals and counseling they have to do. If the priest doesn't see them working, they're not there).

    Let's look once more at De musica sacra et sacra liturgia. We read in paragraph 102:

    102. The local Ordinary should, after consultation with the diocesan commission of sacred music, fix a scale of wages to be observed throughout the diocese for the various offices mentioned in the previous paragraph. (Emphasis mine).


    Once again, I ask: do the priests consult with the diocese or some other set of recognized standards to establish how much to compensate the DRE, the principal, the youth minister? Or, do they want to get the very best person they can, and based on free market/supply and demand principles pay for what they can get?

    Finally, since when does a Bishop, who has most likely always been in holy orders (and not likely a product of a previous secular vocation), have clue one how much time, money and effort a well-qualified sacred musician has spent to hone their craft and therefore meet the criteria also set forth in the documents that time and again place a priority on training and education?

    And ultimately, going back to my comment about knowing the history of this, it had been the practice of the Church in many places to put members of religious orders of men and women in positions like teacher, musician, school principal, DRE, etc., therefore not needing to pay them, as it was a part of their obedience to Holy Church to serve in these capacities without financial compensation or gain. But, is it any longer a realistic expectation to place a well-trained and qualified lay person into these positions without a level of compensation that the free market will dictate based on what can be sustained?
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,574
    DA: "If the priest doesn't see them working"

    Do we make the effort to be seen ...
    -have a corner of the Parish Office for filecabinet, bookcase, desk, phone, computer?
    -use the office during hours when other office dwellers are present?
    -visit the office to check the mailbox/messageboard before going into the church to practice?
    -volunteer the reason why you are on the church property
    (e.g., Hi __, I thought I would come into the office before heading to the loft/rehearsal room/...
    to sort and file music, how are you ...)( similarly, attend a weekday Mass and strike up a conversation
    with parishioners afterward)?
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,574
    DA: "put members of religious orders of men and women in positions ... therefore not needing to pay them"

    But these "employees" were paid, somehow:
    think of rectories/convents, water, gas, electricity, food, clothing, transportation, doctor visits ...
    The expense was distributed into tiny amounts to many vendors throughout the month
    and were easily overlooked or ignored.

    The idea of paying out the expense semi-monthly in a lump sum to one person causes the shock.
    The amount of the expense invites scrutiny from administrators.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,712
    Do not confuse the Catholic "just wage" with the Federal Labor Standards Act, or "minimum wage."

    Catholic "just wage" is, properly, a 'living wage' which is adjusted upward (or downward) to reflect the number of family members one is supporting.

    The question of "living wage" is important, but the usual interpretation is "adequate" housing, food, furnishings, etc. It may be slightly more than monastic, but not much more than that.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    eft:

    Until I lost my last full-time job, I was there, in the office (which was within the main office) or in the main church, or somewhere else on the grounds on days and during hours that other staff members, and even the priests, weren't. I certainly made my presence known even during the day when the whole staff was present and there was lots of activity. There was still an assumption that I wasn't really "doing enough" to qualify as full-time, and hints that I was probably paid more than I was worth.

    My assertion in saying that "if they don't see you, you're not there" was directed at the idea that they simply assume that all you do is show up on Sundays and play. I was at one parish with a Pastor who was almost never on parish grounds during the week, day or night, and there were even weekends when he would show up 5 minutes before Mass and leave nearly before the last chord of the postlude. I had one parishioner ask me, "are you the Pastor? We see you here all the time, but never Father!"

    As for the religious men and women, yes, they were cared for, but because of vows of poverty, or shall we say simplicity of life, and because as you point out their expenses were trickled out rather than paid in the form of a salary, there is a certain "sticker shock" effect when paying a lay person on a regular schedule.

    dad29:

    If you look closely at the paragraphs of De musica sacra quoted above, it was the Church herself that confused or combined the concept of "just wages" and the provisions of the law. I just think it's rather hypocritical of certain elements of the Church (or more precisely the AmChurch) to talk about the "great moral evil" of poverty, and then pay their own lay people barely enough to live hand-to-mouth.
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,574
    http://www.agohq.org
    (left column) Salary Guide

    http://www.npm.org
    (left column) Resources
    (pop out) Salary Guidelines

    So, what is "the Church herself" (in the USA) publishing as guides?
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    Good question. One among quite a few that come to mind just now.

    I'd like to offer as a side note that I'm not trying to be argumentative, and I hope what we're doing is entering into a lively discussion. I'm currenly in a rather bad state of mind over my previous employment (and the circumstances surrounding my resignation), so issues of "justice" such as this one are particularly raw for me.

    I hope I've managed to contribute to the discussion at hand without giving rise to offense.
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,574
    http://www.oakdiocese.org
    (left column) Online Publications and Forms
    (pop out) Chancery/Parish Personnel Policies
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    "Justice in Employment" Policy, Archdiocese of St. Paul:

    http://www.archspm.org/html/justice.html
  • rogue63
    Posts: 405
    I'll chime in: my current parish music teacher salary is A) adequate for a single person in the Midwest; B) kinda-sorta-livable for a husband and wife where she stays at home; C) just above hand-to-mouth sustenance for a husband supporting his 2-year-old son and pregant wife with baby-to-be-born-in-November. In fact, we can no longer afford to have health insurance, and there's no hope of saving money towards a down payment. We don't have any debt of any kind that we're trying to pay down, either; we're just living quite frugally and hoping that we have enough money to eat three meals a day. It feels ridiculous that if I was a certified teacher, I could switch to the public schools and instantly make a 15-20% pay raise.

    I am happy to teach music, and I enjoy the interaction with students, especially the young ones, but this salary simply cannot sustain a growing family. It feels a little crazy that observant Catholics who desire many children can't earn a living wage to sustain a family by working for the Church. And besides, if I left the job, what's the guarantee that the next teacher would know a Gradual from a guitar? Or would the children learn anything about solfege and how to read music? How many Catholic schools employ non-Catholic music teachers, as though faith and liturgy are unimportant and coincidental to the musical life of the parish and its children?

    Kind of disgusting, actually. I hate to go, but when I get my teaching certificate, I'm getting out of Catholic education and into a job that can pay me enough to raise a family. Then I'll be able to offer my services as a donation of time.
  • I find that paragraph from De musica to be...regrettable. First, there is no reason for a Church document to comment at all on salaries; these are to be determined by market means and matters of appreciation for the art and treasure that is of inestimable value. Second, the first paragraph strangely contradicts the second part. Third, the medievals considered the just wage to be the one mutually agreed upon, not some maximum or minimum living standard. Forth, I think we find here the core of the problem: music is central and essential and yet the preconciliar ethos considered it not worth paying for. Lots to overcome here.
  • "In fact, we can no longer afford to have health insurance, and there's no hope of saving money towards a down payment. "

    I regret that at their annual convention that it was the Episcopal church
    in the US that voted favorably on providing health care for all....clergy, staff and congregation.

    ADDED: No mention here is made of any government program, merely the observation that the Episcopal church has moved to offer health insurance to all its workers AND the congregation. Just an observation of what is possible as Christian action by a church.
  • rogue63
    Posts: 405
    Noel, let me be clear that I am not at all interested in anything remotely resembling a nationalized or regionalized or whatever-ized government healthcare system; I am just saying that I, as a husband and father of two (and God willing, many more), should be able to work for the Church and make enough money to provide basic healthcare to my children. Not interested in a tax subsidy, just a higher salary. But then again, why should they pay me well when someone else can do it cheaper, right? And have all the kids raise up their lighters and sway while singing "Anthem".....
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,764
    Secundum Jeffrey:

    First, there is no reason for a Church document to comment at all on salaries; these are to be determined by market means and matters of appreciation for the art and treasure that is of inestimable value.

    I wouldn't fault the document for mentioning the ethical dimension of salary levels. The concept of a "just" wage does seem to be fairly well established in Catholic social teaching -- not that I claim to know much about the topic!

    At least this document relegates the notion of unpaid musicians to the realm of a commendable "ideal" that one cannot insist upon, any more than one can insist on unpaid clergy or teachers.

    This paragraph from De musica sacra is a case of taking away with one sentence and giving back with the next!
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,574
    chonak: "taking away with one sentence and giving back with the next!"

    It seems to be a writing style of Pope Pius XII (and perhaps a philosophical style too?).
    For another datapoint confirming that style, read
    1947-nov-20 Mediator Dei
    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_20111947_mediator-dei_en.html
  • @Jeffrey - how about a CMAA travelling interview squad, to help priests sort out actual skill level and validity of the accreditation process? This might give priests more confidence in bringing their honest 'best deal' to a candidate. One way of harnessing the internet that I have not seen used is to do this via webcam and internet. I think this might be the exact thing the CMAA needs to do next, to address this problem. It would be great if a priest could put together several like-minded experts over the internet at an hourly rate, rather than trying to find them in the area or actually fly them out. A priest may put together a great salary package, attracting lots of applicants, but how can he sort out the degrees and practical (playing and conducting) interview of a candidate? All degrees and accreditations are not created equal. My Notre Dame MSM, for example, can mean anything from conducting and organ skill to a piano and guitar based folk expertise (all options are considered equal in that degree). I am working toward a doctorate, but I'm happy to admit that that is not the highest standard. I know a number of people who get doctorates because they don't know what they want to do, or prefer to stay sheltered in academia. Eventually they get out with their doctorate, but will they be passionate and inspiring as a music director? Priests need help with all this before they can be honest with their offers.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Kirchen: If I may anticipate Jeffrey's response, the CMAA does not exist for, nor have the capacity for, such a "squad".

    That said, I'm wondering WHY a good interview won't do what you describe. And don't tell me about these poor, benighted priests who can't tell a Haugen peddler from someone with the qualifications of David Andrew. When I got my (Episcopal) job, I was subjected to the roughest interview I've ever experienced. I was asked difficult questions, designed to comprehend my musicality and pastoral viewpoint. Including "How do you deal with a troublesome chorister?", "What is the funniest experience you've had in your career so far?", "What do you do if a soloist is unprepared?", and my favorite, "Explain to me in layman's terms what the term 'division' means in relation to a pipe organ." When they were done, they had a good idea of my musicianship, viewpoint on church music, and personality.

    How did they craft such great questions? By using a committee. I was faced with representatives of all aspects of the parish I would deal with: the children's choir director, the vestry, the pastor, and a choir member. And the OTHER great thing they did was to include an "adviser" on the committee, a local church musician in high repute (in fact, the organ professor from a local college). I would strongly recommend to any priest in the hiring process to get such an adviser. That's the person who can determine the difference between an over-educated fool and a skilled church musician.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,712
    David, I am VERY sympathetic to your concerns, trust me. But adopting USCC definitions does not advance the discussion. Given their recent document on church music, I'm surprised that they don't simply declare black to be white--but WE can't do that and maintain credibility.

    these are to be determined by market means and matters of appreciation for the art and treasure that is of inestimable value

    Much better to argue from the intrinsic worth of each man/woman and the obligation of society to support them adequately so long as they actually contribute to the common good. THAT argument, (not refined, but we could go there) is one which the Church makes in its just wage statements.

    So long as you concur that church musicians contribute to the common good, we have a start.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,712
    Aaaaargh. Edit was wrong, italics shoulda stopped after "inestimable value."
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Dad29: on the right side of your post, across from your handle, you'll see a link "edit". If you make a mistake, you can use that to re-write your post!

    And I agree with your statement about just wage depending on view of man as opposed to market value.
  • G
    Posts: 1,387
    And the OTHER great thing they did was to include an "adviser" on the committee, a local church musician in high repute (in fact, the organ professor from a local college). I would strongly recommend to any priest in the hiring process to get such an adviser. That's the person who can determine the difference between an over-educated fool and a skilled church musician.


    In theory that could work out well, but it could just as easily not.
    But besides the fact that knowledge of, and skill on, the organ is not the primary musical skill set requisite for a successful Catholic music director, the fact remains that a pastor suffering from ignorance and/or bad taste is just as likely to seek advice from those similarly impaired as not.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • Lawrence
    Posts: 123
    The use of the term "just wage" is a waste of time. I have elaborated here: http://www.cantemusdomino.net/2009/08/05/more-on-musician-pay-from-our-friend-jeffrey/

    I don't think that Jeffrey's points can be poo-pooed: The fact that the Medievals had a different concept of a just wage (and the proper one, in my opinion) than the more modern one raises all kinds of questions as to the practical usefulness of the multiple documents which bandy this term about. Moreover, a just wage is going to be related to the value that a given pastor assigns to the music program. Whether or not it is right, most pastors see liturgical music as an auxiliary thing which is not as important as RCIA or religious education or plunging the toilets. This is simply a fact that must be dealt with; sermons to the contrary do no good. What is necessary are not lectures about the just wage but rather the long, grueling effort of getting pastors to appreciate liturgical music for what it's supposed to be. I know that many will not think this approach expedient enough but our only choices are the long, patient road, or the status quo ad infinitum.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,764
    Michael, could you check the link in your post to Jeffrey's commentary? It doesn't seem to be working for me, so I haven't been able to see his argument yet.

    On to the topic.

    I appreciate that the profound problems in the world of church music are generally philosophical and theological, and not practical, in origin; and that the low level of pay for Catholic church musicians is only a side effect of misguided ideas of what the liturgy is. Thus an exhortation to pay a just wage only addresses a relatively minor symptom of the problem.

    But I think I disagree with your argument; when you wrote: "a just wage is going to be related to the value that a given pastor assigns to the music program," it seemed to leave what is just up to the arbitrary opinion of the pastor. But if justice means anything, it's not a matter of individual opinion alone -- and still less of mere individual will, but is grounded in the truth.

    The Church places high value on proper liturgical music, regardless of a pastor's wise or foolish opinions; and that objectively correct valuation should inform everyone's interpretation of what is just.
  • I do like the idea of a guide for pastors in hiring musicians. This is excellent!
  • A guide for pastors is an excellent idea indeed. Because when you really like an idea, Jeffrey, it often turns into something concrete. With highly skilled musicians that know and love the mind of the Church, CMAA is just the organization posed to offer such guidelines.
  • And I would be able to chime in from the perspective of all things vocal when considering the abilities of musicians.
  • And remember here that they need to be realistic and the only goal is to get people who have the right vision. Skills come in time. I think that's critical. I'll be writing an essay on this whole topic this weekend and then I'll feed it to this list and we can all hash it out and see if we can come up with something that will HELP pastors (the goal is NOT to exclude as many people as possible).
  • G
    Posts: 1,387
    I'll be writing an essay on this whole topic this weekend and then I'll feed it to this list and we can all hash it out and see if we can come up with something that will HELP pastors

    Excellent.
    the only goal is to get people who have the right vision. Skills come in time. I think that's critical....(the goal is NOT to exclude as many people as possible).

    Excellenter still.
    For what profitteth a man if he can set the very console aflame with his Widor Toccata, yet loseth the idea that wedding music is prayer?

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,574
    The brackets that delimit the first paragraph are in the original.
    The brackets with sic or brackets with ellipses are mine.

    BCL Newsletter (April 1966, Vol 2 No 4)

    Statements on Church Music

    [The following three statements concerned with questions of music in the liturgy were approved by the
    Bishop's [sic] Commission on the Liturgical Apostolate at its meeting of April 18, 1966, after recommendations
    had been made by the Commission's Music Advisory Board:]

    1. The Role of the Choir
    [...]

    2. The Use of Music for Special Groups
    [...]

    3. The Salaries of Church Musicians

    To insure the successful realization of complete and effective programs of liturgy in parishes it is
    necessary for the Church to employ well-trained and competent musicians. Moreover, it is essential that such
    competency be recognized and compensated for in a realistic and dignified manner.

    It is suggested that a full-time musician employed by the Church (i.e., one who is expected to lead the
    musical aspects of the liturgical program of a parish, play the organ, conduct the choir, etc.) be considered
    as carrying the same workload and hence to be paid on the same salary scale as full-time teachers in the local
    public school system. Length of service, experience, and academic qualifications should be likewise considered
    and adequately compensated for.

    Musicians, on the other hand, who desire this kind of full-time employment should examine their
    qualifications and assure themselves that they can bring to the work the knowledge and skill that the Church
    demands. (As a non-partisan norm for judging the level of their ability, it is suggested that musicians and
    priests alike consider the excellent and long-standing examination program annually given for just such a
    purpose by the American Guild of Organists whose National Headquarters is in the Rockefeller Center,
    New York City.)

    Part-time musicians must likewise be compensated for their services in a realistic and dignified manner.
    The terms of their payment should be worked out to the satisfaction of those involved.
    --Bishops' [sic] Commission on the Liturgical Apostolate
  • 'And remember here that they need to be realistic and the only goal is to get people who have the right vision. '

    Point taken, Jeffrey. Speaking for myself, I can get into the specifics of things to a ridiculous degree when thinking of things to eventually work toward.

    But I don't think skills/vision is an either/or in sacred music. In practice, it takes both/and. Considering the complaint that chant was done poorly- just one practical point- skill matters if we are to implement the Church's vision. And, even the psalms mention music done with skill, because God deserves our best effort.

    I would agree with G, though, that the vision must come first.
  • We might consider what are the absolutely non-negotiable skills (let's leave organ out of it for now).

    First, I would say the ability to sing from the Parish Book of Chant. This would imply familiarity with the core repertoire and comfort with neumes. You can't really be a parish musician without those skills. No matter how great otherwise, not knowing the basic people's music and sing from neumes mean no progress in the future.

    Second, the ability to inspire people and work with a range of personalities. Same here: a vast amount of the work comes down to dealing with people and volunteers.

    Third, know about and be able to use technology so as to employ the use of free online materials; otherwise the parish will be spending vast amounts of money on inferior music.

    Fourth, the person should be able to defend the case for sacred music from tradition and Church teaching.

    I think I would pretty much stop there. What am I missing?
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,574
    Jeffrey, I think we are starting to confuse several different Forum Discussion topics!

    This Discussion has the first post asking about a Just Wage.
    There have been several posts focused on Justice,
    and several posts from Church documents.
    I recall a definition of Justice as the virtue by which we give to another what is owed to them.
    We still have not looked at Justice enough to create a solid foundation to argue from it.
    Chonak gave us a hint about what to be investigating.
    Maybe we can keep this Discussion focused/working on that.

    The other Discussion "Five Questions on the Formation of Music Ministers"
    http://musicasacra.com/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=2185
    is ideal for teasing out a full set of skills.
    Unfortunately, the responses there are to the BCL Newsletter and eachother, not the expected skills.
    Nobody has bothered quite yet to pursue the documents cited there and summarize any discoveries.

    A third Discussion should build on the results of the above two after the contributions dry up.
    We would have a fresh start and give us a way to create a guide we could critique.
    The guide seems like a good idea to me, but, right now seems too soon.
  • whoops.I must have posted on the wrong spot. I'll try again
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    In summary, here is the standard set forth by the NPM. A more complete set of detail can be found in their publication at NPM DM Salary Guidelines

    LEVEL OF FORMAL MUSICAL TRAINING SALARY RANGE AND BENEFITS1 (2009)
    Doctoral Degree in Music with CDMM* Base: 58,292–76,819 Ben: +11,658–23,046
    Doctoral Degree in Music Base: 55,422–73,949 Ben: +11,084–22,185
    Master’s Degree in Music with CDMM* Base: 52,074–68,575 Ben: +10,415–20,573
    Master’s Degree in Music Base: 49,171–65,705 Ben: + 9,834–19,712
    Bachelor’s Degree in Music with CDMM* Base: 46,114–59,702 Ben: + 9,223–17,911
    Bachelor’s Degree in Music Base: 43,245–56,945 Ben: + 8,649–17,084
    No Academic Degree with CDMM* Base: 39,152–51,540 Ben: + 7,830–15,462
    No Academic Degree Base: 36,339–47,601 Ben: + 7,268–14,280
    1 When an employer does not offer benefits, an addition should be made to salaries so that employees may provide for their own needs.
    * CDMM = Certified Director of Music Ministries
  • strikes me as dingbat.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    Jeffrey - Please be so kind, then, as to post what you think the correct figures should be. And yes, it would be nice to also compare them to "reality". But the "if the NPM says it, it's wrong" approach does little to help. (And by the way, they sell this book on their website and also make it available for free PDF download.)
  • Central planning is for the post office, not the Church.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,016
    I propose the following questions for the discernment of hiring/ pricing a Music Director:

    -what does our parish need, in terms of music, to improve our common worship, our most important work?
    -is this a person who can meet these needs, with the right capabilities and energy?
    -if yes, pay them a LOT.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    Some of the problem, Kathy, comes from priests who are not familiar with the concept of "a LOT". In the dioceses I've worked, priests are generally paid right around $30,000 per year. Sure, many of them have additional amenities along with that, but that is the number they see on their check. It is difficult for them to grasp what the market rate is for parish employees with families unless they have some sort of guideline. When they hear that the mere organ grinder is going to get twice what they do, that's rather exceptionally into the stratosphere from their viewpoint.

    That's why it is nice that some dioceses publish an internal memo regarding salary ranges. And some dioceses use this sort of central planning to establish norms among their parishes and avoid unseemly rivalry and competition. It's obvious that poorer parishes will depend more on voluntary and parttime workers than wealthier ones. Absent the accomplished doctoral volunteer, it likely means that their quality of music will suffer as well; that's just one of the realities of the world. Keep in mind too that churches act a lot like public schools. When budgets need a trim it's the music departments that feel the cuts early on.
  • I'm going to withdraw my above comment without deleting it. The guidelines don't seem entirely unreasonable. But I think Kathy's is better. In general, however, I think most any medium sized parish should be prepared for salaries of 75 and up.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    As much as I like the idea of "pay them a LOT", and 75 and up, I must say in honesty that we're missing the essential point of how much time the work requires. I'll restate my above assertion: someone who shows up for High Mass, chants all the propers expertly, has no choir, doesn't play the organ, and leads no hymns need only be paid an amount which keeps him from wanting to find Sunday work elsewhere. And I should say that such a musical option IS totally valid, licit, excellent, and even ideal for the Mass. This is why Eastern Rite music directors either don't get paid or make very little. Just to throw numbers out there, I might suggest $100-250/Sunday for such a person, depending on the size of the parish.

    Past that, one ought to concentrate on how many hours such a musician works. I strongly recommend that one consult the AGO worksheet for such, found here. And then pay something appropriate to the hours. I would recommend $15-$20/hour, again depending on the parish.

    I also reject the idea that someone with a doctorate deserves a higher salary. It seems to me that a higher degree, skill, and experience ensure a higher salary (and I intend to keep going until I'm Dr. Gavin) because one with those traits can 1) do the job better, 2) is thus desirable to other churches, and so 3) must be paid more (in money and ability to enjoy the work) than another church could offer. Nothing moral about it, just economics! I worked for a time at a Lutheran church which, while paying well, did not pay as much as I was offered to go to the Episcopal church. Also an idea to reject is that every parish deserves a top-notch musician. Some can afford the lone cantor singing for High Mass, some can afford the old doctor who can direct the 5 choirs and select music for the multitude of Masses. But all the same, the parish should pay enough for what they can get to ensure quality music at the liturgy.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    "It's obvious that poorer parishes will depend more on voluntary and parttime workers than wealthier ones. Absent the accomplished doctoral volunteer, it likely means that their quality of music will suffer as well"

    I'd like to point out that my post above disputes that assertion. A poor parish can have a wonderful Mass with a cantor singing the propers for very little, or perhaps a schola leader for a bit more. The next steps are obviously a discernment of what the parish really needs and then a good hiring process. Those two steps are frequently badly handled, when parishes assume that music for the Mass is Left-foot Lucy singing into a microphone while playing, and when conservative priests think that any young organist who can play Bach loudly is a master church musician.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,712
    I also reject the idea that someone with a doctorate deserves a higher salary. It seems to me that a higher degree, skill, and experience ensure a higher salary

    We're at least partly on the same page.

    What, precisely, do academic credentials have to do with the ability to conduct choirs, motivate/persuade people, business-understandings (how and why of budgeting) and musicianship?

    About nada, or less. A VERY prominent choral conductor (now deceased) had a degree in Art History (!!)--and ran arguably one of the 10 best choruses in the USA for years.

    I am convinced that "degree requirements" are present only to satisfy the Higher Education lobby which happens to dominate church governance in the USA.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Well, at the same time Dad29, I've gotten a few positions which required a bachelor's degree on the basis of my skill/experience/good looks/whatever reason they hired me. So I generally interpret those statements as referring more to a skill set than a degree.

    "What, precisely, do academic credentials have to do with the ability to conduct choirs, motivate/persuade people, business-understandings (how and why of budgeting) and musicianship?"

    Credentials don't give you the skills. BUT I'm sure you'd agree that the studies which the credentials represent usually give one greater ease in directing, playing, motivating, etc. Frankly I'd say that experience is more important than classes, but it's nice to have both! I tend to look at gathering credentials (references, degrees, experience, etc) in a "get all you can while you can" way.