Salary: How much do YOU get paid? How much should you?
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    I find there is a HUGE discrepancy in what church musicians charge or get paid, and I wonder how much of it is due to skill level or geographic area. I was talking to a friend of mine who works in a suburb of a midwestern city, and while he is not a phenomenal organist, I was shocked to discover that he gets paid about half of what I would charge per service!

    so...let's compare. What do you get paid? Or what *could* you charge per service/choir rehearsal/identical service/wedding/funeral? If you don't think that the actual amount you receive is fair, then what would be? What is your skill level? What is your official certification (if any)? And do you think your geographical region makes a difference?

    Here in southeast Michigan, I have a friend who is working on his Doctorate in Organ, and he charges (I think) $175 per service. I am pretty good at the organ and have a degree in it, and I charge and get paid $100 per service or funeral, and $150 per wedding. (but more if it's a church/organ I'm unfamiliar, or if I have to do extra arranging/practicing) I also have a friend who has not been playing organ very long, nor has a degree in it, but she is decent at it, and charges $75. My friend who I mentioned above (also with no degree but lots of experience), in a different city but similar demographic --notably at a MUCH larger and wealthier parish-- gets paid $50 per service! I was shocked to find that out, and I think he should ask for a raise, b/c a salary like that will bring down the salaries of church musicians everywhere!
  • Huge topic. You are right about widely varying pay, and about bringing down salaries, etc. It would be great if CMAA could come up with salary guidelines, like that of the AGO. But maybe that is beyond our scope, and maybe the AGO is of a reference.

    Anyhoo, two different but related things are discussed here. 1) Wedding (or special occasion) and funeral stipends and 2) salaries strictly speaking.

    The biggest factor is having a pastor who walks the social justice talk and will sacrifice parish funds appropriately. Ok, so there's few of them out there... And even some of that group will pay less if the musician doesn't insist on getting paid fairly.

    So, in the case of (1) stipends, I can tell you I charge $175 to solo or cantor, $250 to conduct a choir. I live in San Diego. The irony is that as CA goes bankrupt, it is still really expensive to live here.

    In the case of tragic or otherwise unexpected funerals, I have left it

    up to the pastor to let me know if the family really does not have enough means, and I will usually make an exception based on his recommendation. I make sure the family knows that it is a PRIVATE agreement, because I've had the experience in other parishes that when word gets out, other people expect things. I have little tolerance for people being cheap when I see they drive way better cars than me and live in nicer areas, and have huge receptions, etc...

    As far as (2) salary goes, I will just say that my salary falls on the low side but still within AGO guidelines, for which I am truly grateful. This figure represents almost 5 times my salary from my first DoM job and over 2 times my salary from the second DoM job. They were all within ten years of eachother.

    Some people think musicians are greedy and not deserving of much pay. These are not the people who sweated it out in music school or dumped tons of $ into perfecting their instrument...
    In my case, I couldn't choose anymore, and would probably have taken a protestant job out of need. I had three children when I took my current job, and my musician husband's income was so affected by the recession that I couldn't settle. When the pastor said 'AGO guidelines' I listened. I later found out that he was also moved by a column of Jeffrey Tucker's in the Wanderer about fair pay for musicians. Thanks, Jeffrey!
  • The last position I held, considered to be just over half-time: $19,500 and full benefits. The actual cost of my employment to the parish was $32,500 when the cost of benefits was included.

    They deducted from my pay $420 a year for my share of the health insurance, which when I added my wife to the coverage, jumped to $3,600 a year.

    I was director of music, the organist was being paid $25 a mass (3) and rehearsal, I asked that they increase her to $50 a Mass and they agreed but then balked when meeting with her and changed hers to a salary that came close to $50 a Mass,

    The current music person there is getting $30,000 for teaching music in the school and $12,000 for being director of music in the church. This is the first time they have combined the job that way.
  • Salary: at the same level as I was earning at the unified school district pay grade, 15 years, MA and 35+ post grad units, when retired in 2005. This includes teaching/liturgical duties at parochial school K-8. Medical/Dental/Vision shared.
    No raises or supplemental income/bonuses for additional duties due to merged parishes (4), administration of Liturgical Department. (That's been consistent over 17+years now.) No complaints; just gets busier, and like Sinatra sang:
    "That's life...."
    Weddings: 175
    Funerals: 125 (hardship or personal relationship to bereaved/deceased: 0)
  • OlbashOlbash
    Posts: 312
    Suffice it to say that my salary is within AGO guidelines. I have a Master's degree in sacred music, and I am working as a full-time musician in a Protestant church. I would gladly take a $10,000 pay cut to work for a Catholic parish within 50 miles of my home, but parishes around here just don't seem to be interested.
    Thanked by 1tomboysuze
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I am payed according to the Ago scale one degree level above my proper one, although this is according to the quarter time figures, when I actually am classified as half. No benefits for part time in my diocese. I find this quite fair, and I live somewhat comfortably on it. I think it's more helpful to define salary in terms of % of budget, which for me is about 6%. Not to mention how very appreciative my congregation is!

    For funerals I charge $200, $250 for weddings. This seems a little steep to me, and I'm happy to adjust to circumstances, but I also work in a very affluent area.
  • conbrio
    Posts: 41
    In our small parish of 600 families, the choir directors are all volunteer. (For weddings, the organist expects $75 and $50 for funerals, however, if accompanying the choir, often nobody is paid. Piano trio plus organist gets $200 for a wedding mass.) Recently, when one of the parish organists was called away to assist her daughter with cancer, we asked the pastor if we could hire an organist for a month. His reply was that he was not going to get into paying for musicians as had never done so in 20 years. What bothers me about this, is that that I only have an organist at the mass I direct because he happens to be my son. We have paid thousands of dollars in music lessons so that he is able to play at mass, so certainly somebody does pay for musicians, if not the parish. (In context, the boy who mows the lawn at the church makes $15 per hour, the janitor makes the same. The secretary earns $12 per hour plus benefits.)
    My son recently took time from high school to play at a funeral mass, which he was happy to do as a work of mercy, but had to laugh after wards when he was given $10 while his brothers who served at mass were given $20 each. I don't know what I'm going to do once he graduates.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,472
    One should get paid what he is worth. Only YOU can make that case to the parish-the pastor and the people. Also, if one has children, he should be paid to be able to care for his family more than a single person without those responsibilities. (ducking tomatoes) (I have five... so far!)

    Then again, where do we store up our treasures?
  • Conbrio...

    Just wait until your pastor decides he's not going to pay for communion wine, hosts, electricity.

    What a misinformed person. (it's rude to call a priest a jerk.)

    There are SO MANY GOOD ONES OUT THERE! It's sad there are those few....
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,891
    I teach in the parish school and receive a smaller salary for my DOM/organist position. Together they are a salary I am happy with. I don't do weddings or funerals for two reasons. I don't have the time, and don't need the money.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,472
    I am supporting children! Buy my hand made ROSARIES!!!! Send cash! Send food! Send furniture!
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,475
    Just by the bye, Catholic social teaching says that single persons and married persons should be paid equally. The reason is actually to protect married persons: if they earned more, they might not be hired.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,472
    Sorry Kathy. JPII said a married man with children should be paid more to feed mouths and care for needs of numbers. What are your sources of CST? (I didn't think tomatoes would come that fast!)
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 992
    I direct our Chant Schola, and get paid nothing. My guess is that most readers of this forum fall into this classification, but are reluctant to speak up when the topic of money can get so emotional.

    My parish has paid for some books (By Flowing Waters, Parish Book of Chant, Liber Cantualis) and photocopies, but everything else is a donation out of my pocket. Including 3 Colloquia.

    Some things are worth more than getting paid.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,891
    I suspect anyone can find quotes to support any desired argument. If you work in the Catholic Church, take whatever money you can get, and never feel guilty about it. You could always make more elsewhere, for certain.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,475

    So did Pope Pius XI:

    In the first place, the worker must be paid a wage sufficient to support him and his family.[46] That the rest of the family should also contribute to the common support, according to the capacity of each, is certainly right, as can be observed especially in the families of farmers, but also in the families of many craftsmen and small shopkeepers. But to abuse the years of childhood and the limited strength of women is grossly wrong. Mothers, concentrating on household duties, should work primarily in the home or in its immediate vicinity. It is an intolerable abuse, and to be abolished at all cost, for mothers on account of the father's low wage to be forced to engage in gainful occupations outside the home to the neglect of their proper cares and duties, especially the training of children. Every effort must therefore be made that fathers of families receive a wage large enough to meet ordinary family needs adequately. But if this cannot always be done under existing circumstances, social justice demands that changes be introduced as soon as possible whereby such a wage will be assured to every adult workingman. It will not be out of place here to render merited praise to all, who with a wise and useful purpose, have tried and tested various ways of adjusting the pay for work to family burdens in such a way that, as these increase, the former may be raised and indeed, if the contingency arises, there may be enough to meet extraordinary needs. (Quadregesimo Anno)

    And here's the one you mentioned:
    Just remuneration for the work of an adult who is responsible for a family means remuneration which will suffice for establishing and properly maintaining a family and for providing security for its future. Such remuneration can be given either through what is called a family wage--that is, a single salary given to the head of the family for his work, sufficient for the needs of the family without the other spouse having to take up gainful employment outside the home--or through other social measures such as family allowances or grants to mothers devoting themselves exclusively to their families. These grants should correspond to the actual needs, that is, to the number of dependents for as long as they are not in a position to assume proper responsibility for their own lives. (JPII Laborem Exercens)

    Perhaps the reasoning I mentioned is out there somewhere--it was taught to me once upon a time.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,472
    Wow... I did not know that Pius also said this... and it is in much stronger language that he asserts the assault on a Woman's role which is the center of the home. Our society has really lost that value altogether, and our nation's families are certainly in ruin over that one!
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I recall when I subbed once at a Christian Reformed Church. The pastor gave me my check for $35 and said "don't spend it all in one place!" I turned to my girlfriend and said "Let's go to the mall; I'm buying you a cheap belt!"
  • francis
    Posts: 10,472
    ...and it wasn't whisky!
  • Bada boom. And "take my wife, please."
  • Cantor
    Posts: 84

    Bear in mind that there are employers who prefer married people because they’re more likely to be stable geographically.
  • Hugh
    Posts: 198
    I'm not paid. A small sum was offered (about eight hundred a year) but there were strings attached I couldn't accept. I'm happy to remain unpaid. It's a wonderful place to be and I'm blessed to be able to have something small to contribute.

    In principle, though, of course there should be just payment for musicians. Also for altar servers, sacristans, and so on ( as well as the clergy, of course). Humble as they are, theirs are the crafts that built western civilization.
  • @Kathy -

    Check out Canon Law - Canon 231

    "Can. 231 §1. Lay persons who permanently or temporarily devote themselves to special service of the Church are obliged to acquire the appropriate formation required to fulfill their function properly and to carry out this function conscientiously, eagerly, and diligently.

    §2. Without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 230, §1 and with the prescripts of civil law having been observed, lay persons have the right to decent remuneration appropriate to their condition so that they are able to provide decently for their own needs and those of their family. They also have a right for their social provision, social security, and health benefits to be duly provided."

    I find this one conveniently ignored by most priests. But, it implies that laypeople in the Church's employ have the right to be paid enough to support their families. By definition, someone with a family would have a right to greater salary (other things being equal) than a single person, because their living expenses are higher.
  • The following figures are not necessarily based on my own salary:

    A cantor in my area should expect $25 per Mass.

    An accompanist in my area should expect $50 per Mass.

    A music director in my area should expect $100 per Mass.
  • Wow, those figures are so low. Is the cost of living really low in your area? If so, I'm envious. Nothing is cheap in So Cal.
  • Is the cost of living really low in your area?

    Based on this Cost of Living calculator, I would say it's a little lower than some places:

    Average Annual Pay:
    Portland, ME - $30,412.00
    Los Angeles, CA - $37,748.00
    U.S. City Average - $34,868.00
  • If two given people are equal in ability, talent, accomplishment and are expected to fulfill the same duties, there should be no difference in their salaries just because one of them is married. This would be objectively unfair. It is the person and his or her gifted professional services which are being retained and each is justly entitled to the same remuneration for them.
  • I'm surprised no one has commented on:

    "But to abuse the years of childhood and the limited strength of women is grossly wrong."

    MJO is absolutely right, back when this was written women did not work. If they did they were apt to be secretaries, librarians, church organists or nurses, all poorly paid positions.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,439
    That is the basis for US civil law on this point, and is correct in terms of the values of "the World."
    But the Catholic Church (and I dare say, Jesus) clearly has a different standard in mind, and a different conception of fairness.

    Canon Law, which is sort of where the rubber meets the road in terms of implementing moral ideals in a world governed by civil laws, provides guidance on this point in the phrase, "and with the prescripts of civil law having been observed."
    Since US Civil Law (and most other places too) says you can't change someones pay based on familial status, the obvious answer is not to reduce the salary of the family-people to match single-people, but rather provide enough to raise a family to all, single or family alike. This is in keeping with the generous spirit of the Three Hired Hands who were paid the same, and also provides single people with the financial means to settle down and raise a family.
  • It makes sense to me that a single person should be provided the means to start a family. It also makes sense that a qualified musician with 8 kids will require a larger salary. The Church asks us to be open to life, and justice would mean that She makes certain provision for this.
    Disclaimer- I have two music degrees and am expecting my fourth child, so I may see this differently than an amateur musician who makes a salary in another field,or a single person.
  • Noel, I picked up on that quote. Frankly, I agree about kids needing Mom in the years of childhood, which is why I would rather rent and work part-time than take a full-time position.
    And I agree about the limited strength of women. Perhaps this is also an allusion to women (esp in the Communist countries) working long hours at manual labor, a huge stress on the women themselves and on family life at that time.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,472
    The world has different values than the Kingdom of God as Adam stated. We are in the world but not of it. Couples these days have bought into the values of the world. Two incomes, no children, lots of material wealth. It's not what God intends for married people.
  • A diocese offers health insurance, subsidized, for $36 a month for single people, $297 a month for married couples. Fair?
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,439
    Whether or not that's fair is a toughie- but it is absolutely standard HR policy for companies that offer health insurance: they subsidized the employee's insurance, but not the spouse's (or not to as great an extant).
    Since the cost to the employer for providing that insurance at that rate is probably close to $1000 a month, maybe more, it seems like whining to suggest the Diocese isn't doing enough on this point.
  • JDE
    Posts: 588

    I realize that in a perfect world all homes would be happy and full of children. My wife and I don't happen to fit that mold because we are both heir to some lovely medical conditions that make it inadvisable (and now, after cancer) impossible to procreate. I can assure you, however, that while we do have two incomes, we don't have a lot of material wealth. Cancer took care of a good bit of that as well.
  • Point taken, JDE. There are holy folks that fall outside the norm.

    I would only seek to encourage people to continue glorifying God with whatever they possess. Some guys, for example, might have survived awful diseases and still manage to retain great musicianship and stellar voices. Such a man could (hypothetical person here) still be gainfully employed by and contributing to the Church in a rather exemplary way.
    Such a man, who has lost much and still works to build the Body of Christ, would be a true inspiration.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,472

    You are the exception to the norm. God Bless you... I will pray for you and your wife, and may God grant you his comfort. I have had a number of friends in the same condition. God many times grants children to those who abort them and then sometimes withholds them from those who would be wonderful parents. Do we understand the ways of God and His Kingdom here on earth? Sometimes, but often not.
  • JDE
    Posts: 588
    The way I see this is that God knows what he is doing. I don't pretend to understand. In fact, I don't even attempt it, because it is crazy-making. But there is some reason why we don't have them, and it may be revealed to me eventually. I think we take pretty good care of our dogs, so I imagine we would also be okay with kids, but that is academic at this point.

    MA, thanks for your kind (if hypothetical) words. I do what I can with what I have left. Unfortunately chant is not especially welcome in my parish, at least not among the people with the money, so I am selling them the hot dogs they ordered. All I can say is, thank God for the day job. Without it i would have to depend on the caprices of the clergy for my living, and that is also crazy making.
  • kas
    Posts: 6

    I am a Catholic organist in my home parish. My pay averages around $2500 yearly. Per service it is $50 (before deductions). In my area organists in the Catholic church are not paid much more than this, and sometimes less. It is an ongoing concern as you will learn if you do any research on this topic. My personal opinion is that the pay should be significantly higher. When I consider that I was getting between $60-75 per service to substitute in the Protestant church over 30 years ago, that makes what I am getting now seem pretty low. Hopefully there will be some additional increases along the way.

  • Mike R
    Posts: 106
    Standard rate around here is $50 per Mass. Very, very few parishes have FT music directors (even the cathedral director is basically part-time; it wouldn't surprise me if fewer than a half-dozen parishes in the diocese have someone full-time), so I have no clue what their typical salary is. My guess is that it varies wildly, since other lay employees have pretty widely varying salaries.
  • The rates here are $100 for an organist or a cantor for a funeral.

    My salary is somewhat below the AGO guidelines, but I'm not about to complain - it's a good job and the salary is quite good for a single person to live on in my area.
  • You are definitely being had. You are being exploited, and this is a sin on somebody's hands.
    First, you should check out the salary guidelines of the AGO and assert that you expect to be paid in accord with them. My own estimation, assuming that you are a reasonably good organist who knows what he is doing, is that you should be getting at LEAST $150-200 per liturgy, ditto for weddings, ditto for meeting with their singer(s), etc., ditto for wedding rehearsals (if you play for them) ditto for a choir reherasal and any other liturgy or function for which your services are required. The figure of $150-200 is a minimal one. If your talent is such that your services are more valuable then I would not hesitate to up that to $250-300.
    Unless you really, really, depend on the pittance you are being given, you should approach your skinflint priest and tell him the salary you expect if he expects to continue enjoying your services. (Actually, it doesn't seem that he does 'enjoy' your services or he would value them much more highly. [And when he tells you he simply doesn't have the money for it, take note of the next 50 or 100 thousand dollar project he manages to bring off... because he wants it].)
  • you should be getting at LEAST $150-200 per liturgy

    That may be the going AGO rate, but never in my professional life have I seen a Catholic parish willing to cough up that much. I used to make $100 a funeral, $150-$200 for weddings, and a salary for weekly Masses, but I've never made over $100 for a regular Sunday Mass.
    Thanked by 1marajoy
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    While AGO guidelines are nice, I have recently accepted a job at an old but beautiful inner-city parish...with a weekly collection of less than $3000. There are 4 weekend Masses, and I will be playing for 2 of them. They are NOT going to be paying me 1/10th of the weekly budget...LOL!

    We do have to be realistic.

    (With the understanding that this is a gorgeous church with an awesome organ that otherwise would not be able to afford *any* music, I have accepted $75 a service...and this includes me singing and picking the songs! It does make me cringe a little, because that's what I was getting paid at my first 2 jobs, when I was still in college. sigh.)
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • redsox1
    Posts: 213
    In my last position, funerals were $75 and weddings were $200. The salary was definitely on the low side, but I moved for family reasons at the time and I made the best of it. The lack of any cooperation about doing something about the pitiful instrument (and I mean pitiful) and musical space while the rest of the cathedral was renovated was the last straw. The parishioners knew this needed to be a priority and expressed as much in a survey taken before the renovation. Their wishes were ignored. The organ was a complete mess and was completely unacceptable for what was expected of a cathedral music program. I was given every assurance when I interviewed for the position that it would be dealt with when I arrived, perhaps within a year or two. That was 2007 and the organ, to my knowledge, is still untouched. A digital instrument is probably their best bet at this point. So sad. It's not all about money-I would lived happily with a little less if I felt the ministry was truly valued. Encouragement and support from the top cannot be overvalued. Oh, and since I left, the entire staff was given a 20% cut in their salaries. How's that for appreciation. I'm glad I left when I did. I am well compensated in my new position, have a beautiful facility in which to work, and have a staff. I am grateful each day I enter the doors of the church!
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,070
    MJO, with respects, most of us guild members know that AGO scale is figured on a mostly NYC basis. It's a little on the high side unless you're in a very dense, urban area.

    I agree that one service with choir should be in the $150 range, especially if there is a warm-up. However, seeing as the AGO scale is based on a single (Protestant) service, or the assumption that each service will have totally different repertoire, it doesn't always transfer to the Catholic idiom. My general policy (we have three Masses with organ every weekend) is $150 for the choir Mass, and $100 for the two others (for a total of $350) if the sub is having to prepare the same rep for everything. I know some places can't afford this (we barely can), but I think it's fair. Plus, I expect at least that $$$ of quality music-making.

    Salary is more complicated, but if we're serious about working for the Catholic church, it means that at least at this point in time, we will probably be paid 20-30% less for the work we do vs. if we were doing it in a Protestant situation. There are simply much different expectations in my experience.

    (MJO, I'm sure your situation is influenced by an Anglican Use parish paying more along ECUSA lines! That said, word on the street [nb: I don't know about Walsingham] is that AU parishes don't always keep the high salary for their musicians that is expected in a similar Episcopalian situation...)
  • NPM, for all their quirks, has put out a very well done salary scale....and obvious it is done with Catholics in mind. However, many (arch)dioceses have their own salary scale for all positions (DRE, DofM, Secretary, etc...), and thus they may not pay heed to NPM's suggestions...which is too bad, because I think it is a very fair scale.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,689
    Yeah I like that NPM pay scale a lot... though it tends to favor large suburban parish music directors with lots of Masses and lots of musical groups.
  • kas
    Posts: 6
    Thanks to all who replied to my most recent post. I think I agree with Andrew's sentiments that it is probably unlikely for most Catholic parishes to pay in the neighborhood of $150-200 per Mass. I cannot imagine going to my priest and asking for even $100, even though I think it's reasonable. Organists in my area are getting that for substituting at other churches. Also, I have no directing responsibilities. There is a separate director. I only play - one service per week. Still, I believe around $75 per service would not be too much to expect. What bothered me the most was that my pay increase went from $45 to $47.50, and then stayed that way for probably close to 2 years. All prior increases were in increments of $5, which leads me to believe that the priest really prefers not to go too much higher, and I don't want to place myself in a bad light by continuing to ask for money. I don't think it looks good as a member of the church. I know the emphasis is on 'time, talent, and treasure', and yet I think a bit more could be devoted to my part of the music ministry.
  • None of us entered this profession-ministry to get rich, did we? And, it may not always be possible, even in a parish with the best intentions but not the best means, to receive what we should. There are, though, some places and people and clergy whose 'compensation' really does amount to exploitation, and no one should submit to pay that is a joke. Exploitation is a sin, and a priest (of all people) should know that. One sure cure for this would be for us to make it impossible to find a musician who will practice his or her craft for less than what we collectively deem appropriate. What, after all, does the parish do if it doesn't wish to pay the plumber his full fee, or the architect, or anyone else? The parish finds the money! doesn't it? In too many cases I have observed that when a priest says he doesn't have the money, what he means is he isn't going to spend the money that he very well does have on liturgy and music.

    And, BruceL - I cannot speak for the other Anglican Use parishes, but I do know that at Walsingham we have been conscientious about paying our choirmaster his due. Too, can you elaborate on the 'word on the street' that you cite? Such 'word' may or may not be trustworthy (though it is a fact that all Anglican/Episcopal parishes do not live up to their collective reputation).
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,070
    The source of my word on the street is my recently deceased mentor, who is well known in Anglican circles from his time in New York: I can assure you it is trustworthy, although it may be a couple years old.