Who hired you, really.
  • If it's the pastor, fine.

    But if there is an assistant involved in your hiring and the assistant is definitely in favor of your work and possibly the only reason that you are hired, your days are numbered from the day you start.

    Assistants move.

    You may stay on, but the power circle of cantors, the musical equivalent of the ladies in the kitchen or the KOC guys who hit the bar after meeting, will have you in their sights. As well as the organist if you are not playing.

    The pastor will be getting periodic complaints about you.

    You are seen as part of the young guy's efforts to change what they are used to.

    Game plan. Let Assistant know that when he leaves you'd really, really like to go where he goes, if there is an opening that you could fit.

  • Previous Parish Priest hired me. His words were "Please come and fix the music in my church, it is a complete disaster - I will pay you!"
  • Steve QSteve Q
    Posts: 96
    I will pay you!


    Oh, wow. Yeah, he must REALLY be desperate!
  • Pastors move too. New ones like to prove they're making a difference.
    Thanked by 2Gavin MarkThompson
  • The point is if that guy that is behind hiring you is not the pastor, you need to have an escape plan. If he is the pastor, you need a special magic wand to prevent him from having you driven out of the job by the downright "cussedness" of resident cantors and musicians who know that pastors move and outsider musicians can be fired.
    Thanked by 1SopranoViolin
  • Our dear Noel has a great point about being an outsider: I worked for a parish recently where I was definitely that, although I was appreciated by the majority of musicians (at least it seemed that way), there were some fairly influential parishioners who didn't like my "traditional" brand of music and musicianship (we did 4 hymns per Mass, restricted repertoire list due to congregational participation concerns from the Pastor, such hymns as "Joyful, Joyful" and "The King of Love My Shepherd Is," and Mass of Renewal for the Ordinary) and I'm very sure they were at the Pastor's door frequently. At my current parish, I have been teaching for 5 years now in the school, and if I were to take over the music program, I'd probably have an easier go at it because I'm already part of the establishment.
  • there were some fairly influential parishioners


    It would be uncharitable of me to tell you that I can describe them. But there is a profile.
  • stulte
    Posts: 243
    May I ask what brought on this topic?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,008
    May I ask what brought on this topic?


    Idle hands are the devil's workshop.
  • I work within the church music industry and as a result see many situations of musicians being treated poorly and being fired

    What brought this on is not an isolated incident.

    What brought this on is, however, due to the fact that this happens predominantly in Catholic churches.

    Prior to Vat II, this was not the case. A Catholic church job then was like a Christian Science job, you got the job, you did it, were almost totally unnoticed by anyone and interacted only with choir members, and that interaction was with men or with women, as choirs were rarely, if ever, mixed.

    Vat II changed that.



  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,008
    There were changes after Vatican II, to be sure. However, all was not rosy beforehand. I remember priests not paying social security taxes on employees until forced to do so by threat of legal action. I knew an elderly organist who worked for years with nothing paid in and it wasn't uncommon. Musicians were also expected to work for small salaries and were often saddled with other jobs to make ends meet. You may have been unnoticed, but you were not always treated well or fairly. The biggest "sinner" against the social teachings of the Church is the Church itself in the way it treats employees. That much did not change after the Vatican II Council.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,419
    Musicians were are also expected to work for small salaries and were are often saddled with other jobs to make ends meet.

    Fixed.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Musicians were also expected to work for small salaries and were often saddled with other jobs to make ends meet.


    This hasn't changed and is still true today.

    What I've often pondered recently is this: since it was the Consilium group that wrote the Novus Ordo, is it really Vatican II that is the problem, or is it the NO that represents it? Specifically, the GIRM allows for the type of liturgy we've been seeing. I do have other issues with V2, specifically Unitatis Redintegratio, but I have only heard bits and pieces of it, with commentary, so I really would like to read the document myself and see what it has to say. I think the biggest problem is that the changes we've seen in the Church since V2 were not called for explicitly by V2, and something else is causing the problem, I think. I specifically would like to see the areas where V2 violated Trent. The areas of greatest interest to me seem to have been reinforced (Latin and Gregorian chant, although I thought Trent did not address music) by V2.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • It's the amount of pressure that people can put on a priest. People that were out in the pews up until this time. Now lay people are "needed" to be lectors, cantors and "ministers" so they develop a relationship with the priest that ends up with them having an undue amount of influence. This relationship towers over the hired musicians...
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    This relationship towers over the hired musicians...

    Not if the priest/pastor knows from where comes the money for the butter which spreads o'er the bread of wannabe lay "ministers." The professional music minister should pervasively present an exemplar of how a lay "minister" should fulfill their responsibilities.
  • A priest has to work hard to maintain a relationship harder than we do!
  • Never having been a professional church musician, I have no idea what you all make. I was a professional non-church musician decades ago. I suspect that the situation was really no better. I was salaried and had little interest in fame (the only way to make much money), so yes, I too also had to supplement my income by chasing gigs. Job security was minimal. (Yes, there are some professional, non-famous, musicians with decent job security, but there are a great many with very little security.)

    I got out and joined the ranks of the comparatively highly-paid (!!) professional philosophers.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,104
    I was under the impression that before vII the vast majority of musicians in the church were unpaid unless it was a big place like a Cathedral. Does snyone know? I was also under the impression that the situation has really improved since them. But we can still complain....hey we're artists!
  • Professional non-church musicians are treated a lot worse, as far as I can see. Maybe not in big orchestras and the like, but free-lancing event musicians often enough turn up to gigs to find they're cancelled, double-booked (the first one to arrive get it), etc.

    And non- musician church staff are typically treated a lot worse than the musicians are. I've seen situations where a live-in housekeeper was expected to work 18 hours a day, six days a week. Lay chaplaincy staff laid off at a moment's notice (contracts ripped up in front of the them) because a priest became available. New pastor's first action is to fire the secretary. Or an existing pastor just went into the secretary's email, decided there was too much there and just deleted the whole lot.

  • I was hired by everyone, not sure how it's done at other churches but at the one I work for they basically vote on who gets the job-pastor, deacons, music director, etc. Members of the congregation can and do complain, but unless they are directly involved in the larger circle of decision makers their complaints go largely ignored, and with good reason. There seem to be two groups: the oldies that hate change of any kind and compare every new person to someone that accompanied there fifty years ago, and the know-nothings that think they can tell us what to do and how to do it because it's what they want to hear. Don't like traditional hymns? Go down to the rock band church, we simply will.not.ever. have a praise band. Don't like my choice of preludes/offertories/etc? Go to music school for seven years and spend three of those torturing every waking moment with writing a thesis on how music should/may have been/will be used in sacred settings. It's church, not a recital. No, I don't care if "the last person" played Joplin rags or was more "flashy". That isn't me, never will be, not the time or place. Well, now I'm ranting LOL...As far as job security goes I am lucky to have a small army of people who chose me and who also know that I am one of the only people alive who is patient enough to work with their music director, all the while maintaining high standards and professionalism.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,713
    Who hired me? In order (and who canned me follows):

    1) The pastor/Nobody--I left after 20 years (but I would have been canned by the new pastor)
    2) The pastor/Nobody--I left for a more interesting situation
    3) A committee of sorts/Nobody--I left after 10 years to get some peace of mind
    4) (Fooey on peace-of-mind), returned to situation #3 at the request of the committee/got canned by a new pastor imported from Europe
    5) A committee/fired by the new not-really-pastor but priest-in-charge, who is better known as an epicure and frequent flyer
    6) The pastor/fired by the new pastor

    The last two dismissals had a great deal to do with fiscal matters, but "artistic differences" were used as premises.

    All were paid part-time slots, and my replacements at #s 5 & 6 were 'volunteers'
  • Fiscal matters always means "we do not like your choice of music (and possibly you) so we prefer to lie and tell you we are out of money."

    Especially when they fill your job with volunteers! That helps them cover their tracks.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,713
    Actually, Noel, it was the reverse: they didn't like the music (or how it was done) and used THAT to cover their fisc short. I know (in one case) that the parish was chronically short. And in the second case, it was strongly hinted by insiders, most of whom were friends and backers on my side of things.

    Shook the dust off my sandals. That was good advice!
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    they didn't like the music (or how it was done) and used THAT to cover their fisc short.


    This happened to me at a Catholic school, my first job out of college.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 649
    This topic makes me glad I'm not a professional musician/vocalist
  • stulte
    Posts: 243
    @bhcordova I think part of it is you're more likely to hear the horror stories on this forum as people running into problems at the church they work for/volunteer at vent here and ask advice. That said, I share your sentiment.
  • Alas, one need not be a professional to experience nastiness. I recall after one mass for which I cantored (Latin chant) some old guy came up to me and said "That was disgusting. What is this, the middle ages?"

    In a very rare (for me) case of immediately thinking of the right response, I replied "I wish".

    (For the record, I don't really wish. But sometimes it seems attractive.)
  • Some people think their opinions matter too much.
    Thanked by 1noel jones, aago
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,008
    Alas, one need not be a professional to experience nastiness. I recall after one mass for which I cantored (Latin chant) some old guy came up to me and said "That was disgusting. What is this, the middle ages?"


    My response would have been, "Ah, you are old enough to remember them." If I were really being nice, I might have said, "Thank you for sharing."
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,234
    Whoever fired me, may heaven help them on judgement day, because it was over the faith, not the music (although the two are directly related to be sure) and God was certainly watching the charade.
    Thanked by 1noel jones, aago
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,114
    Some people think their people's opinions matter too much.
    Fixed.
  • MBWMBW
    Posts: 175
    Here's who hired me and a bit of what happened. Only (sort of) fired once, by #3.

    1. A co-pastor (there was a clerical triumvirate) who later confided that we did not have to follow copyright law because "all the composers are nuns and priests anyway". I lasted one year, left and went to #2.
    2. A first year assistant whose qualification was that he liked to sing. After five years, when the first child was born and I needed to make more money I went to #3.
    3. By the pastor who, after one year, told me I should become an insurance salesman and not a church musician. This was because I did such a good job convincing the congregation that they needed to replace an ailing organ. He did not want to take the heat for that. At the end of the year, he maneuvered me out of there - sort of soft fired me. Luckily I landed at #4
    4. By the prefect (this odd church was not a parish and they called the priest who ran the place the prefect) who hired me over the phone. I was at one of the last NPM conventions that I have attended and got the job from my hotel room. This was good for me, but crazy none the less. I stayed 13 years. Until..
    5. The most thorough process I have been through. (And the way more hiring should be done.) First a ton of paperwork and recordings. Then interviews with worship committee, archdiocesan worship office director, 20 member search committee and finally by the pastor who had the last word. A great place and I stayed 12 years until my children were out of the house. Then we moved closer to family and I went to #6
    6. By the pastor whom I had known from #4 time. Very congenial, supportive and kind.
    We now have a new pastor who is also great to work with. I am still there.

    So only 5 and 6 were hirings by someone who knew something. What a world!
  • Now lay people are "needed" to be lectors, cantors and "ministers" so they develop a relationship with the priest that ends up with them having an undue amount of influence.


    My apologies for bringing this thread back, but I was re-reading some of the commentary and this quote stuck out to me.

    I agree with Noel here: lay "ministers" aren't really necessary. Is there some reason that the priest cannot do all of those jobs? For example, would it really be unreasonable to expect the priest to proclaim the readings at each Mass? Or would it really be unreasonable for the priest to sing? Many priests already sing the hymns along side their congregations. And yes, that particular topic was breached in another thread, so I will reserve further commentary on it.
    Thanked by 1CCooze
  • The moment lay people, aside from Altar boys, enter the sanctuary, the role of the priest is diminished and the amount of influence untrained-in-anything laypeople have over him and his decisions.

    I have no problem with people insisting on receiving for a priest. I found it amazing and distressing that high school kids were distributing communion at a high school mass. Surely enough priests in a town large enough to have a high school are available to assist. If...they want to do their jobs.
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,008
    I remember one priest saying, "I have better things to do with my time than distribute communion." True story, really happened.
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,759
    Well, in the OF, there's an express preference for the non-Gospel readings to be read by a minister other than the celebrant (see GIRM 59), with the priest only doing so in the absence of a suitable minister. The psalm - if read, would fall under that, too, and, if sung, would be entrusted first to a psalmist or schola. And the celebrant would not be singing both parts of the dialogue when a congregation is present.

    As for the substantive roles of being a music director/organist, a sacristan, a parish secretary, if the parish has a surfeit of priests perhaps they can afford to let priests do those functions. That would be relatively rare in much of the USA.
  • I remember one priest saying, "I have better things to do with my time than distribute communion." True story, really happened.


    I've heard the same thing, substitute 'hear confession' for 'distribute communion'.

    A separate comment: I'd love to see deacons, priests, etc., play the role of lector, etc., but I'm not convinced that lay people playing those roles is really the source of the problems that are being raised. If the atmosphere is right, then the lay people who serve in those roles will understand their proper place, who is in charge, etc., and exercise due deference.

    I've seen both: situations where lectors, ushers -- you name it -- felt some sort of entitlement, and situations where they (we) understand that playing these roles is an act of service, not a favor that demands quid pro quo.
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 206
    I don't know what kind of Catholic parish some of come from but in our parish we have 6 cantors, some who help are from neighboring parishes. We have one MD plus various other musicians all of whom come to help to make the Mass as beautiful musically speaking as can be. The cantors are in no way trying to cut the legs off or do end run-around of our MD and certainly aren't not elitist.
    Thanked by 1MichaelDickson
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,574
    MichaelDickson: lay people playing those roles [...] lay people who serve in those roles

    Hmm. :-)
  • Hired by pastor, fired by new pastor.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,008
    Hired by pastor, fired by new pastor.


    Is this a recent happening?
  • kenstb
    Posts: 358
    It is unfortunate to inherit a new pastor. I was hired by the priest who was pastor at my current parish 22 years ago. I've seen 4 more since then, and have only had difficulty with the current one. The issue I have seen is that each individual has his own style and abilities, and they all have egos. At times, it is necessary to just do the job and leave, rather than risk unemployment by pressing for the most liturgical or musical goals for the schola. It is most distressing to see that the faithful are often denied the very best that we can offer in praise of Christ because we have to placate pastors who are generally unqualified to supervise us. Fortunately, most of the pastors I have worked with have been generous in that they have allowed me to speak with them about the liturgy, and have worked together with me to create the best liturgy we can. This is not currently the case, and I have been forced to deal with very poor management of late.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,008
    I guess I am a bit lucky with our new pastor. He was associate here for 9 years in the 1990s, so is familiar with us and how we operate. He loved this place and has wanted to return to it many times. Keep in mind, though, that I do this job because I want to. I could walk away any time and never miss the meager salary. It is quite different for someone who depends on a church job to support a family. They don't have that option.
  • Hired by pastor, fired by new pastor.


    Is this a recent happening?


    I was fired summer of 2013 though my son was retained as organist (paid). I was allowed to remain as a volunteer along with my two other teens to select the music and sing the propers (we used SEP) each Sunday. This past fall a new "choir director" was hired and, by the pastor's decree, singing of the propers banished.
  • Makes me wonder what someone is afraid of.
  • Antonio
    Posts: 41
    I know about a similar case of an organ builder. He accepted the order from a pastor friend of him, who left the parish for a curial office position. The new parish vicar has a modernist formation and agenda, and put some of parishioners to support his decision of not receiving the organ anymore. He established some lawyers to rescind the contract, so the organ does not currently have a definite place for it, waiting at an advanced stage of construction for a new place to be finished. Sad history.