Funding of professional church music: what do you do, if you do?
  • We've got some guys chez moi batting around glorious ideas, and we need to attach them to some reality.

    If you have a choir/Schola that is made up of paid professionals, OR if you have paid section leaders/ringers (specify which; those with neither need not reply), how do you handle/administer funding? Are you the cathedral, or (preferably) another (preferably TLM) parish?

    Do you have an independent 501(c)3? A dedicated church music fund at the parish level?

    Do your singers work 52/yr, or do they take summers off? Do you have the best singers in town? Conservatory students? What is your pay scale, and how does it compare to other nearby institutions? Do you insist that they be Catholic, or just competent and professional?

    How do you fund-raise?

    If you could have the music program of another institution, which one would it be, and why? What would it take to become that?

    I'm sure I'll have more questions as we go. But that's a start.
  • Matthew
    Posts: 31

    I'm a Cathedral DM in the midwest US. I have a paid schola for our EF masses (only during Advent/Christmas and Easter seasons) and budget for 8 paid singers for the OF choir (currently have 1 position open). We do take summers off. The Cathedral parish pays for this out of the budget, but mainly because I fought and demonstrated how a well-trained choir adds beauty and solemnity to our liturgies. While this can be achieved with volunteers of course, that doesn't work in my situation for a whole host of reasons I won't go into here.

    I do tend to hire adults who are either music teachers in the area or college aged students, the latter being the exception due to their lack of availability over the BIG services (Christmas, Easter, etc.). They need not be Catholic, but must live in such a way as not to be in open conflict with Church teaching (I don't pry too much, but I've had to let a couple singers go over the years due to their outspoken criticism of the Church).

    Each singer earns around $300-350 per month, which includes 1 service and 1 rehearsal, and are paid more for additional services or extra-long masses (Easter Vigil). They are paid as employees, and as such we pick up the necessary taxes and such on our end, in other words, they are not 1099 contract employees.

    Hope this helps. Best of luck in your endeavors.
    Thanked by 2Jeffrey Quick Wade
  • CGM
    Posts: 525
    1. At a CT Basilica, in addition to the full-time music director (salary & benefits), we had a paid choir of eight professional singers, some from NYC and others from the I-95 / Yale corridor. They met on Sunday morning, rehearsed for 90 min., and then immediately afterward sang a Mass with full Renaissance Mass Ordinary (minus the Credo), chanted propers at Offertory and Communion, Renaissance motets following those propers, and contemporary settings for the Introit and Responsorial Psalm. The pay was $130 per Sunday per singer, although each year the pastor reduced the pay a little, and by the time I left, it was down to $115 per Sunday per singer. Director W-2; singers 1099.

    2. At a DC-area shrine, we had a reasonably-well-paid music director (salary, no benefits) who sang in an ensemble with four professional singers. They rehearsed once during the week for 75 min. or so and then met on Sunday afternoon, a half-hour before the Mass, to review the music and then sing the Mass. Rep was Fr. Weber's English-language chant adaptations at Introit & Communion, Renaissance motets at Offertory and Communion, and a lovely choral Mass setting for congregational singing. The pay was $75 per singer per call, so at two calls per week, $150 per singer. Director and singers 1099.

    3. At a Maryland parish, we had a reasonably-well-paid music director (salary & benefits) and two choirs: one was only the paid section leaders, and the other was paid section leaders plus 6-8 volunteers. The smaller ensemble sang the English Mass (English chant adaptations & English anthems); the larger ensemble sang the principal Mass of Sunday (Latin propers & Renaissance motets). Both Masses had the same Mass Ordinary & hymns. Section leaders were paid $75 per call, so at two rehearsals & two Masses per week, each singer was making $300 a week. Director W-2; singers 1099.

    All institutions Ordinary Form liturgies; all finances handled by the institutions themselves (no independent 501(c)3's or church music funds).
    Thanked by 1Jeffrey Quick
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,155
    The Latin Mass Society funds professional choirs to sing occasionally.

    They used a bequest to provide funding for a choir to sing 6 times a year at our parish, a Trust also funded 4-6 Masses per Year. We still have a professional choir that comes once a month but we are funding them from our own fund now, but the money will run out in the next year or so.
    Thanked by 1Jeffrey Quick