Future (Sacred music as a career?)
  • Sacred Music in the Catholic church is definitely, just as Francis puts it, "Sacred Music will never be a 'career'... it will always be a calling, gifting, a mantle that you must wear ...forever... and in the end, your crucifixion."

    However, a Catholic organist can make a living working in a Protestant church, by teaching organ, by engraving and editing music for publication, by leading and /or accompanying community choirs, by accompanying college (even COMMUNITY) choruses, playing piano for dance classes, playing for voice lessons, coaching singers so voice teachers and not wasting time teaching them to read music and to sing the right notes.

    If the Catholic church does not want your talents, the rest of the world does.


    Every Protestant job I have taken has been because they wanted me, never because I went looking for it. Organists are valued in Protestant churches and coming from a liturgical background, we are VERY welcome by pastors of Protestant churches who are used to having to deal with people who think Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is suitable music while the offering is being received on the first Sunday of Advent.

    Cheer up!

    My cardiologist's Rabbi says, "We Jews are angry with God, while Catholics are angry with the church."
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,027
    Noel bumped this in a thread, and since a number of my friends (IRL) have chimed in here, I want to add a voice, too.

    1) I don't regret doing church music as a career. I never would have if I'd known I'd become Catholic (knowing what a lot of people have already put out there in this thread), since my plan was to get a pretty cushy Anglican thing. That said, my career has been a great blessing, and most all of it happened after that crucial conversion to the Faith. I feel that you get out what you put in, especially as regards prayer and practice...and maybe more importantly, relationships with parishioners, etc. I truly feel part of the parish family at my place. I try to be sure to keep boundaries, but these are still "my people".
    2) It is a little frustrating that the only jobs that seem to pay are Cathedral jobs...I'm fortunate that my particular place pays well for the cost of living around here, etc. My wife has a full-time job as a teacher that is, well, full-time, but not insane. It's enough to raise our four boys and hope that there will be something in the future. But a lot of that is thanks to the benevolence of my rector—for which I'm eternally grateful.
    3) I think the trend in #2 will change in the current generation of priests. There are just too many seminaries now with good musicians! This is a huge change from 10 years ago.
    4) You have to know yourself. Is this a job you love? Are you passionate about it? But at the same time: can you mentally separate yourself from that? Will you obsess about it? These are issues with all artistic careers, I think, but it's important to have the desire AND the ability to be a little dispassionate.
    5) Finally, and I think this is most important, are you willing to sublimate your own desires/wishes to learn the liturgy and fall in love with it? I know so many musicians and priest-musicians who are not willing to make this commitment. IF you submit yourself to the liturgy, you will be changed. If not, you will frustrate others. Sometimes (often? most of the time?) you'll have to work within the confines of someone else's limited understanding. Are you prepared for this? Can you do it?

    Anyhow, it's complicated, but most rewarding careers are. That said, don't sell it short! I'll be praying for you!
    Thanked by 1ELapisardi
  • redsox1
    Posts: 197
    It is definitely a calling, first and foremost. That does not mean, however, that you shouldn’t be compensated fairly for your skills and education. I’m in my 25th year of full-time ministry. I’ve been in a variety of places, a national shrine, two cathedrals, two parishes, and a Protestant church. We have moved several times for family and work reasons. The journey has had its ups and downs to be sure and has taken an interesting path. I’ve been in my current post for almost 10 years. It’s our home. It’s certainly not perfect- nothing is. But, my pastor has been good to me, and my family, I have two fabulous pipe organs, and a stellar full-time assistant. I’ve been able to turn the choir around and we keep growing together. My wife and I both have some of the best friends we’ve ever had. We’ve more than paid our dues to get to this point!

    My biggest piece of advice is to take whatever timeline you have in your head about building a program and throw it out! Don’t get me wrong, you need a plan and you need goals. But, you need to work in the reality you have been given. Celebrate the successes, learn from the failures. Don’t tie yourself to a self-imposed schedule. Be ambitious, but be also realistic. Remember, we are only stewards. We are building, or building on, something that will be there long after we’re gone. Plant those seeds carefully, tend them often, and be prepared to do some weeding and pruning along the way. It’s a very rich and rewarding life. My prayers are with you!