So churches don't pay well, eh?
  • Diocesan Job

    Interesting to see that some diocesan employees are well paid. And note that this is an associate of the Director, who must be paid even more handsomely.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,343
    people who raise money get paid money
  • Mr. Z
    Posts: 159

    The organist of one of the Catholic Cathedrals of a major US city (I don't wish to say which) gets $300k. I think this is appropriate, though the scale of other musicians pales in comparison (too low). I don't wish to invite "hate" in the younger folks parlance of today (haters=the jealous) and I applaud musicians making a good salary, and in certain towns, that money does not make one rich. But, there are a few plum jobs, and perhaps there should be more. We don't seem to mind athletes making truly obscene money, we don't bat an eye, but an organist making 300k is just too much for some.
  • Given a respectable salary to start with, its not so much the pay but what one gets to do (or, Has to do) for it!
    I must say, though, that $300k for a church musician Is rather mind-boggling! The important thing is: what sort of music does he do to earn it.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,835
    Some churches do pay well. Unfortunately in this area, they are not Catholic churches.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,041
    Thanks, Mr. Z., for the explanation that "haters" means "envious people." I'm not always up on what the cool kids are saying, so I thought it just meant "critics": for example, in connection with the YouTube vocal-coaching videos by "Miranda Sings".

    (Oops: I previously credited the explanation to another participant. Sorry for the slip. Gotta read more carefully when using my phone to browse the site!)
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,451
    300k. Dang.

    Although that seems like a lot, it's the kind of figure that helps change perceptions.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I am not paid any figure to make anyone else here jealous, but I appreciated that my last two jobs have paid what was a stretch for small churches. At least for me, I'd rather work at a tiny church willing to pay me X amount than a large church with an only slightly higher salary. Widow's mite and all that...

    I also agree with Francis: if you want a high salary (or appreciation), raise funds. I'm involved in the organ committee at my church and do everything I can to bring in money for the new organ. People notice that and appreciate it.

    For $300k/year, I think I could do just about anything the dean of the cathedral wants me to. "Awesome God" accompanied by mandolin and bongos, why not?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,835
    Five years at $300k, and they could watch me sail off into retirement. :-)
  • francis
    Posts: 10,343
    four years for me
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 752
    I'm uneasy with the idea that Organists/DoM's are entitled to full-time jobs with the trimmings. In an ideal world everyone would have enough money to spend most of their time on one thing they believe to be worthwhile, but that world exists in a parallel universe that has little to do with the economic realities of the average Catholic parish. I have known a number of professional musicians with part-time jobs at Churches who have ensured the delivery of good liturgical music (some of a very high quality indeed). Some of them have been music teachers, others have had portfolio careers. I would go so far as to say that their wider experience and networks, and their freedom from economic dependence on parishes, has improved their work for the Church and the respect in which they are held.

    I suspect the idea that musicians should be full-time employees is encouraged by observation of the various kinds of laity who have increasingly crept onto parish and diocesan payrolls, and by the idea that an expensive full-time post-graduate education is a desirable or necessary qualification for the job. This encourages musicians to think in terms of the career pattern of many of their fellow students in other disciplines, whose degrees are prized by companies with the money to pay good salaries. We need to cut our educational and career cloth to match the monies available.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,835
    I don't agree. If you look at the budgets of good-sized parishes, the money for salaries is there. They freely spend it on everything else, some of which often has questionable value. It seems there is always money for the latest quasi-heretical "formation" program, etc. Working in church music is not the same as entering an order and taking a vow of poverty.

    "The worker deserves his wages," 1 Timothy 5:18.
  • Maureen
    Posts: 671
    If you live in some places (like the good sections of major US cities), $300K may not be very much.
  • Mr. Z
    Posts: 159

    Wow, I thought that kind of thinking went out about the time of Bach or before. I think there is no harder instrument than the pipe organ, at least played at the higher levels, and if a person truly knows voice as well, wow,this job, to me is as hard as what doctors do, when done at the higher levels of performance. Add to that the ever changing landscape of all things liturgical and you have more than a full time job on your hands. If the church wants to have beautiful liturgies, well then it needs musicians. I guess I find that sort of wishful thinking anti art, anti music, anti professional. The church demands professionalism in the clergy and pays for it. And they (Latin Rite especially) have not families to support. I just don't get this line of thought. I guess to your way of thinking, every church musician should also work full time as a college professor. Well, the number of college jobs does not allow this, for one, and I don't see two full time jobs as being very helpful toward what? ...Saving a few bucks. If one does do a passable job for the church, using your formula, who's to say his students might not be shortchanged. I have had such double time profs and I can tell you, you don't get any attention at all from them.

    If we are talking taking the easier route, i.e., the folk music route, you could perhaps make a case for "not full time." But otherwise, wow. Ouch. This is the kind of "what can be so hard about that" attitude we fight with those who don't know music,parish councils and such, and therefore don't understand what it takes to do it well. Someone recently posted the REAL tale of the tape. Here:

    Money news about stressful jobs.

    BTW, I am sure $300k, awarded after a worldwide search represents the extreme top end. Most musicians are paid well below what they are worth. Glad to hear at least one bloke is getting his due.

    I was, a couple years back, asked to stem my hours and drop my one paid section leader/cantor, who was working for $75 bucks a week, including rehearsal. The new pastor cited finances, I left, then quickly he "found" $150k to undertake an unpopular, unnecessary "wreckovation" Vatican II style, which now must be undone to reclaim space. This is thought of as "fiscally responsible." I won't start to whine too much about what this did to my personal financials but it weren't pretty, if you catch my drift.

    But, thanks for your enlightened, enlightening insights all the same. Cough cough.
  • They are not entitled to anything. They can earn the right to a living wage by developing a program that involves a large number of people who participate in the liturgy of music.

    If she directs a choir, that's not enough. But if she:

    Direct an adult choir that grows in size, for example, from 16 to 46.
    Direct and train a children's choir that does more than just sing songs, but learns to read Gregorian Chant and modern notation.
    Organize an string ensemble with volunteer players and rehearse them in things like the Domine Deus from the Vivaldi Gloria with soloist & choir
    Create a music booklet, including composing chant, for regular wednesday evening evening prayer services, rehearses the children's choir and leads it.
    Organize a brass quintet, arranging hymns for them as well as music with the choir.
    Create a funeral choir and lead it.
    Involve the choir in singing at weddings to bring in money for the choir program. you want this all done in a haphazard way, due to the fact the the persom doing it also has to have a full-time job?
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    This seems to harken back to Christ's parable of the workers in the fields. The owner and the workers agreed to a wage and despite one group working much longer and harder than the other, all were paid the same as they had agreed to.

    Going the extra mile and vastly expanding a music program is a marvelous thing to do, but it must be done cooperatively with the pastor. The wise professional will be up front about his/her plans and expectations, and can then accept or reject the offer of the church. Otherwise there is almost bound to be frustration, disagreement, and hard feelings.
  • No, that's not what we are talking about.

    We are talking about why a person might be paid to be a full-time musician at a church when the pastor wants a big program and will pay for it. If they are only doing a choir and that's it...then full-time would not seem to be justified.
  • JDE
    Posts: 586
    And while we're at it, why do the priests get paid? I mean, they only work weekends, right? Anybody could do that. Surely this is not the sort of thing that requires an FTE. Put those men to work digging ditches or toting bales during the week so they earn all the free housing and food.

    As for musicians being paid less than they are worth, that is false; however, they often get less than they think they deserve, or less than someone with an advanced degree and a rare skill set ought to command. Sometimes (especially in Catholic parishes) this happens because they have a bad case of battered organist syndrome, or because there are no other Catholic positions available, or because they are so focused on music that they are unable to earn a living doing anything else.

    I have some sympathy for the argument that part-time music directors are in a more advantageous position, especially in a liturgical sense, if they make enough at their other profession to allow them to walk away from the job if Father (or whoever is pulling the strings) decides he is not wanted. In my case, if not for some dire financial problems, I would probably have been out the door a couple of years ago. But I just can't afford to quit and try to depend on everything else to make ends meet.

    From the most basic standpoint, people are 'worth' the salary they accept. Sadly, it does not surprise me to encounter the attitude that musicians ought to just 'do it for Jesus' because it doesn't look like work to someone who drives a desk for a living. But it does surprise me to encounter it from another musician.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    fnj - given your addition of the "...when the pastor wants a big program and will pay for it..." clause we would seem to be in agreement! The age of miracles is not yet ended.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 752
    I do enjoy poking a hornet’s nest with a stick (so long as I’ve remembered to put on the protective clothing!).

    What I’ve suggested isn’t anti-art. Nor do I argue there shouldn’t be any places where the DoM’s job is full-time on a good salary. Rather, my argument is based on three observations. Firstly, the world and his wife seem to want a place on the parish and diocesan full-time payroll, and most parishes and many dioceses can’t afford this, do so by virtue of poor pay, or really should be spending the money on other things.

    Secondly, the higher education industry has been very successful in persuading students to pay large sums of money for full-time post-graduate education, where the syllabus should either have been covered at undergraduate level, or has traditionally been the subject of continuing, part-time education. In the sphere of Church Music, this meant organ and theory lessons, often in a master/apprentice relationship. The problem with the new model is that it’s very expensive, and more suited to professions that address market demand sufficient to pay for it.

    Thirdly, the part-time model can work. I know this is so because I’ve sung for excellent DoMs who are neither full-time employees of the Church nor university faculty. One, an Anglican, was my music teacher at the equivalent of high school. He was also organist at a local Church where he ran a successful program for adults and children. He took his choir to a different English cathedral every summer, and they were glad to have him. Another, a Catholic, is head of academic music at a sixth-form college (like senior high). He runs one of the better liturgical choirs in central London, a mix of amateurs and professionals who come from miles around to sing. Yet another, for whom I have just begun to sing, has a portfolio of music and music-related work, including DoM at a nearby Catholic Church. This hasn’t prevented him from recruiting new singers and increasing the amount of chant and polyphony that’s sung.

    Few DoMs in the UK have the expectation of full-time employment by a Church, so they manage their education and careers accordingly. It helps that there are plenty of freelance organists who are willing to step in to deputise for paid, mid-week jobs (matches and dispatches). It also helps that they are supported by strong educational institutions outside of the university industry, such as the Royal College of Organists, whose Associate and Fellowship requirements are rigorous and respected. But ultimately it works because they’re dedicated to their art and vocation, and don’t believe the Church owes them a comfortable suburban life.

    (whoops – there goes another nest!)
  • Mr. Z,

    Your comment that a Catholic cathedral musician makes $300,000 is bothersome to me, especially since it is unsubstantiated.
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,577

    Certainly with the number of readers and posters here,
    a scouring of websites in your diocese and in your state
    could turn up a few datapoints.

    Mr Z gave a pointer.

    Here are two more datapoints ... bulletin.pdf

    So, turn over a few rocks and start substantiating already!
  • francis
    Posts: 10,343
    Damn... Where'd all these bees come from?

    300k is a bit outrageous. If it was a DoM, I would feel a bit better about it. I'd love to see the job description of this organist position.

    I agree with Ian in light of the financial demands of institutions these days. There comes a point of no return, and the educational system has arrived. Diplomas are not worth the money they are demanding this day and age. It's sorta like paying 100k for a bicycle just to get around town. At some point people have to wake up and stop mortgaging their lives on an education.

    On the other hand the question begs to be asked "what are reasonable demands and compensation for a church music position?" If the organist was composing and playing a new piece every week, I don't think 300k is unreasonable, but that is a whole nother level of organist if you know what I mean. And I think private patrons would/could/should step up for the sake of art. It would be amazing if church music of excellence got the same notoriety that other forms of fine art attain.

    Doctors and their salaries are another subject. We live in a world where the medical profession has approached a godlike status. Can you compare a church musician to a doctor? Well , to start, one cares for a temporal body and the other tends to an eternal soul. Does that justify a godlike status for the musician? I don't think so. Nor does the doctor deserve one.

    The bottom line is that church musicians should be able to make a just and fair living, even full time. How many people truly understand the discipline and time committment it requires to rehearse and perform music of excellence, especially when the talent pool are mostly amateurs? Numerous of the clergy who have hired me over the years (the few who appreciate the importance of excellent music) don't even realize what it takes in terms of time, talent, dedication and knowledge to execute the requirements. Musicians are in general, misunderstood and underpaid. That is true for the lot of them, but in particular, church musicians.

    Starving Artist. Who coined that term?

    So where does this all lead? Heaven knows. But to those who can find a full time job in church music (especially in the Catholic Church) and balance all the spinning plates to maintain it and accentuate the beauty of the liturgy, well, more power to you.

    In the end, is there a monetary value that can be placed upon the liturgy and the due that is given to God in worship? Perhaps the Levitical order would be a good springboard. Does anyone know the history on them?
  • Ian, the UK is a totally different set up than here...which is why so many UK top church musicians move to the US, so your view are very interesting, but readers must understand that very, very few church musicians in the UK get paid...

    So Ian, why is that?
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,577
    compare a church musician to a doctor?

    No. The priests are more like the doctors.

    Given the stories sprinkled throughout this Forum some would argue that ...
    the musicians are more like the Candy Stripers
    ("Can I fluff your pillow for you?" "That would be nice; you make my time here so much more enjoyable.")
    or maybe the Nurses
    ("I want that patient prepped stat." "Yes doctor.")
    or at best the Nurse Practicioners
    ("Given the symptoms, do you concur that ..." "No, it would be better to ...").

  • Mr. Z
    Posts: 159

    I don't know why the 300k bothers people - I know it does - but why? If this would perhaps represent the very top end or the profession in an expensive city? Why does the $10 million a year for a pitcher not bother too many? $ 5 mil for a CEO, or $1mil for a football coach bother anybody? A half million for a surgeon? I am not going to say where I found this info out, but it came from a reliable source. So, believe it or choose not to, I did not make it up.

    People talk about our profession, whichever role you play in that, as sort of wrapped in an automatic altruism and volunteerism, and precludes, almost by necessity, a decent family life. Why do some not support their own profession? Just makes me wonder. We don't harp about people who don't support the church adequately, yet we want to restrict, unnaturally so, and un-Biblically so, the musician. We are too happy with the Mozart's of the world in pauper's graves. What about musician's families who are stressed to the point of divorce? I guess that is just par for the course. What about the family that wants to follow Church teaching about having a large family. So on and on.

    Yes , we can find exeptional types with the unusually broad range of skill sets that can make things work in almost any situation, but those folks are rare and I don't think should be seen as the norm to which all others must be measured, and still, what kind of family life do some of these folks have? I mean, Bach made it work, almost the exception that proves the rule.
  • Can anyone anywhere verify that any Catholic Cathedral musician anywhere is paid over $100,000?

    If there is a crumb of truth to the $300,000 claim, more than one person would know.

    Trinity Church, NYC, the richest church in the US, it is said, offered $125,000 a year to a British organist who then backed out, as that would not pay sufficiently for he and his family to live in NYC.

    $125,000 in NYC would be equivalent to about $35-40,000 in a medium to large size US city. Place is WAY expensive.
  • Isn't St. Thomas 5th Avenue richer? What does John Scott get there, I wonder?
  • Mr. Z
    Posts: 159
    Hello everyone,

    It is always comforting to know, bastion of civility and grace that this site truly is, that one can bring up any subject and rest assured that the discussion will remain civil and measured.. Well, one can dream.

    The reason why I was purposely non specific about some of the particulars surrounding the job and salary I mentioned was I did not want this too turn into a discussion about what so and so makes and why. (Which is, to me, tacky- it would also compromise my position of receiver of information I am pretty sure is not to be broadly disseminated). I wanted this to be about the ideas themselves, soley. My input was not about trying to provoke, (people at least, though perhaps provoke discussion). It is tacky to divulge peoples' pay, in the main (don't you all think? Would you feel better if I "named names?" I would hope not), though it seems that this is irresistable for some.

    It is, though, good to know about what the top end really is.( I really don't know what he top end is - not an expert at all here.) I will say, without wanting to "up the ante" that I would truly appreciate "some" here stepping away from more insinuations. Please, let us all try to live up to this illustrious site's better reputation.

    You are on to something, FMNJ, when you say that the Brit organist did not want to work for the figure you brought up. . Maybe he could get a dumpy place in Queens and ride the subway, I can hear (almost) some of you say.

    I really just never knew how sticky the subject of money could be on this site, presidio of erudition and well reasoned opinion that this place certainly is.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,343
    Mr Z

    Talking peoples specific salary is just none of anyone's business.
  • Mr. Z
    Posts: 159
    Exactly. Nobody's business.
  • Mr. Z
    Posts: 159
    Side bar.

    The Novus Ordo Mass and its "invitation," the opening for less difficult music styles to become main fare for our churches, has - though perhaps not totally be design - an element of "anti-elitism" attached to it and so by extension, a diminishing of the value for the requisite skill set to provide a more, shall we say, elevated (elevating?) service by CMAA standards. Thus, with less erudition required, the pay grade is diminished. No brain surgery here. Someone once said 'if you want to find the root cause, follow the money trail.' I won't be as cynical as to suggest that in the church money is the prime motivator, but it does come into play somewhat. Maybe more than I would want to allow for, normally speaking.

    A few years ago, while still a dedicated slave to the Vat II liturgical mentality (though always highly suspect of its fruits and by products, even then) I remember visiting with a group of evangelical friends who had another friend visiting from the another big city, and this young woman was the daughter of pre Vat ll (trained, classicist) musician, previously well stationed I gathered, and the perspective was eye opening, This type of musician I had heard about but did not actually know any, and would have been a somewhat dinosaur to me at the time, and it wass this type of musician who had been, en masse, totally and unceremoniously, cast aside as part of all this liturgical "renewal." The pain in the young woman's face and voice was palpable when she related the injustice and shortsightedness of the Church then. I also knew then that I was speaking with a well educated young Catholic who actually knew what she was talking about concerning these issues, another rarity, and she seemed to feel the issue was far from settled. So eye opening, disconcerting, and yet refreshing as it hinted at a church I longed to know again, or perhaps for the first time.

    Well, things are not overall so much better now, but at least these "cast aside" musicians can see some light at the end of the tunnel, and by and large, the same folks willing to hire this kind of musician are also the ones who can appreciate what he/she is worth, and they, from what I have seen, do attempt to provide some sort of real salary. I don't want to see that positive trend undermined, especially here, and I am quite sure most would agree. So, again, this "side bar" has been some sort of attempt to put forth the idea that some of this promotion of more questionable music has some financial angle attached to it, however ill conceived or however much it backfires. There is also the "anti-intellectual" aspect. The victory to be won is in educating the children, challenging them, and rescuing them from the clutches of so called "liturgists" and liturgical "reeducation camps," i.e., liturgy conferences and Catichetical conferences. We need to start our own, and start shifting the focus towards the children.
  • Speaking of those whom Mr Z speaks of as having been unceremoniously cast aside: I remember it being reported that at the founding meeting of the NPM, so shameless was the zealous and bitter determination of the harbingers of change that there were actually fisticuffs on the convention floor between the guitar wielding musical iconoclasts and the real church musicians and choirmasters who had hoped that 'now we will have beautiful solemn high masses in English like the Anglicans'. We all know that it was the liturgical Robespierres who prevailed.

    As for pay: it should be a self-evident necessity for the Church to retain qualified liturgical musicians to provide liturgically appropriate music for her celebration of the Holy Mysteries. Whether necessarily part-time or ideally full-time, scholar-artists should be given a living in order that they may devote themselves to seeing that fitting music is fittingly chosen, taught, prepared and performed before the Lord for his glory and the aedification (not the entertainment) of his people.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 752

    A flip response would be that we’re stingy with our money. There’s some truth in that, to the extent that our institutional willingness to pay for appropriately skilled musicians is often limited. This isn’t restricted to Church musicians – I know a number of British chorus masters who have spent part of their career in the US, where their skills tend to be better rewarded than at home. I hazard a guess that this is partly a legacy of the time when music was prized as a gentle social accomplishment. The problem is exacerbated in the Church by two historical legacies: the popularity of the Low Mass and the post-Conciliar dumbing-down of liturgy and music both tend to devalue the skills of properly trained organists, choral directors and singers. The consequence of this is that significant numbers of Catholic parishes don’t pay their musicians anything, ad wouldn’t dream of ever doing so (weddings and funerals are no exception, as the money for these doesn’t come from parish funds). The consequence is all too often not to be born.

    On the up side, there is a tradition of excellence, centred on institutions such as Westminster Cathedral and the Brompton Oratory and reflected in other places, that is recognised in payments to DoMs, organists and sometimes singers. So, too, the proximity of the Anglican choral tradition is an encouragement (there is, in fact, much movement of musicians between the two).

    The net effect is that paid Catholic DoM jobs tend to be part-time, and are often not as well paid as their Anglican equivalents. It’s no surprise, then, that professional Catholic Church musicians often go to two churches on a Sunday: one for work and one for Mass. Catholic stinginess aside, the portfolio career is a recognised work-pattern for British musicians. Outside of the BBC ensembles, few musicians are salaried as such, and there’s a lot to be said for the breadth of experience and independence that this work-pattern gives a Church musician. Of course, it helps that the post-graduate degree mills haven’t got an expensive stranglehold on church music here.

    I guess, as so often, that the truth lies somewhere between the extremes. I admire the American spirit of enterprise and responsibility that makes proper funding of music more likely than over here (and the tax regime that encourages it), and heartily approve of centres of excellence that can afford full-time DoMs to foster our musical-liturgical heritage. However, I’m cautious about the potential burden on other parishes and dioceses of salaried professionalisation, especially when its cost is inflated by the pernicious influence of the liturgical-academic complex; and I’d like Church musicians to think about the positive benefits of the portfolio career.



    BTW – do you have anything to do with the French National Church in San Francisco? I went to Mass there the other year and liked the music.
  • No, not associated with that church, but I too have heard very good things about the program there.
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,577
  • francis
    Posts: 10,343
    Music and Art suffers. The world has rejected it along with the Catholic Faith.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,343

    Don't underestimate the value of music and your services.

    The Levites and priests are supposed to work arm in arm (it just happens that the priesthood (and I speak in generalities) has divorced itself from their true mate (music married to liturgy) and have been chasing after a substitute. That is why we have scandal. Their Bride IS the church (and ultimately the liturgy) but she is not being 'bedecked' as such)

    Main Entry: be·deck
    Pronunciation: \bi-ˈdek, bē-\
    Function: transitive verb
    Date: 1565
    1 : to clothe with finery : deck
    2 : decorate 2
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 752

    Thanks. I'd rather be in San Francisco (it's raining, it's early in the morning and the trains to London are badly delayed).