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Thread: Catholic organist compensation

  1. #46
    Captain of Water Music
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    Quote Originally Posted by kas View Post
    Hi,

    Just another update relative to compensation. I casually inquired about my recent $1 raise, and heard back from my priest that the church receives specific Diocesan guidelines as to pay increases. If this is indeed the case, I had no idea. I just assumed the compensation rates were determined by the church council and priest.
    Just wondering Kas whether your Diocesan guidelines are accessible by the organists, or are they available only to the parish priests?

  2. #47
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    The Royal College of Organists has this salary table to offer as a guideline abroad.

    Here in the US, the American Guild of Organists (which I am a member) has this printed guide:

    2014 Salary Guide.pdf

    Locally, it is the individual parish that sets up the pay scale. The diocese may indeed have guidelines but those are probably the bare minimum that any parish should offer.

    My very first salaried organist position paid $275 (USD) per month, (2 services, 1 choir) and that was in 1965!!

    The keyword here is guidelines. I'm fairly certain those guidelines are not Canon Law in the RC church; the priest seems to think they are, which is probably not the case.

    In my own parish (Lutheran) it's the church council who sets pay scales - not the pastor or synod. I consistently geta 4% raise every year - I am a salaried employee, but there are no benefits (medical, sick leave, vacation). Our current choir director is also an accomplished organist, so when I need time off, he plays. When he needs time off, I direct the choirs. In that manner our salaries stay constant month to month, so it's like having paid vacation and sick leave.

    I don't need the medical as I am on Medicare in the US.

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  4. #48
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    Interesting. Thanks for additional thoughts on the matter. I really do wonder about these 'Diocesan guidelines that govern compensation' that was mentioned to me. I don't quite know how to take that. I have done research on it and can't find a thing. My suspicion is that it is ultimately up to the church council and priest, but I really have no idea. I guess I'll find out in July when the new fiscal year starts. Maybe I'll actually get another dollar increase!

  5. #49
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Again, the keyword is "guidelines" that govern compensions (if that actually exists) .. maybe a really rough outline of various paid parish positions and what might be suggested, merely as a starting point (?).

    In my present parish we have only 5 paid positions, Pastor, Executice Assistant, Parish Secretary, Sr. Organist, Choir Director, Custodian. All but one are salaried positions. The pay rates are approved each year by acceptance of the annual church budget by majority congregational vote. The increase is determined by a parish financial committee, and then approved by the church council before it goes for a congregational vote each December.

    In the RC parishes locally, it's the Priest who determines the staff pay rates ... I don't think RC parishes have congregational councils, although they may have various committees. In a select few, they have a Music Director, who has been given an annual line item in the church budget for expenses related to parish music.

    I sincerely do hope, and pray, that your efforts are paid for consistent to other area organists salaries. One dollar a year would, to me, be an insult.

  6. #50
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    Hi Krummhorn,

    Thanks again for a reply to my thread on compensation. We do have a parish council, but it almost seems that the people on it are hand selected - the membership never really changes and I don't ever recall seeing anything in the bulletin to the effect of....if anyone is interested in attending meetings or joining....etc. Noone ever said the Catholic church is a democracy I suppose. As to these 'diocesan guidelines' I was told about, I have done research and can't find a thing about it. I understand completely your thoughts on a dollar increase being an insult. I am trying hard NOT to feel that way, since I truly do enjoy playing and keep telling myself that it is a music ministry and a chance to pay our Lord back for all that He has given me. So I vacillate relative to this issue. Sometimes it really bothers me, other times not. I think my priest probably feels that he has reached the upper end of how much he wants to pay (currently $55 per Mass) and yet feels that he has to continue to provide some increase. The emphasis in the church is on giving your "time, talent and treasure" and so that is certainly a factor. He often compliments the CCD teachers, etc. for giving of themselves (they are not paid). I guess basically it "is what it is". Thanks so much for your concern. I really appreciate that! We'll see how things go in a few months when the new fiscal year comes along.
    Last edited by kas; May-04-2015 at 00:42.

  7. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by kas View Post
    Hi Krummhorn,

    I am trying hard NOT to feel that way, since I truly do enjoy playing and keep telling myself that it is a music ministry and a chance to pay our Lord back for all that He has given me. So I vacillate relative to this issue. The emphasis in the church is on giving your "time, talent and treasure" and so that is certainly a factor.
    You keep telling yourself that while those at the top are 'sick with power' (Pope's words). It certainly makes me sick to think of all the little old ladies tipping up cash out of their limited funds each week and musicians doing it for bugger all. Though, to be fair, the Vatican certainly deals in treasure.

    Best wishes,
    Padster

  8. #52
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kas View Post
    . . . The emphasis in the church is on giving your "time, talent and treasure" and so that is certainly a factor. He often compliments the CCD teachers, etc. for giving of themselves (they are not paid). I guess basically it "is what it is". Thanks so much for your concern. I really appreciate that! We'll see how things go in a few months when the new fiscal year comes along.
    I've heard that many times ... but the organist, choral director, are worship leaders - just as the priest is. I'm sure the priest is being compensated for his work and has a pension program with the diocese. You are performing a service for your parish - your time preparing for the weekend Mass services needs to be fairly compensated. Music does not grow on trees - we organists have to pay for it in one way or another. During my first 30 years as an organist I bought everything that I own today. I just cataloged all of my physical library in an excel spreadsheet - composition title, composer, arranger, publisher and name of collection (if not individual sheet music) if appears in. I have over 4,250 titles. My digital library (mostly from IMSLP) contains about 3,700 titles and keeps growing each week.

    I'm also thinking that the CCD teachers are provided with all their teaching material either by the parish and/or the diocese. The teaching syllabus is already pre-defined for them ... whereas we organists must spend time selecting appropriate music for the liturgical season and festivals, and then practice them, and then perform them possibly in front of a full house of parishioners.

    In the USA we have a salary guide that was created by the American Guild of Organists. The page can be viewed here. There is a time requirements worksheet and a PDF of the Guild's suggested salary rates, sorted by education and playing certificates (if any).

    Of course the really rural churches can't possible meet these rates, so some compensation has to be taken into account.

    The going rate here in the larger RC parishes is between $55 - $75 (USD) per mass. Much lower than the protestant churches.
    Kh ~~.
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  9. #53
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    Excellent points and certainly well taken. I highly doubt if my priest really has any idea how much time I actually put into preparation. I was once told by my music director when this whole compensation issue came up that I would not need to prepare prelude music to the extent that I do...or even at all....that really the most important thing is playing the Mass itself. That viewpoint just totally goes against everything that makes me a musician, and also having been a Protestant for many years before converting to RC, the organ prelude / postlude, etc. is given greater emphasis than in our church. Organist music is not even listed in the weekly bulletin in any Catholic church I've ever been in. I agree completely with all your thoughts, but I think it's a case of either live with the situation or decide to not play anymore, which would totally put my church in a real bind since I am the only person available to play every Sunday. We have other organists (much less qualified than myself...not bragging, but simply true) that cover the Saturday Masses. One other lady can fill in for me some of the time when I'm away. I would never want to stop playing, but have considered cutting back on it...not doing every Sunday. The nice part of all this is that I have no contract and so can take off as much as I want. I'm really under no obligations at all, so I guess that helps to compensate for the sub-standard pay. I travel fairly frequently, and so I simply tell my director I will be away for whatever number of services it winds up being, and done. If they don't find someone to cover, that's not my problem. So this level of flexibility is worth something as well. What has bothered me even more sometimes than the pay issue is how my director has approached me already while I'm playing prelude music and starts to ask questions about something having to do with the service, etc. It has happened several times already. A few years back I told him that I do not want to be asked anything while I am busy playing, and yet it happened again just the other week. I just consider that sort of thing to be inconsiderate. Then of course there is the choir that comes in near the end of the prelude and sometimes starts talking among themselves. I've addressed that also but it still continues from time to time, so it's gotten to the point where no matter how many pieces I am playing, I plan to do the piece that requires the least concentration as the last one, that way if choir members start conversing it won't throw me off as much as if I'm playing something where I really need to focus on fingering and pedaling. Again...they don't quite 'get it'. This is probably a function mostly of my not working with the choir at all...I simply play and accompany them.

    Based on the going rate you mention, at least I'm in there...on the bottom end of the range! Thanks again.
    Last edited by kas; May-06-2015 at 04:44.

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  11. #54
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    Just a quick update....with the new fiscal year my compensation went from $55 per Mass to $56.50, leading me to once again believe that my priest would really rather not continue to provide any increases but probably feels that he has to. What I don't understand is that the new budget provides for nearly 29% increase in the total lay employee salary amount (divided among 7 people...I don't even know who they are), and yet my increase comes to around 2.75%. Something does not seem to add up. I average around 3k per year, and yet the total budgeted amount for lay employee salary for this coming year is close to 50k.

  12. #55
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    An update on my situation.

    The organ loft at 11am Mass continues to resemble a social club. There is absolutely no space for quiet reflection and it seems that certain people find my preludes a nuisance. But it doesn't matter. I have 'seen the light'. I have finally realised that the Vatican 2 cafe culture is now deeply ingrained in Catholicism and is here to stay. And the Church just loves rotten art and rotten music!. And it doesn't need the likes of me with all my Bach pieces and lofty ambitions for high art. In fact, parishioners now baulk at even the slightest trace of plainchant or four-part harmony. In my church, we are heading deeper into 'piano song' territory. They don't need me for that, they need a pianist. My talent is being usurped. I am 'over-qualified'. I trained to acquire abilities I will never fully put to use. And it was a very hard and difficult training. And a pointless one.

    Church musicians are treated like sh*t. That's why no serious musician wants anything to do with church. Sadly, in most cases you end up pissing on your art. You end up playing utter dross just to please others. And then you think to yourself: do I really want this?

    It's been a long time coming. Like David Cameron I have flip-flopped so many times. But now, at last, I quit.

    Best wishes,
    Padster

    Oh, by the way, after MUCH persistence on my part I got the key to church, though the person who gave me the master key was uncertain whether he should give it to me at first! Anyway, I got to practice when I wanted and even made a few recordings of myself. But then I wondered WHY I was practicing because the results were totally wasted on the parishioners. They want simple ear-ticklers, not Bach, and they would much prefer it if I played hymns before Mass. Not hymn-preludes, HYMNS! I tried a hymn-prelude once. It was on that eternally dull yet much loved hymn 'I Watch The Sunrise'. I was told sternly by someone in the choir that he was unable to sing along to it! Things were made worse by the fact that the prelude was my own composition, with variations to boot. So I was doubly crushed.

    The novelty of having a key to the church has already worn off.

    Amateurs have killed it for us. Parishioners expect trained musicians to be like the amateurs.
    Last edited by Padster; Jun-01-2016 at 18:00.

  13. #56
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    Dear Padster,

    So sorry to hear of all the discomfort in the parish. At least you do have a key and can have a practice instrument at your disposal. I often, during my practice sessions, play works that I would never ever play as part of service music (preludes, offertory, communion or postlude) but I continue to play them as these pieces please me to the fullest, and it keeps my skill level up to par at the same time.

    It's good that you are making recordings too .. those will become a legacy memory in later years for you.

    Not all organists are treated in this same manner as you have experienced. I landed a church position 34 years ago (a position I still hold to this day) where they absolutely love everything and anything I play. The organ is smaller (9 ranks) but speaks well into the nave which seats 354 at most. I have done organ concerts in the past to present those kinds of organ works that are not suitable for worship service music due to time constraints and such.

    Lars

  14. #57
    Captain of Water Music JONESEY's Avatar
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    Padster,
    I've been away from the forum for some time and have just caught up on this thread.
    Sounds like you've been really badly treated - I, like Lars have found somewhere I'm really happy, and appreciated for the music I bring.
    There are still the annoyances of people talking through the Prelude / Postlude music, but I wonder if I'm my own worst enemy before the Service by playing quietly - perhaps I'll pull a few more stops out and see if they pay attention some more.

    Keep with it, when you find somewhere they appreciate you, you'll be back on form.

    Incidentally, where are your recordings?, anything we can listen to?

    Cheers,
    Jonesey.
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  15. #58
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    Thanks for your input.

    I don't wish to continue with the organ, or with church for that matter. My music is wasted in church, totally wasted. I can't concentrate with the yakking and socialising going on in the organ loft. They just talk right over me like I am some sort of musical wallpaper merchant. I have tried to stick with the situation it but it is no use, I am flogging a dead horse.

    I am kicking myself for choosing the organ as my instrument. I should have chosen something more versatile, practical and relatively inexpensive, like the guitar. That was my own foolish fault. Instead I chose an instrument which is inextricably linked to churches. But as I have said before, these same churches have taken and taken and haven't given ANYTHING back. Personally, my church has never offered ONE SINGLE PENNY to help fund my organ lessons, books and shoes. It does not recognise my musical qualifications and operates a 'level playing field' policy in which I must wait in line with rank amateurs for paid work such as funerals (I don't get paid for Sundays). Such actions **** all over my diploma. (I am an ALCM). As well as the dire situation at church, my home organ (Hammond Super-CX 3000) is destined for the scrapheap and I don't have the funds to replace it. I'll probably ditch the organ completely as an instrument and switch to the piano instead (I have a Steinway upright).

    I have had it with church. The Catholic Church's standard of music is diabolical now, and thanks to Vatican II, churches are more like cafeterias than places of worship.

    I have to play for a wedding next Saturday but after that I'm finished.

    Best wishes,
    Padster

  16. #59
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    Sorry to read that you're so disillusioned Padster, but can't help wondering why you haven't applied for posts in churches of a different denomination. However, I'm sure you are not alone in your experiences. Perhaps in the future you could deputise when and where needed and that would help cover the costs you mention. Your skills would probably also be more valued than they have seemed to be. Good wishes for the future, whatever path you choose to tread.

  17. #60
    Commander, Assistant Conductor Albert's Avatar
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    I refuse to even consider getting involved in the music program at my RC church. I spent 35 or 40 years learning about 25% of what I really want to learn, but made my living as an accountant. I was volunteer playing the anticipatory mass at my church - that's the mass we go to anyway and attendance is only 25 - 30. For one 6 month period we had a priest who knew what music was, and the church rented my elderly but serviceable JC Hallman electronic. A few weeks after he left, I took the organ back. The Sunday Glory and Praise Crowd wandered off and bought a "Rodgers" (read Roland) electric piano without even the courtesy of speaking to me about it. The "music director" is a church family of long standing, and had, when younger, a not bad soprano voice. That makes her the "expert" in music, I guess.

    I joined the CMAA and rejoined the RCCO recently. My first year's fees were in effect paid by a local Anglican church who offered up front $150 for a wedding on their Hammond C3. I bought some music for myself from Michael's Music Service in North Carolina. I play at home on my 26 stop AGO console Johannus - the smallest one with AGO pedal - and my wife surfs the web while I play.

    Believe me, I feel all the hurt coming in these posts. My first two years at the organ were with a choir director who was the Director of the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps Band. He is in the Canadian encyclopedia of music. Those were really the only two years when the music was acceptable and likable and liturgical. Oh, yeah - that was 1965 - 1967. Vatican 2 took over in 1968, a year after I returned to Canada from West Germany where I had been posted.

    I sound bitter, and I am. If you want to hear what the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops think is suitable music for a mass, go to the CCCB web site and play the Gloria from Mass A.

    God bless us all; perhaps the great cathedral we go to after life has a small section for those of us who believe that liturgical music is not the trash promoted today.

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