View Full Version : Potential organist-crisis in Denmark?

Sep-06-2005, 00:25

I've heard that in a few years, many danish organists will be retired, without enough young organ players to take their place - simply because not enough people are being educated, not enough young people show interest in the pipe organ music world. Is there something to this? That would be sad, although I'm thinking about going that way myself, and it would open op for job-possibilities, obviously...

Thomas Dressler
Sep-06-2005, 07:27
There is also a shortage of organists here in parts of the USA. Some places seem to have too many organists, like Boston, but where I work, in New Jersey, there are not enough. One good effect of this is that at least in the larger churches, salaries have gone up because they have a hard time finding well trained and educated organists. So while sometimes I feel like a member of a dying breed, on the other hand, I can piece together enough money to get by just by working as a musician. Now don't get the wrong idea, I'm not getting rich, but I can live. For many years I was pretty poor because it was too difficult to get a well paying church job.

I don't know what the jobs are like in Denmark, but I can say that if you were here in the USA, and you asked me about becoming an organist, my advice would be that it is a difficult life. You should ask yourself if you could see yourself doing anything else. If the answer is yes, do the other thing. Those of us who make a living as organists (here, anyhow) are mostly people who just can't see ourselves doing anything else. It takes a lot of determination, patience, and practice to become good enough to compete successfully for a well paying job.

Besides that, the organ itself is in danger of becoming a rare instrument because of the proliferation of electronic substitute instruments. It takes strong willed and determined (and well educated) people to fight to keep our instrument alive. There are still lots of pipe organs, but electronic music, computers, etc have brought about a group of people who don't even understand why the organ might be an important instrument. So our job as organists is more difficult than it used to be.

I don't know if this advice is helpful for you in Denmark, but this is the advice I would give here.

Thomas Dressler

Sep-08-2006, 00:19
Re: Potential organist shortages

I echo Thomas' concerns. Here in the Western United States, we also have the similar problem that he describes having in his part of this country. In my own church, I have attempted to garner interest among the musical youth to take an interest in being a church musician. I suppose none of them see the value of what we in the business have seen for many years.

If I hadn't become an organist, I would have missed out on lots of exciting times having played some very fine organs in this country and in Europe. I love what I do as an organist, and I too, can't see myself doing anything else. I truly enjoy every minute of my church organist career, and will continue playing as long as I can, at least until Mr. Arthur Itis comes knocking and asks me to turn in my organ shoes.

I hope, in the next few years, of visiting Denmark (I have a cousin in Copenhagen) and would like to see and play some of the very fine organs in various churches there.

Here, too, the organ is slowly becoming a distinct worship instrument. Many churches have replaced the traditional organ with twangy electric guitars, electronic keyboards, over-powered amps blaring the rock music so loud as to deafen people, not to mention the flashing strobe lights and video screens in the background.

Fortunately and thankfully, my church has a long tradition of highly liturgical worship services, and the organ is here to stay. Proud to say, we have a true all pipe organ, albeit only 9 rks, but still the real thing. We hope to enlargen it in the next couple years - my organ technician is also a reputable pipe organ builder in this part of the country.

Lars - Tucson, AZ USA

Dec-20-2006, 03:04
The organ builder who maintains my pipe organ tells me that the "praise band" craze is starting to die down. More churches are interested in organ music again.

Dec-20-2006, 04:43
AllanP ...

This is great news to hear ... now if we can just convince our young people that our work has a rewarding future.

Jan-10-2007, 23:11
I think that the organ is quite a hard instrument to "get by" here in Denmark - I have never seen anyone offer beginner organ lessons save for the church music schools - but that might be because of my location. As a 23 year old studying organ music I am at the very very yong end of the scale among the organ students. Most are elder (40+, up to 60) when they start, because they want something else to do... Want to help out in their local churches or just have a interest in organs.

It is true that there are very many organist jobs free, also good organist jobs that can support a living, but I do not see churches around here starting to get guitars and band - rather taped music (ugh).

not that it will matter in a few years with the amount of churchgoers we have here...

Rune Vejby
Jan-11-2007, 00:59
It is definately becoming a problem here in Denmark.... My piano/organ/composition teacher urged me to begin an organist education even though I had only played the organ a few times at the time. But at one point I was thinking about applying for a position in a small church in the country - as a supplementary job beside my studies. But I must admit that I am not really drawn by the organ the same way as by the piano...

Apr-24-2007, 03:24
Rune - do organists in Denmark's churches get paid a living? I know in Australia, unless you're associated with one of the capital city cathedrals, most organists teach music and have other jobs, just to survive.

By the way, I've been to Copenhagen and Odense ... both wonderful cities in your beautiful country.

Apr-24-2007, 09:19
Organists in Denmark do get paid a living - but there are many ways to be employed.
It starts with a "honorarløn" pay, where you get paid for each thing seperately, and goes up to a 50% job, 60%, 70%, 85% - and then there is 100%. There is a point system where all services and things you have to do are worth a certain amount of points, who are then added up and make up a certain percentage - or 100%. For example, a normal service is 3 points, and a wedding is one point, a concert is 30 points, and a childrens choir is 120 points. (100% are 851 + points)

Then there is a list with numbers that denote your income, depending on what "lønramme" you are in - for a wholly new organist who has never worked before and is classified in the lowest "lønramme" and has a 100% job, this number is 3.301 USD (Before Taxes). Then there are a few extra payments that do not matter that much, but make up ca. 7235 USD yearly - before taxes. So imagine if you only have a 50% job, you would be paid ca. 1800 USD before taxes (They are minimum 40%). If you, however, are lucky and get a job in a higher "lønramme" and have worked as an organist for many years, you could get 4,652 USD per month. (Still before taxes). Of course, this only applies to the "Middle Class" of organists, called PO (Preliminary Organists). There are also those, who have gone all the way and are paid more - and those who have less and usually do not have full-time jobs. It is often a really good job being organist in Denmark, but well, the problem is that nobody is interested in Organs - they are not visible, but hidden deep in the churches with their organist hidden almost inside the organ, well maybe not but at least this organist is not spreading the message :-)


Simon Jansfort
Apr-25-2007, 11:36
Yep, there is indeed a very real organist shortage in Denmark. And that's good for me, indeed. Not for the churches unfortunatly.

I just applied for a 70 % position a mere 3 days ago. It's two churches together, so a lot of the "points" that Danmakine is talking about is worked up during sundays two services. Then there is about 50 weddings/funerals in the two churches combined per year. And then a childrens choir.

This would pay me, a beginner, who has only been working for just about 1½ year - roughly 2200 USD per month before taxes. Now this is a whopping income to sit in a chuch and play some rather lovely music (if you make it lovely!).

Now I study what we in Denmark (as the only place) call "Rythmic Piano" and I intend on applying for consevatory on this. This is just another quality I have that will help me in the churches, because they love to get some more "rythmic" music into the church. Or at least what THEY call rythmic. It's not like jazz or funk, which I play a lot, no it's more like Gospel and Sprituals - which are quite easy to play so that's just dandy! :D

So, to sum up: I'm most likely the only organist who has applied for this position, at least I'm hoping so, and this will be a great income for me along with my studies.


Mar-02-2014, 04:16
I thinking about getting back into Church Music after a long hiatus.....What would be a good start in building up the proper repertoire so I don't sound like a fool.....I'm Catholic so I would be more comfortable in a Catholic setting.