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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

In Defense of Church Musicians

Most of my posts of late have been record reviews, but I think it's time that I sound off about something that's been on my mind for some time. I will try to be diplomatic, but I will also be honest.

This post concerns the plight of those who make their living or a part of their living in churches. Let me begin by saying that I hold a Master's degree in sacred music and have been a professional church musician for thirty of my forty-four years, so I speak with some experience.

Many college students depend on their church gigs for extra income while they are in school. While they do these jobs they are expected to give up their entire Sunday for some 8.50 an hour on the average. Most paid section leaders get 25-30 dollars a call for a two and a half hour rehearsal on Wednesdays and two , often three services with obligatory 45 minute warm ups for EACH service. This comes out to something like 7 or so bucks an hour. Hardly a worthy wage for people with one of the most rarefied skill sets on the planet.

Add in that they are expected to learn difficult and complicated solos, evangelist roles and the like for special concerts an holy days for an "extra call," another $25. Yeah right.

Then there are the egos of the often less than competent and abusive choir masters, the self righteous clergy, and the blatant and pervasive homophobia in many churches. (Face it girls, most of you tenor section is gay, get over it.)

This doesn't come close to addressing the crappy music that we are forced to sing week after week except in the highest of smells and bells Anglican parishes. Ugh.

A year or so ago, I went on my last (and I mean it) cathedral tour of the UK with a prominent church in Dallas. Seven years of faithful service did not exempt me from the gossip of incompetent co-workers (colleagues is by no means a fitting term) or the condescension of the bitchy queen choir administrator whose qualifications can't hold a candle to mine. After that trip I decided that I was done. And now I rarely if ever don a a cassock and surplice.

In a way this is a shame, because I do have a deep sense of gratitude for the gift of music that was bestowed upon me by the creator. But, I have no intention of serving his undereducated and incompetent minions with his gift. Sitting in the congregation and having the people around me be uplifted by what I have to offer in the hymns is all this ego needs.

To my friends who still feel called to serve in choirs, I support you and pray for your success. But until further notice, I am taking a stand for those who have to work like slaves to edify the senators and business execs who make up the congregations rich enough to pay their convenience store wages to gain bragging rights at the country club every Sunday at the buffet. You don't deserve our talents and your spirituality is a pile of dog shit.

1 comment:

Hildigunnur said...

Hey, well said! The situation in the churches in our poor harrowed country (at the moment) is just a bit better, at least I don't think there's much homophobia, but there definitely are some irritating clergypersons and maybe even worse congregation boards.