Compensation for church pianist : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

I was just hired last year as church pianist. We also have an organist. What do you feel is proper compensation for the following:

Playing the piano for two Sunday morning church services (both services identical), with one hour between each service and also attending Wednesday night chancel choir practice (which lasts 2 hours). I must attened several other performances (with the choir)at other locations throughout the year. My location is SC.

I'd appreciate hearing what other pianists get for their service, no matter their location.

-- Melissa A. Frederick (, January 08, 2003


I had pretty much the same duties at a methodist church for 3 years and got paid $75 a week. I also got a little extra for cantatas and extra performances.

-- Jason (, January 08, 2003.

M: Just to give you another perspective. I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (otherwise known as the Mormon's). Our pianists and organists all work for FREE! (As do most of the people within our church.) We think of church as a charitable organization and, for the most part, do not expect to be paid for our services. (Obviously, we have to pay for things like repairs, new buidlings, land etc.)

Just to give you something to chew on.


-- freddie (, January 14, 2003.

When you say that you were hired, I assume it is not at a church you had already been attending? (perhaps that's a wrong assumption). I play the piano for the church I have attended for 10 years, and get (nor expect) no pay, just as there is no pay for Sunday School teachers, nursery workers, etc. Different churches do this different ways, but I feel that anyone who attends a church should be willing to serve from the heart in some capacity, so piano is one way I can use my abilities in service to my church. On the other hand, if a church has no qualified pianists within their own congregation, then I would say the hourly rate should be at least $30, which doesn't even factor in the time spent at home practicing for the services.

-- annie (, January 15, 2003.

I recently filled in for the regular pianist at a local church, and was paid $45 for one service.

-- Lynn Caldwell (, January 23, 2003.

I think of a lot of it depends on whether or not you were hired. I've been playing in my church for around 5 years. I love it, however because I grew up in the church and began playing the piano, payment has never been, and probably never will be, an issue. I do however get a "bonus" each year at christmas which is nice. I would suggest talking with them about it. Do they pay the other instrumentalists? When I play at other churches I am generally paid around $50-75 for the service. These is just what I've experienced. Hope you get it figured out!

-- Jen Carley (, April 20, 2003.

It does depend upon the church, it doesn't necessarily depend upon whether you attend or not. Some churches (I am most familiar with the Roman Catholic tradition) hire an accompanist for all services, then have the singers volunteer, or vice versa. The larger the parish, and the more interested they are in having good music, the more they will pay, and the diocese even has pay scales according to what you the musician bring to the table (degrees, etc.).

I know our parish musician had a full-time job because he not only did all the English Masses on a weekend (six of them, and Sunday you might as well stay all day), he also was the accompanist for the Catholic school (grades 1-8, music classes, etc.). In addition, he would change out the missalettes each month in the church, and also would conduct rehearsals with each song leader (or choir as the case might be) which meant 6 different rehearsals of about an hour (the song leaders needed less time generally). Needless to say, for Holy Days, Christmas and Easter--he was booked solid. He made about $25,000-$30,000 a year and only had Mondays off. If he could not make the services for some reason he had to arrange for the replacement.

I would sing, for free at the earliest Sunday Mass (6:30am), and usually when he was gone it would just be me, which was not very often. Once when we were both gone he wound up paying someone $60 an hour to play with me, and I told him it was absurd, people can live with just the singer every so often.

I have even been to one chuch (Catholic) where the priest announces the song, presses a remote, and the keyboard plays the song. It really depends upon the pastor, and also, to some extent on the congregation. People who attend at 6:30am tend in general not to be too receptive to music (although they do seem to favor the old hymns), whereas people who attend 9:30 or 11:00am want full choirs.

And, not everybody feels that certain positions should be paid for, even though they require skill and talent. As another poster put it, they will pay for new roofs, books, etc. but feel that musicians, childcare providers, etc. should work for free. I often wonder if it is actually a "women's work" mentality at work here, because women traditionally fill these roles. Just my observation here, folks! lol.

From what you said, you will want to consider the hour between Sunday services as a work/prep time hour, since you probably won't be going home and coming back. You may also want to consider travel time, and anything else (robes, for example) involved. Is the church picking up all of the cost of music? Providing you with a piano or keyboard (or a safe place to lock yours up)? Paying for any workshops or continuing education?

Do you have health insurance? Also, you will be paying taxes on your earnings. Sometimes the wear and tear (not to mention your weekend is shot) is not worth it by the time you add in all the costs of going to work. You might wish instead to commit to playing for one service every so often as a volunteer instead if you attend this church anyway.

Does this help? Or at least give you something to think about?

-- GT (, April 29, 2003.

That's great that you've been hired by a church. I play the piano and organ for "my" church (I've been a member since I was a child) and receive no weekly pay, only a Christmas bonus.

-- Dianne (, June 17, 2003.

My daughter gets 30 dollars a service for a Methodist Church. She was hired to do the job. She does one service a week and one choir rehersal so that is 60 a week. When she does extras she gets extra. They are always saying they wish they could pay her more. I feel she is getting enough. She is not Methodist but loves the Church. This is Oklahoma (Stillwater area)

-- debbie (, July 07, 2003.

I play at a Methodist Church in northwest Florida - I receive about $100 each week (after taxes). This includes 2 services (both identical) and Monday night choir practice.

-- Monika Durbin (, August 23, 2003.

Hello Melissa, I understood you to say that you were hired for the pianist position last year. This leads me to assume that you have been in this position at least8 months or more. Did you discuss compensation at the time of hire? Did you discuss time req I guess I don't understand how you went through teh hiring process without discussing payment. If you are being receiving a payment, then are you disatisfied? What has your church paid in the past?

-- Mary Ann Templeton (, September 12, 2003.

I believe if you prepare for your services and commit to play each Sunday (or at least 50 Sundays a year), you should be compensated. Usually, the issue of 'volunteering' your services to your church comes into play as to the 'amount' of compensation. For example, I am Catholic, and when I play for one mass at my church, I receive $25. I believe I should be paid $50-60 for that service, so I am actually 'giving' my church $25-35 for unreimbursed musician pay. I am employed by a Lutheran church where I play 3 services each Sunday (all different). After 4 1/2 years of service, I receive $18 per rehearsal for the choirs (Wednesday night rehearsals) and $18 for the one service on Sunday where I accompany the choir(s). As to the othe other services, I receive $50 a service, which includes a 60 to 90 minute rehearsal with the praise band. I have worked very hard to make the position professional and feel the compensation is reasonable. Even though many people volunteer at church, most people do not show up EACH AND EVERY SUNDAY. Members of our church council appreciate the fact that I, as a musician, come each Sunday morning for 4 1/2 hours, and perhaps take off one weekend a year. I realize many people on this board will not agree, but to be treated professionally, one must be compensated adequately. Incidently, pastors are paid, and many weeks I put in as many, if not more hours, as they do. I also volunteer my time and services for other events (musical or not) and do not expect payment. Happy New Year!

-- Vicki Tucek (, December 28, 2003.

I do agree that pianist should be paid. Like someone mentioned before, the pastor gets paid, as do guest pastors and speakers.

I bought the piano version of the Baptist hymnal last week and it cost me $50.00 . Now I am going to learn as many songs as I can, so I am doing the fingerings for each piano arrangement. It is very tedious and I feel like I am never going to finish! Countless hours will go into preparation before I play in a service.

I have played in masses in the past when I was a Computer teacher. Every teacher is given an additional duty outside the classroom (such as inventorying textbooks), and I was very happy to take this as my additional duty. (So was the principal). The masses were during the workday.

From this, I was asked to play at a quincianera, where I was payed something like $60.00 .

Many years ago when I was just out of high school, I was asked to play at a service, and was payed $40.00 , but I was not happy with my performance, since I am not very good at playing the four voice hymn arrangement. I am much, much better at playing the more modern type of worship, and also at playing meditational-type music (lots of sustain, left-hand arpeggios, and single-note right-hand melodies).

I sometimes play at the offering or special at my brothers church, but I never charge because it's usually something like chopin or my own arrangement on a hymn or worship song, so the preparations was not entirely just for the single performance.

Incidentally, I was in a country band some years ago, and was payed between $50 and $100 for each performance.

I understand we all volunteer and contribute to the worship, however, I would take it as an insult if I was putting as many hours as some of you and was not properly being compensated.

-- David G. (, October 20, 2004.

I'm glad to see this subject come up again. Part of the problem is that there is often no competition for the position (lot's of times it's someone's friend or relative who gets it), so sometimes you have some really unskilled people playing, and worse, actually getting paid, which really irks people who are donating money to the church.

I think you should be able to charge whatever you want for outside services (weddings, for example).

But where should the line be drawn? Why just pay the pianist/organist but not the singer? Why not pay the people in the choir also? And to be honest, the argument about "preparing" for services only goes so far. At least in Catholic Masses you are fairly limited in what you are allowed to play/sing, so at some point you should know them by heart after any amount of time and wouldn't need to practice them....

Although I do think that if you play/sing at the one service you normally attend, you shouldn't be paid if that is the only service you are playing at--I mean, you're there anyway, right? An extra few minutes arriving early/leaving later, well, it does allow you to get a decent parking space (no small feat in some areas). If you're playing for other services as well, that's different. In all cases, you should not have to buy your music--the church should be paying for that, and you should be able to keep it.

-- GT (, October 27, 2004.

I might add also, that in lieu of a salary you might ask to have the church pay for you to attend some of the many worship music workshops that are held around the country, even if you do just one service a week--it is a legitimate expense for them, since they pay to have others trained, and a nice "thank you" to you, as well as a learning experience.

-- GT (, October 27, 2004.

Hi, there.

Congratulations on your new-ish position! I work as a pianist in the Boston area, in many different venues. But, the most rewarding job is the one I keep at the Catholic church where I grew up. It is rewarding not only spritually, but also financially. I am paid $50 for a mid week rehearsal, $100 for a morning mass, $50 for a half hour rehearsal before the evening mass, for which I am paid another $100.

I am sure that my situation is not common, and I am grateful for it. But, the compensation is not too much more than that

-- Sandy Tamarind (, December 03, 2004.

As a professional musician, Organist and Pianist as well as, director of music for a Catholic Church; I would suggest one visiting the website of the American Guild of Organists where there is an updated national average for musicians working in religious institutions.

Remember, the temple had well-trained and educated musicians who were paid so, do not lose self-respect for years of extreme practice, private studies that costs lots of money along with professional educational studies.

Any professional individual, doctors, lawyers, and other well- educated individuals do charge for their skills and aptitude along with their many years of dedicated service in pursuing education.

-- Michael P. Losee (, December 06, 2004.

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