Summary Results of the AAM Millennium Survey
by Jerome P. Reiter, Ph.D.
Earlier this year, the Association of Anglican Musicians mailed out questionnaires to all 852 of its members. The purpose of the Millennium Survey was to gather facts about the compensation and benefits of AAM members during the year 2000, to find out how satisfied they are and how supported they believe themselves to be in their work, and to learn how optimistic they are about the future of church music and the church music profession. This article summarizes the results of that survey.
Characteristics of the Respondents
Of the 852 members, 548 returned their forms. Approximately 72% of the returned forms are from men and 28% are from women, which mirrors the gender ratio between men and women in all of AAM. Almost all respondents have regular memberships (87%) or retired/life memberships (8%), about 3% of respondents have clergy memberships, and 1% have student memberships. These percentages are similar to the corresponding percentages in the full membership. The distribution of respondentsí geographic AAM Regions (which correspond to the Provinces of The Episcopal Church) is similar to the distribution of geographic regions for the full membership.
Percentages of Survey Respondents by Region
The overwhelming majority (79%) of respondents currently work as musicians in an Episcopal Church. About 10% of respondents work as musicians in other denominations, with the three most common denominations being Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran. Another 3% of respondents work as priests or deacons. The remaining 8% of respondents report that they do not currently work for the Church.
Characteristics of Churches
We asked for the annual budget and average Sunday attendance at respondentsí churches. Approximately 14% of respondents churches have budgets less than $200,000; about 38% have budgets between $200,000 and $500,000; about 16% have budgets between $500,000 and $750,000; about 8% have budges between $750,000 and $1,000,000; and about 24% have budgets over $1,000,000.
Of the respondents, 37% report that typical Sunday attendance in their parishes is between 150 and 300 persons. The remaining respondents are split nearly equally among attendance categories of less than 150 (20%), between 300 and 500 (22%), and more than 500 (21%). Not surprisingly, churches with larger attendance also tend to have larger budgets, although there are a small number of churches with large budgets and relatively small attendances.
Opinions on Church Music and Musicians
We asked members to react to several assertions about church music and musicians. The questions and response percentages (not raw data) are shown in Table 1. In the table, “SA” means strongly agree, “A” means agree, “N” means neutral, “D” means disagree, “SD” means strongly disagree, and ìNAî means not applicable. Highlights are summarized below.
Most respondents are positive about their experiences working as church musicians. Respondents generally enjoy their work, feel valued and supported, and believe they are treated like professionals. Most are satisfied with the expectations placed on their time and are provided with adequate opportunities for continuing education. They believe their parishes to be respectful of church musiciansí age, gender, race or ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
Most respondents agree that the role of music in worship is understood by clergy and parishioners. A majority of respondents feel it is reasonable for the church to expect its musicians to be skilled in diverse styles of traditional church music; however, most do not agree that the church should expect its musicians to be skilled in ìpopularî styles of church music.
Overall, respondents seem reasonably satisfied with their compensation relative to other professional musicians in their city and region. However, men agree that they are fairly compensated more often than women do.
Only a small majority of respondents (53%) feel that their parish helps them maintain their spiritual life. Exactly half report that their affiliation with AAM has helped them spiritually. There is strong support that membership in AAM helps church musiciansí careers.
Finally, despite the general satisfaction of respondents, there appears to be a relative lack of optimism in the future of church music and the church music profession. Respondents who have lower salaries tend to be slightly less optimistic about the future of the church music profession than those with higher salaries. Additionally, respondents who work less than half time tend to be somewhat less optimistic about the future of the church music profession than those who work more than half time.
Table 1: Opinions of Respondents on Church Music and Musicians
SA = strongly agree, A = agree, N = neutral, D = disagree, SD = strongly disagree, NA = not applicable
|Opinions of Respondents||SA||A||N||D||SD||NA|
|Being a church musician is a religious vocation.||55||35||7||1||2|
|Church musicians should be pastors to parishioners under their care.||41||45||9||3||2|
|I enjoy my work as a church musician.||55||36||1||1||1||6|
|My work is valued by my parishioners.||41||48||6||2||1||2|
|I feel personally supported by my parish clergy.||39||38||11||5||3||4|
|My clergy treat(s) me like a professional.||45||35||8||5||3||4|
|My parish treats me like a professional.||35||45||11||4||1||4|
|Music’s role in worship is well understood by my clergy.||36||40||10||8||3||3|
|Music’s role in worship is well understood by my parishioners.||12||50||21||11||3||3|
|I am provided adequate opportunities for continuing education.||18||41||14||14||5||8|
|I am optimistic about the music of the Church’s future.||5||30||30||27||8|
|I am optimistic about the future of the church music profession.||3||24||32||33||8|
|My parish would “respect the dignity of every musician” regardless of:|
|My clergy’s expectations of my time are reasonable.||29||49||7||8||2||5|
|My parish’s expectations of my time are reasonable.||21||49||13||10||2||5|
|I am fairly compensated for my work compared with other professional musicians in my city/region.||18||44||14||15||4||5|
|It is reasonable for the Church to expect its musicians:|
|My parish helps me maintain my spiritual life.||14||39||27||13||4||3|
|My affiliation with AAM has helped me:|
These opinions are similar across regions for all questions. Men and women hold similar opinions on all questions except the question on compensation. Respondents tend to hold similar opinions on most questions regardless of the percentage of time they are employed by the Church, with the exception of the question on optimism about the future as discussed previously. Respondents in churches with small budgets tend to agree less frequently that they are compensated fairly when compared to other musicians, and they tend to be less optimistic about the future of church music. Similar statements can be made for churches with small attendance.
Challenges Facing Professional Musicians in the Church
Respondents were asked to select the three greatest challenges that face professional musicians working in The Episcopal Church. Table 2 displays the percentages of respondents who ranked each challenge first, second, or third, where a ranking of first means greatest challenge. The column labeled Sum contains the total percentage of times that challenge was mentioned. The most commonly cited challenges include negotiating the growing diversity of liturgical music styles, building and maintaining support for quality music ministries, and achieving equitable compensation for church musicians.
Table 2: Challenges Facing Church Music
|Challenges Facing Church Music|
|Negotiating the growing diversity of liturgical music styles||49||17||15||17|
|Building and maintaining support for quality music ministries||46||18||16||12|
|Achieving equitable compensation for church musicians||43||16||14||13|
|Achieving and maintaining high musical standards||35||12||14||7|
|Building good clergy-musician relationships||32||9||10||13|
|Availability of desirable employment opportunities||27||10||8||9|
|Improving church canons related to lay employment policies||20||6||7||7|
|Nurturing personal spiritual well-being while working for the Church||17||5||5||7|
|Maintaining a balance between professional demands and personal life||17||4||5||8|
|Building understanding of the various pastoral roles professional musicians play||7||2||3||2|
|Maintaining good communication with co-workers and parishioners||7||1||3||3|
Career Experiences and Education
Approximately 43% of respondents report having experience working both part and full time. An additional 19% of respondents report only having experience working full time, and an additional 38% of respondents report only having experience working part time. Average years of experience at full time and part time are 17 and 22 years, respectively.
About 45% of respondents report that their employer considers them to be employed full time by The Episcopal Church. About 8% report three-quarters time; 2% report two-thirds time; 20% report half time; 8% report one-third time; and 17% report one-quarter time.
For full-time employees, the average work week is 47 hours, and about 25% of these employees work over 50 hours per week. For three-quarter time employees, the average work week is 36 hours, and 25% work more than 40 hours per week. For two-thirds time employees the average work week is 23 hours, and none reports working more than 32 hours per week. For half-time employees, the average work week is 22 hours, and about 5% report working more than 40 hours per week. For one-third time and one-quarter time employees, the average work week is
15 and 10 hours, respectively.
The formal music education of musicians is varied. About 43% of respondents report having studied privately, although the figure may be ambiguous, since the vast majority of members who have music degrees will have also studied privately prior to entering college courses of study. 7% of respondents indicate that they have taken courses offered by the Leadership Program for Musicians Serving Small Congregations (LPM), many of which are taught by AAM members. 55% of survey participants report having completed a Bachelorís degree in music, 69% hold Masterís degrees in music, and 25% have completed a Doctoral degree in music.
Income and Benefits
The first quartile, median, and third quartile salaryóexcluding weddings, funerals, and other fee-for-service events for each employment status are displayed in Table 3. The first quartile salary (1st Q) is the salary such that 25% of respondents make less than or equal to that amount. The median salary (Median) is the salary such that half of the respondents make less than or equal to that amount. The third quartile salary (3rd Q) is the salary such that 25% of the respondents make greater than or equal to that amount. The top 5% salary is the amount such that 5% of the respondents make more than that amount. To protect confidentiality of survey respondents, this amount is reported only for full-time employees.
Table 3: Salary by Employment Status in Dollars
|Salary by Employment Status in Dollars|
|One third time||9,500||13,000||15,900|
|One quarter time||6,000||9,800||13,000|
We further investigated the salaries of respondents who reported they are full time employees to see how salaries relate to differences in respondents background characteristics. Using a statistical method called multiple regression, we found the following relationships among salaries and background characteristics:
1) On average, a female musician makes about $1,900 less than a male musician who works in a church in the same region with a similar budget, and who has the same amount of experience and same educational degree attained.
2) On average, a musician who works in a church with budget of $1 million or greater has a salary about $9,000 larger than a musician who works in a church with a budget between $750,000 and $1 million; about $11,500 larger than a musician who works in a church with a budget between $500,000 and $750,000; and about $16,000 larger than a musician who works in a church with a budget between $250,000 and $500,000. Not enough data exists to make reliable statements about churches with budgets less than $250,000, although the data suggests that the gap is larger than $16,000. These comparisons take into account differences in average salary due to the effects of sex, region, experience, and educational attainment.
3) On average, a musician who has a Doctorate has a salary about $5,600 larger than a musician whose highest educational degree is a Masterís; and, about $8,500 larger than a musician whose highest educational degree is a Bachelorís. Not enough data exists to make reliable statements about musicians whose highest formal education is something other than a Bachelorís degree, although the data suggests that the gap is larger than $8,500. These comparisons take into account differences in average salary due to the effects of sex, region, experience, and church budget.
4) On average, each additional year of full time experience is worth about $240 in annual salary. This estimate takes into account differences in region, sex, church budget, and educational attainment.
5) Taking other background characteristics into account, it does not appear that having an employment agreement in writing with their church which about 55% of respondents do significantly affects salaries.
The first quartile, median, and third quartile income amounts from weddings, funerals, or other fee-for-service events for each of the employment types are shown in Table 4.
Table 4: Wedding Salary by Employment Status
|1st Q||Median||3rd Q|
One third time
One quarter time
The percentages of respondents who report receiving selected benefits are shown in Table 5.
Table 5: Percentages Who Have Selected Benefits
Time for continuing education
Money for continuing education
Money to attend AAM Conferences
About 71% of respondents report a vacation time of 4 weeks. About 4% report vacation time of 5 weeks, 7% report vacation time of 6 weeks, and 2% report more than 6 weeks. Sundays are included in vacation time at a similar rate as other days.
It is important to highlight that only 59% of respondents have a pension or retirement plan, whereas 75% of respondents consider themselves at least half-time. This discrepancy is important to note because the General Convention of The Episcopal Church has mandated that all lay employees employed half-time or more must be included in a pension or retirement plan.
Salaries of Full-time Church Musicians by Region
Below we show the median salaries of full-time church musicians by region. For comparisons, we show the corresponding median salaries of clergy, of professional and managerial employees who have an undergraduate degree, and of professional and managerial employees who have a graduate degree. The compensation of AAM respondents in Regions 6 and Region 9 are not reported in the table because there were too few respondents in these regions. We do not have clergy compensation data for Region 9, the overseas region.
Table 6: Median Salary Comparisons*
& Managerial with undergrad degree
& Managerial with
* The clergy, professional, and managerial salary figures given in Table 6 for comparison with AAM salaries are taken from The 2000 Clergy Compensation Report, published in August 2001 by the Church Pension Fund.
The table shows clearly that full-time AAM respondents have lower median salaries than full-time clergy in their corresponding regions by about 20 percent in most regions. When compared to professionals and managers who have at least an under graduate degree, AAM respondents salaries lag by similar percentages. AAM respondents salaries are much lower than the corresponding salaries for professionals who have graduate degrees.
For AAM respondents, salaries appear to differ by region. In particular Region 2, which includes the New York metropolitan area, has substantially higher salaries than other regions. It is difficult to attach substantial meaning to the salary differentials among other regions because of the relatively small number of full-time AAM respondents in some of these regions.
In any survey, the keys to obtaining useful information are a well-designed questionnaire and willing respondents. AAM and its members should be congratulated on both accounts. The Millennium Survey provides a comprehensive and valuable summary of the state of church music and the church music profession in The Episcopal Church.
is currently a professor of statistics at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He graduated with a Ph.D. in statistics from Harvard University in 1999, and he taught for two years after graduate school at Williams College. Dr. Reiterís research focuses broadly on survey methodology, with particular emphasis on federal statistics. He has been a statistical consultant for the U.S. Bureau of the Census since 1996. His most recent papers appear in the Journal of Official Statistics and The American Mathematical Monthly.
The Association of Anglican Musicians expresses its gratitude to the Lilly Endowment, Inc. and the Anglican Musicians’ Foundation for generous grants to underwrite the expenses of conducting the AAM Millennium Survey.
Personal Reflections on the AAM Millennium Survey
by Dale Adelmann, Ph.D.
When the idea to conduct a Millennium Survey of the Association of Anglican Musicians was initially conceived, several marketing experts told us that we might reasonably expect replies from ten percent of our members. If we attained a fifteen percent response rate, they said, it would be phenomenal success. It is, therefore, a significant testimony to the dedication of AAM members and the depth their care for the music of the Church that nearly two-thirds of the Association took the time to fill out the questionnaire and return it. This overwhelming response rate lends immense weight to the value of the data that was collected.
Support and Satisfaction
The Millennium Survey demonstrates (see Table 1) that an overwhelming majority of AAM members consider their work to be a religious vocation which carries with it pastoral responsibilities for their parishioners. Clearly, the concept of lay ministry, which has been so passionately espoused by the Church during the past forty years, is something that has been taken very seriously by members of the Association of Anglican Musicians.
In a number of respects the results of the survey are very encouraging and even a little surprising. Sometimes we get so diverted by the one lost sheep that we need to remember to be thankful for the ninety-nine who never went astray or got hurt, and so it is gratifying to learn that the vast majority (91%) of respondents enjoy their work as church musicians and that 89% believe their efforts are truly valued by their parishioners. With clergy-musician relationships being a perennial concern voiced among church musicians of every denomination, it is heartening to learn that more than three-quarters of us feel personally supported by our clergy and believe that our clergy understand the role of music in worship.Eighty percent of respondents agree that they are treated as professionals both by their clergy and their parish. About three-quarters of respondents believe that their clergy and congregations understand the role of music in worship; yet, the fact that fewer than one-eighth of respondents strongly agree that their parishioners do understand suggests that the subject of liturgical music needs to be more intentionally included in the Christian formation of Episcopalians.
Survey respondents overwhelmingly agree that neither age nor gender would be an issue in their congregations in the application of the baptismal covenant ìto respect the dignity of the parish musician, but nearly one-quarter are unable to agree that race or ethnicity would not be an issue, and more than one-third are unable to agree that sexual orientation would not matter. Although the final two statistics reveal a skepticism that is representative of a minority of parishes served by AAM members, both are significant minorities. It is surely a matter of considerable concern that some of God’s servants would be less welcome than others in many Episcopal parishes.
Despite the widespread satisfaction of AAM members with their clergy, their parishes, and their work environments, we must, however, at least consider the possibility that this general happiness may reflect more on AAM members and the kinds of parishes we serve than it does on Episcopal church music or The Episcopal Church at large. The Association of Anglican Musicians expects high standards of liturgical and musical professionalism from its musician members, and it is reasonable to infer that professionals will tend to serve under musically educated and supportive clergy, and in parishes where quality liturgical music and professional skill are appreciated.
The Millennium Survey reveals that both the parishes served by AAM members and the Association of Anglican Musicians itself need to do a better job of nurturing the spiritual health of AAM members. Barely half of respondents agreed that their parishes help them maintain their spiritual lives. While the vast majority said that AAM helps them as church music professionals, only 50% agreed that AAM helped them spiritually and more than one-third were neutral on the subject. AAM members input will be gratefully received as the Board seeks to discern ways in which the Association can better nurture the spirituality of our members. Typically about one-quarter of AAM members attend the Association’s annual conference, yet only one-third of survey respondents report receiving financial assistance from their parishes to do so. This is certainly a deficiency that all affected AAM members should address with their congregations. The Association’s conferences are perhaps the closest equivalent that professional Episcopal musicians have to a clergy conference with their peers, and for those members who are isolated by distance from Episcopal colleagues serving in similar situations, our conferences provide an especially important opportunity to share ideas and to recharge spiritually.
Challenges Facing Episcopal Church Musicians
As the Association of Anglican Musicians looks to the future, the ranking of the greatest challenges that face Episcopal musicians (see Table 2) resulting from the data collected by the Millennium Survey will be of invaluable assistance in setting goals and formulating initiatives.
The survey reveals that respondents believe the number one challenge facing church musicians is negotiating the growing diversity of liturgical music styles. Personally, I suspect that the challenge is as much the result of an overabundance of riches as it is predicated on a variety of musical styles. The gravity of the challenge can perhaps be better understood when one considers its uniqueness to our age, as well as its unprecedented breadth.
1. The Episcopal Church in the USA currently has three hymnals, which offer parishes a total of nearly 1200 hymns and some 300 service music options. This volume and diversity of readily available congregational song is unprecedented in the history of worship. Until comparatively recent (early Victorian) times, worshippers in a typical Anglican parish would have known and sung only a few dozen hymn tunes. If an Episcopal church today were to sing four hymns each Sunday of the year and never repeat a tune, it would use only about twenty percent of the available hymns. Now consider the unlikelihood that any two parishes in a given diocese will choose to sing the same twenty percent of the three hymnals, or the chances that the twenty percent a new rector might wish to use will be the same as the twenty percent known or loved by the parish he or she is called to serve. As the possibilities multiply, the core repertory of hymns that are widely known and loved will become smaller, and it will become ever less likely that Episcopalians will find another parish’s worship to have very much musically in common with their own. While the abundance of wonderful new hymn tunes and texts has greatly enriched worship, it has created an immense challenge for church musicians, in an age of declining musical literacy, to select a body of hymns which will satisfy the liturgical needs of a particular congregation and which can be sung frequently enough to become familiar and beloved.
2. Until the invention of inexpensive octavos in the early 1840s, the active anthem and choral service repertory even of professional Anglican choirs was extremely limited. It would have consisted primarily of contemporary music (contemporary to the lifetime of the choirmaster in charge, that is), sung from hand-copied manuscripts. With the current easy and unprecedented availability of the sacred music of all ages, both in inexpensive performing editions and via recordings by great choirs, the music of all Christian ages has become contemporary music, precisely because it is all available and it is all more or less familiar stylistically. Choirmasters know the challenge of training a choir to sing well in even one style of music; so when clergy or congregations ask for greater stylistic variety in the music a choir sings, it is easy to understand why frustration is so readily engendered. Highly professional choirs will learn notes easily, but even they may have difficulty producing the sounds required to make some styles of music convincing. In some cases, requests for greater stylistic diversity are, in fact, unreasonable, depending on the training of the musicians who are being asked to produce the goodsî and on the resources available to them. In choosing choral repertory, as well as hymns, the fundamental frustration can easily become that, no matter what one chooses or does, some parishioner will not like it and will likely say so.
3. As boundaries between what is sacred and what is secular in art and music have been questioned and redrawn, the challenge of becoming a truly competent church musician now poses the additional possibility that one will be expected to have mastered more than one of the musical styles (classical, contemporary, gospel, jazz). This is, understandably, an area of immense challenge for church musicians and for the future of church music. At the point in their educations when persons who desire to become clergy begin their theological studies, church musicians will already have studied for many years and most will have completed an undergraduate music degree. And these pains will have been taken to perform at a basic level of competence in just one musical style. The task of mastering a particular style of music is a lifelong quest for most musicians, and so it is understandable that many church musicians consider it unreasonable when they are expected to function at even a competent, much less a professional, level in several different musical disciplines. This is an area of deep anxiety in the Church and in the church music profession. Recognizing that popular is an ambiguous term and may have been interpreted in a variety of ways, nearly half (49%) of respondents to the AAM Millennium Survey thought it unreasonable for the Church to expect its musicians to be skilled in popular styles of church music; only twenty percent deemed it reasonable.
As the corpus of available sacred music grows exponentially, more periods of music will become familiar and therefore contemporary. As a diversity of musical styles employed in worship becomes more commonplace, it may be necessary to reconsider some of the traditional assumptions about church music and musicians. Most parishes will need to accept the reality that it will become impossible to do everything and do it remotely well. Congregations may need to be intentional about choosing to specialize in a particular style of music and worship, as some parishes already do, rather than leaving those decisions to the taste or whim of the rector and/or musician. Other parishes will realize that they need to employ multiple specialist musicians to cover the various styles of music it wishes to use in worship, rather than holding on to the often unreasonable expectation that one musician can do it all. There are, of course, a relatively small percentage of church musicians who are able to excel in disparate musical styles, but this means that only a correspondingly small percentage of Episcopal Churches can expect to enjoy the benefits of such musical ability and diversity.
The second most cited challenge facing Church musicians is building and maintaining support for quality music ministries. This is an area in which AAM members should take every opportunity to share their success stories and methodology with one another. An AAM task force is currently considering how we can do a better job of supporting and encouraging the musical education and equipping of our priests, whether in seminary or beyond.
Satisfaction + Compensation! = Optimism
One of the very significant findings of the AAM survey is that satisfaction does not necessarily breed optimism. The vast majority of AAM respondents enjoy their work, love their parishes, and feel supported by their priests. Yet barely one-third of AAM members are optimistic about the future of church music, and scarcely one-quarter are optimistic about the future of the church music profession.
Without doubt there is a plethora of reasons for this deficit of optimism, and most of them are probably the AAM Millennium Survey’s Challenges Facing Church Musicians (Table 2). The expectation that a church musician be a jack of all trades often helps to create environments in which it is impossible to be a master of any. This is clearly discouraging to professionals who have high standards for themselves and for the people with whom they work. It is also a cause of frustration when musicians, who have trained hard for many years to acquire the skills to make great music and make it well, find themselves in church environments where substandard music (of any style) is the desired staple of a parish’s or rector’s diet. However satisfying a Big Mac might be on occasion, no reasonable person would hire a highly trained chef and then expect him or her to be happy serving a continuous diet of mass-produced fast food. While every age has had its ephemeral church music, parishes that use todayís primarily are arguably the very poorest stewards of a professional musician’s talents.
Many church musicians, whether or not they find themselves among the less-satisfied minority of AAM members, could also attest to another source of pessimism about the future of music in the Church. Most AAM members, certainly, could cite multiple instances in which parishes that have historically valued quality music and music-making in worship have filled clergy vacancies with musically under-exposed priests who are in no informed position whatsoever to exercise their canonical responsibility for the oversight of liturgical music. This being common knowledge, there is an air of uncertainty in the church music profession that confronts Episcopal church musicians every time a parish with a fine music ministry faces a clergy transition.
Inequitable compensation can also be a huge discouragement to professional church musicians and a major factor that leads to a lack of optimism about the future. A significant minority of AAM survey respondents believe they are not fairly remunerated for their work, and the situation is more severe for part-time church musicians. One common excuse used by churches for underpaying their musicians that other parishes also underpay their musiciansósimply cannot stand. (The fact that an abuse is widespread never justifies it.) Moreover, the AAM Millennium Survey shows that some musicians are reasonably paid. The top ten percent of AAM survey respondents make more than $61,300 a year; the top five percent make more than $68,000. These figures cannot be lightly dismissed. Even given the strict confidentiality of all answers to the AAM Millennium Survey (the identity and location of these better-paid musicians are completely anonymous), the high cost of living in some of our metropolitan areas can account for only a portion of these salaries. Yet one wonders how any of these numbers compare with the compensation range for the top ten percent of clergy, or with clergy in some of these same cities. The median salary figures given in Table 6 do not reveal the high range of salaries available to the Churchís top clergy.
Yet clergy salary figures are public in most dioceses, and many AAM members will be well aware of the salary range for the top clergy of their dioceses. It would be informative to gather additional clergy compensation statistics, because one suspects that we would find that the top musicians of The Episcopal Church are regularly employed for salaries that are only fifty or sixty percent of the compensation packages of the head clergy under whom they serve. The number of professional musicians employed by the church is minuscule compared to the number of clergy employed, which means that the median salary figures (half are higher) for clergy in Table 6 probably do not begin to reveal the vast gap between the compensation packages of the churchís leading clergy and its finest musicians. Should the national churchís premier musicians, who are the church music professionís equivalent to bishops or deans or cardinal rectors, be earning salaries that barely compare to those of an average parish priest?
Compensation figures for professional church musicians afford perhaps the most blatant and irrefutable evidence that much of the church’s talk about the value of lay ministry over the past fifty years has been, and remains, empty rhetoric. As the pool of highly skilled church music professionals decreases, it will be necessary for parishes who value good liturgical music to offer far more competitive salaries if they wish to attract and retain the best talent.
The AAM Millennium Survey shows that church musicians routinely work more hours than they are paid for, a fact that is certainly not unknown in other professions. AAM members are dedicated professionals who have high standards for themselves and others, and we will work until the job is well done, whether or not our parishes have any realistic notion of how long that takes. Unfortunately, such dedication can lead not merely to discouragement and lack of optimism about the future, but also to burn-out. As the pace of our society becomes ever busier, free time is becoming a more and more highly valued commodity, and the church may find that musicians will become less willing to sacrifice the little time they have for a life outside of their parish duties.
A lack of optimism about the future of the Church’s music is even more predominant among part-time church musicians, according to the AAM Millennium Survey. The fact that part-timers more frequently responded that they are underpaid suggests that their pessimism is due in part to compensation issues Why should a person who works long hours at a demanding full-time job all week sacrifice most of every weekend to take what in many cases will be a poorly paid and musically unsatisfying church music position? Lack of down time is another factor that causes pessimism. As stated above, the less free time people have, the less willing they will be to sacrifice it, even for the Church. If small parishes wish to attract and retain any musician at all, much less a highly skilled one, they will need to consider radically different employment models to accommodate the needs of people who are struggling to balance the many demands of our busier and more stress-filled society. Vestry members may get only a few weeks of vacation in their early years at a new job, but they generally get every weekend off (or time equivalent to it). It is certainly open to question whether it is even humane for parishes whose musicians who work full-time at other jobs during the week to expect their musician to work on every major holiday and all but a few weekends per year. (How often does three weeks of vacationî actually mean three days, that is, three summer Sundays when the choir is not singing anyway?) Given the shrinking pool of qualified part-time church musicians, in particular, I am personally convinced that small parishes wishing to recruit and retain good musicians will need to be considerably more generous with allowances for time off.
AAM members comprise an enormously talented pool of professionals who care deeply about The Episcopal Church and are willing to work hard to offer their best talents in worship. Improvement in church musicians compensation, morale, and optimism about the future of church music will require the combined efforts of all of us who care deeply about music in worship. Task forces have been established to review the compensation guidelines of the Association of Anglican Musicians and, as mentioned above, to consider how we can better encourage and enable our seminarians and priests to oversee the gift of music in our parishes. May we all be granted discernment and wisdom as we labor on.
is currently President of the Association of Anglican Musicians, and he wishes to express his gratitude to all whose input and support helped to make the AAM Millennium Survey a success. He is also Organist-Choirmaster of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buffalo, where his choirs sing some 175 choral services and concerts annually and have recorded three compact discs for the Pro Organo (Zarex) label. In addition, he is Conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus. His book, The contribution of Cambridge Ecclesiologists to the Revival of Anglican choral worship, 1839-62, is available from Ashgate Publishing, and is an expansion of his Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Cambridge, England. His arrangements of spirituals and a carol are published by Paraclete Press and Trinitas, respectively.