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Financial: Accompanist fees



Many thanks to all who responded. The results are below with a copy of the
original posting. Since we're dealing with salary matters, I've edited some
of the responses to preserve anonymity, by not including choir names, or
specific locations. However, since geographic location can make a
difference, I've included general geographic areas where specific locations
were given. Some responses also included suggestions to check out the the
websites of specific organizations - like the AGO (American Guild of
Organists), or Chorus America.
I appreciate all your input; I feel as if I have some good, solid
information to present to the board.
Thanks again,
Chris
-----------------------

ORIGINAL POSTING
Listers,

I'd like to draw on your wisdom and experience regarding accompanist fees.
The board of a choir I'm currently involved with is wrestling with the idea
of raising the salary of the accompanist. This is due, in large part, to my
pointing out that it seemed very low. They are asking me what I think is
fair remuneration, and I'd like to be able to give them an idea of "what's
out there" regarding salary.

I remember a compilation within the past year of "what makes a good
accompanist", but I don't remember anything regarding salary attached with
that.

Realizing there are a lot of variables, I'll give some stats about the
choir:

-Approx. 65 voices
-Full range of music - both a cappella and accompanied, early to
contemporary
-While none of the members are paid to sing in the choir, about 25% of the
members are professional school/church musicians, so it is fairly high
caliber.
-Rehearsals are two hours weekly (September through early June)
-Typically 3 concerts per year
-Location - East coast (NJ)

Thanks for any input. I'll post a compilation if there are enough responses.


RESPONSES FOLLOW
-------------------
I'm the one who put together the choral accompanist compilation some time
ago.
Yes, compensation was NOT mentioned. However, I'd like to suggest a minimum
of $30/hour.
This figure comes from many years of experience dealing with groups that
take piano accompanists for granted.
As with everything in life, the law of supply and demand usually
determines the fee for accompanists.
If your accompanist is halfway competent, consider yourself fortunate if
they play for less than $30/hour.
----------------------
Hi there. Thought I'd respond to your query since I am an accompanist. I
work with The Choral Society of [Southeast]. We are a volunteer, auditioned
chorus with a four concert season, usually a combination of
choral-orchestral works and a capella or organ/piano accompanied works. We
rehearse on Mondays from 7-9:30 pm, mid-August through April. This season
we are performing the Verdi Requiem, Handel's Messiah, the Durufle Requiem,
and the Beethoven Mass in C and Choral Fantasy. I am paid $20.00 per hour
of rehearsal (i.e. $50.00 per week). If I am the keyboardist in either the
orchestra or as the piano soloist (as I am for the Choral Fantasy), then my
fee is negotiated accordingly. For my private coaching sessions, I charge
$25.00 per hour, which is about the going rate here. I don't complain about
the $20.00 per hour, but more is always appreciated. I am required to read
open score as well as orchestral reductions as accompaniments, and I also
occasionally run sectionals as I am also a singer. I hope this information
helps you in your search.
----------------------
Your choir sounds similar to mine. We pay our accompanist $60 per rehearsal.
She also usually plays the organ as part of the orchestra, when required.
She's paid as a free-lance musician and issued a IRS 1099 at the end of each
year. We are in our sixth year - the starting pay was $50/rehearsal. Hope
this helps.
----------------------
You might find out what professional-level piano teachers and vocal coaches
receive for their work. In San Francisco, such people are asking anywhere
from $35 to $70 per hour, with some sought after coaches and teachers
commanding even higher fees. Of course, San Francisco may be more
expensive than most parts of the country except New York City.
As an occasional accompanist myself, I would consider $25 to $35 per hour to
be reasonable for the work required. You can calculate the yearly salary
from that.
----------------------
We pay union scale, which was $50 per rehearsal in [Southeast] when we
started some years ago, and is higher now--maybe $60?
Also, because my accompanist is so great, my board has done things like give
her a surprise bonus.
Since our total annual budget is only about $15,000, and we run from late
August through May, this is a chunk of our budget. We see this as a matter
of values, as well as value.
---------------------
I direct a similar group called ... in the [Midwest].
We usually pay an accompanist about $30 per
rehearsal and $35 per performance. I have not had any complaints about this
scale but would really like to see how this compares to the information you
are receiving. We also have members within our group who play well enough
to accompany some of the easier things so I don't necessarily have the
accompanist attend every rehearsal. We plan our schedule out prior to the
start of the season so they can see my expectations and adjust their
schedule accordingly.
--------------------------
My experience here in [Mid-Atlantic] is that for each rehearsal $150. If
there is a keyboard part included in the performance (organ, harpsichord,
piano, celeste) the orchestra and dress rehearsals and the performance are
paid at union scale. I rarely accept anything under $150 for such a
rehearsal. If you have to step in at the last minute to sight read a
rehearsal the figure doubles automatically!
---------------------------
I sing in and serve on the Board of a community choir which sound very
similar to yours, except we have only a few people who are professional
musicians in real life. Most everyone in the choir can read music to one
degree or another, but there is a fair amount of playing of parts,
especially as we begin to rehearse music for the next concert. We thus need
to have an accompanist who can play fluently from open score.

We pay the accompanist an hourly wage for rehearsals and for concerts in
which she participates (typically one concert is with orchestra).
Last year we raised her wage from $15.00/hr to $20.00/hr. Last month at the
Board's annual figure-out-the-budget meeting, we raised it a little again,
to $22.00/hr for the season which begins in two weeks.
We're in [Midwest], where prices are no doubt lower for most
things compared to New Jersey.
------------------
Our main community children's choir accompanist gets a flat $3,300 for the
year. It works out to about $25-30 per hour, depending on how you count. The
accompanists for our younger choirs get $30 per rehearsal, or approx. $24
per hour.
-----------------
Our Community Choir accompanist gets whatever the ensemble can afford to
give him at the end of a season. It is usually about $1,000. Sometimes
more sometimes less. We are fortunate to have him because he does it out of
love for the art.
-----------------
We pay our accompanist $50/rehearsal. (2 1/2 hour rehearsal)
-----------------
We pay our accompanist $30 per hour, min. 2.5 hour call.
-----------------
We pay our accompanist $25.00 per hour. Pretty much the same specs as you
described: 2 hours rehearsal per week and 2 concerts per year.
-----------------
It will depend as to where in the USA you live. But I am an accompanist in
the state of Oregon- I get paid $50.00 for two hours each week. (this is
NOT a church group).
The variables are a lot like yours, only I'm paid Sept. thru July.
This price, also includes making master rehearsal tapes (obviously 4 master
tapes, one for each voicing) for the group in the summer, so they can have
their songs on cassette by Sept. Someone else in the group sings in the
words, and someone else in the group, runs many copies-so the group can
learn their songs during the week in the car, or at home etc.
-------------
I also conduct a community chorale ...at our last board meeting I mentioned
that the accompanist salary was too low ($30.00/rehearsal), so we increased
it to $50.00 per rehearsal which in my opinion is still too low for a 2.5
hour rehearsal. However, 50 is a far cry from 30. I would also mention to
your board during these sessions that this is a form of our "lively-hood"
and that we (including the accompanists) have spent many hours and
thousands of dollars in attaining the professional level that we have.
--------------
I direct a small community chorus (all volunteers)in the [Northeast] area.
We do two programs a year (with repeat performances) and rehearse 21/4
hours/week from Sept. - May. We pay $50/rehearsal and $100/performance.
---------------
I conduct a community chorus with similar features as yours (although our
season ends in the beginning of May). We pay our accompanist $2,000.
---------------
We pay grad students in piano $25/hour.
---------------
We pay $55 per rehearsal.
----------------


Thank you one and all!


Christopher J. Hatcher
chrish(a)gti.net







Eric's e-mail served as a reminder to me that I'd let summer distract me from
posting a compilation of answers to a similar question. So, after much delay,
here it is.
John Sherck
jsherck(a)kent.edu
---
My Original Post:
I'm writing to inquire about the going rate for hiring an accompanist and the
different ways that directors handle this. I teach at a small boarding school,
and whlie we can't afford a full-time accompanist, we're considering the
possibility for next year of hiring someone to come in for performances and a
few rehearsals prior to the performance. We have a few universities within a
half hour of here and we are looking at hiring a professional accompanist, a
graduate student, or even possibily an undergraduate. Really, we're not sure
what the best solution for our needs would be, but I knew that the collected
experience of choralist could probably help me see the possibilities. I'm
interested in finding out how well various solutions have worked out and how
much we would need to plan to budget for whichever solution we would
ultimately go with. Any help you can offer will be greatly appreciated.
***

For what it's worth, there's a ChoralNet resource on this topic:
choralnet.org > Rehearsal > Choir Management > Accompanist fees
***

We pay our accompanist $15.00/hour up to a maximum of 20 hours per month. We
usually use to entire 20 hours, but I can carry it over to/from another month
if we don't. The rate includes rehearsals, performances, and travel time. She
is very competent - and sings, too. Previously, we paid $25.00/hour for
performances and rehearsals with one or possibly two rehearsals. She is happy
with the $300.00 or so on the side per month.
***
i have been the accompanist for both a public and private school as well as
hiring one for my choral group.

going rate here for the choral group is $150 for performance, $75 for
rehearsal.

i charged the equivalent that i would loose in lessons....$50 an hour (since
that included travel time and expenses too) but no rehearsal into the
performance. i didn't have the time and was a last minute fill in for both of
the concerts i did.
***
I hire an accompanist to come in for one or two rehearsals prior to each
concert. I pay her $125/concert and usually use her 4-5 times per year. I
also play, so I don't need to use her in every concert situation.

***
I am blessed with an accompanist, however, we do hire others on occasion
(musical theater, solo & ensemble, middle school choral performances)... Pay
on an hourly rate in the range of 8 to 25 per hour depending on the time frame
and number of hours, days of service required etc. Remember also that rural
Indiana may be different from your socio-economic situation.


***
It depends on the size of your town - it depends on how convenient the school
schedule is for the accompanist - (are they to drop in on a class that are
next to each other "timewise" - or would one have to go and to & from the
school an hr in the am and then an hr. in the pm.?)
I am an accompanist - I start charging for rehearsal at $15.00 and up an hour.
Anywhere from $100.00 and up for concert or performance. If you think this
price sounds high - I want you to know that I am busy all the time - and I'm
not in a large city.

***
I've been through the accompanist "wars" myself with a community chorus over
the past year.
I used 2 strategies. First, I looked for and found community folks and paid
them $25 per rehearsal (2 hours) and $100 per concert. The rehearsal rate was
on the low side, but I wanted to use an accompanist at EVERY rehearsal -- not
just a few before a performance. You'll probably have better luck with a piano
student from the nearby college , since both of my accompanists (both gone now
and I'm doing it) were predominantly (a) a church organist who could only play
LOUD and (b) a long-ago would be piano soloist "gone to seed." My second
strategy was to hire a local band (my chorus sin gs American Popular Song, so
I hired a piano/bass/drums trio that was an already formed jazz group all of
whom (supposedly) read music. I ended up using the bassist and drummer,
though' NOT the pianist, who came to the first of two rehearsals before the
concert without having learned the notes.&nb sp; Disaster! I ended up paying
him anyway (he came to the 2nd rehearsal and concert to listen and invest in
being hired in the future.) You HAVE to have better luck than I did since it
sounds l like you live in a community with far better resources than I have
available.

***

I wish I could say I was writing with some information about your question.
Unfortunately, I share your predicament. At the community college where I
teach, funding is available to pay an accompanist to be present at rehearsals
and performances at the rate of an instructional assistant (roughly $13/hour).
Needless to say, this is hardly adequate to attract any of the competent,
qualified pianists in the area who are in demand as studio accompanists and
chamber musicians.

I have recently learned of another college in my state that provided a $5000
stipend per year in addition to the instructional assistant pay. At this time
I have only this indicator to help me plan my future budget, but it's a start.
I am expecting to work with the student activities arm of the choral
organization (the choral "club") to see if we can make plans to generate this
funding for future years (not 2003-2004).

***

My accompanist receives $10 per rehearsal (35 mins / day). It probablyshould
be higher, but she's a "mom" and has a "volunteer" attitude aboutthings.


>===== Original Message From estark(a)butler.edu ====>Hello friends,
>
>I'm looking to find average pay rates for an accompanist for a university
>level choir. Do you pay a flat hourly rate? How much? Are performances paid
>at a different rate?
>
>Many thanks, as always, for your input!
>Eric Stark
>
>--
>Eric Stark, DM
>Associate Professor of Music, Butler University
>Artistic Director, Indianapolis Symphonic Choir
>317/940-9981
>estark(a)butler.edu


on September 17, 2002 10:00pm
Since we are in a suburban area, it is very difficult to find accomplished aaccompanists. After much discussion and serach, we have settled for $100/per rehearsal (two hours and 15 minustes). Any decent accompanist would have to travel about 45 minutes to one hour on a rush hour to get to our rehearsal.

The fee does not change for concerts-- $100/per concert and per rehearsal service.

Good luck find the right match for your groups.
Artistic Director & Conductor


on August 2, 2003 10:00pm
I am a musician in the southern Maine area with 30 yrs. of experience as accompanist, conductor and teacher. My hourly rates are $50.00 min., though I have been known to occasionally play for less if I choose to for personal reasons. Many bemoan the lack of accompanists, but there are many excellent pianists prepared to play for a reasonably good conductor if their abilities, contributions and experience are appreciated in the form of a decent wage. I am excellent...according to the people with whom I have worked. I do not take poor paying positions because there is generally a lack of awareness about what an accompanist does for, and to, a group. Every conductor, choral and otherwise, worth his/her position knows that an accompanist is going to make the difference between mediocre and outstanding performance, as well as make the conductor shine in rehearsals. Arrogance? I think not. Good accompanists make music as well as sound. Knowledgeable people pay for this, just the way other professionals are paid for the quality of their performance. $30.00 a rehearsal will not pay the bills, never mind the medical insurance which goes up semi-annually for self-employed people. Most professional musicians are self-employed and every hour in rehearsal requires at least an hour of preparation. You figure it out. Can you afford to work for $15.oo an hour? We have a rather artistically uneducated society and need to realize art is part of life, period. Good art makes better life, mediocre art makes a mediocre life. This perception starts early on and, as music has been relegated to the "activity" level in our public schools, and in many private schools!, it is the rare 21st century person who understands the impact the arts play in the development of the human mind, spirit and life view. Read about the ancients and the Greek culture, the Asian cultures, etc. for a better understanding of the force of an arts education.
on September 26, 2003 10:00pm
Gina,
I'd say it's not wrong to ask, but you are being compensated for your work (in the form of class credit) so they'd be within their rights to say no. You also, however, would be within your rights to decline to accompany in the future, since it's beyond what's required of other students in the class.


on September 26, 2003 10:00pm
I currently accompany a college choir. I'm not a rehearsal accompanist, but I accompany 1-2 songs per concert (approx. 4 concerts per semester). I play these accompaniments almost every day in rehearsal (we rehearse 4 days a week). The accompaniments are not easy, so I have to work fairly hard on the pieces on my own time. I get paid nothing. Is it wrong for me to ask for some sort of accompanist fee for the next semester? Or do you think because I'm in the choir already and have to be there anyway that I should shut my mouth and just play?
on January 10, 2007 10:00pm
Kudos to Susan Kirk's point. Experienced accompanists are hard to come by, and should charge a fair price for what they can live on. I figure that my going hourly rate for accompanying should not be too different that what I get paid to teach lesson ($56/hour as of Jan 07, and most in my area get $60/hr). I live about 45 min. west of Washington, DC in Loudoun County, Virginia. Although my particular area is affluent and there is a higher than average level of arts appreciation and consciousness, I often hear about good accompanists who let people pay them whatever, and do not charge adequately for their services. I regularly get $75 per rehearsal (1.5 - 2hrs) and $150 per performance. For short rehearsals (less than 1.5 hours), I charge $60 per hour, with a $30 minimum. Most private organizations (private schools, churches) don't have a problem with this, but I find that the public school system really balks at my rates, and only wants to pay $20 per hour. Are they insane? Who do they think can live on this, much less take hours out of their lesson-teaching schedule to play for that rate? And what does this say about how the public schools prioritize the arts these days? We will spend $75 for a football helmet, but can't even pay the choral accompanist $30 per hour. Accompanists with music degrees and experience should charge a fee that they can live on, at least $50 per hour, and I have a $30 minimum, even if it's a 15 minute rehearsal. We accompanists have to keep in mind all the hours of outisde practice that is unpaid. For difficult scores that are not sight-readable, we all need to factor projected preparation time into our rates.
on February 17, 2008 10:00pm
I am an accompanist in the Loudoun County/Frederick County/DC area as well and insist on getting paid no less than 30-35 an hour for side gigs. I am happy with that as I have one full time salaried position, and two other pianist/accompanist related jobs that pay me over 125/hr. I have no problem with the pay for public schools in Loudoun County as it takes a minimal amount of practice outside of the rehearsals to be ready for these kids performances. In addition, I don't mind playing and helping to teach the kids for a little while as they are the future of music, and at least for a little while I can look beyond lining my own pocket.

Most public schools need at max 5 rehearsals (although some do think that you need more, but they all agree with me after the fact) before you put in the performances, but I have done it succesfully with 3. After the last musical I did the pay came to about 30 an hour. So if you are a good sightreader and a quick learner, doing a public school musical can be a money making (I would hesitate to say lucrative) venture. Advice: anything less than 1K though is robbery, however, but remember that there are also other events that the school system does that turn out to be very lucrative for the accompanist, along the order of 60 an hour. In addition, they can also open other opportunities for the future, ecspecially if you teach kids, because doing these events exposes you to your client pool.

The thing is all anyone has to do to fix the rate issue is to start turning down the people that don't want to pay, and then they usually (about 80% of the time) come back to you with more money. If all accompanists would value their own skills enough to "hold the line" as it were, not accepting jobs for less than 25-50 an hour range, then perhaps we would end up with getting equivalent pay to the rest of the musical world. It might end up in some lost gigs, but in the long run a point would be made and pay would go up. But unfortunately, because of the few rogues who will do anything for nothing, it forces prices down, as sadly these people undercut the market.

For those people, and some of you may know of the type of people I am talking about, I wish I could ask them why they like working so hard for so much struggle, little credit, no improvement in peronal lifestyle. To see if they realize that by bargain basementing their charges they are making themselves and the rest of us the victims of their clients because what little quality of life requirement that they have hangs in the balance of what the person they are working for wants, and because they are charging so little... the client knows it. Moreover the clients these people are working for get the attitude that other accompanists should be the same way. You should hear some of the crazy offers I get sometimes....

Anyway I hope you found this helpful...