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Church choir director Salary

Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond to my inquiry for a
colleague regarding average salaries for a church choir position.

I was overwhelmed by the number of responses, as well as the wonderful
personal stories that were shared. I simply do not have the time to
respond to all of the e-mails I received, so thank you to all who
responded to the inquiry.

There were a few common threads regarding places to find salary
information for church choir directors:

A) A chart from the American Guild of Organists:
http://www.agohq.org/profession/salaryjpeg.html

B) The Association of Lutheran Church Musicians:
http://www.alcm.org/alcm/pdf/SalaryGuidelines.pdf

C) The Presbyterian Association of Musicians:
http://horeb.pcusa.org/pam/ProfResGuidelines.htm#Compensation

D) An excellent article on searching for a church position by Dean B.
McIntyre that can be found at the Methodist General Board of
Discipleship:
http://www.gbod.org/worship/music/articles.asp?act=reader&item_idQ48&l
oc_id,20,760

E) An excellent article written by Vernon Sanders for "Creator Magazine
Online":
http://www.creatormagazine.com/articles/default.asp?arttopicidH&topici
d'&selid=1&level=3

F) A recommendation to become involved with the Choral Conductors Guild:
http://www.nacmhq.org/content/home/


Other offered guidelines:

I) Base the salary on the number of hours worked per week...10
hrs/week=$10,000 annual; 20 hrs/week=$20,000; etc.

II) Declarations of personal salaries for similar positions (1 choir, 2
services, 1 weekly rehearsal)

1. $10,000
2. $5,700
3. $5,150
4. $5,000
5. $1,200
6. $0

It's far from a statistically significant survey, but the
average seems to be $5,000 for such a position.


***************
Christopher J. Russell

Director of Choirs, Park High School
Cottage Grove, MN 55016
(e-mail) choirguy(a)choirguy.com
crussell(a)sowashco.k12.mn.us


--
on September 22, 2004 10:00pm
It seems salaries have not changed much in about 25 years...also, from what I have been hearing from my music appreciation students on Praise and Worship... choirs will not be a function of the church service for many more years...if they had their way, etc...so I guess you are fortunate to be in any kind of paying job...I have been serving an Interim position for about 1000 a month...excellent choir and support..so those positions still do exist...Thank the good Lord!
on November 24, 2004 10:00pm
I have a Jr. Choir at the Pilgrim Congregational Church in Leominster, Ma that meets Wed. eves from 6:45-7:30pm once a week. The Jr. Choir sings once a month. These students are K-4th grade and I use a Kodaly based methodology. This position is $3,000. annually and I have held it for 4 years.
I have checked out one position that was conducting for $4,000 annually including weekly rehearsal and two Sundays a month. Other positions were $6-8,000 for a weekly rehearsal including 4 Sundays monthly as an Organ/Choir director position combined.
Dennis D'Ambroise
Jr. Choir Director
Pilgrim Congregational Church
Leominster,Ma
on December 1, 2004 10:00pm
I just started a choir director/pianist job in Durham, NC, that pays $9500 annually. We have 1 service and 1 rehearsal a week. For being a small church, I was pleasantly surprised that they also have funds for musical guests, sheet music, and supplies.
on July 30, 2005 10:00pm
This is a question that I've been asked numerous times, by a variety of pastors and elders/deacons/board members, from a variety of churches in my area (Indiana). Thus, I would say that most people have little clue as to what is appropriate pay. Many music leaders are volunteers or paid little next to nothing.

I currently hold the position of Music & Service Coordinator at Beacon Light Chapel, a small (60-80 person congregation) country church, Churubusco, IN. Although non-denominational, we are similar to the Grace Brethren church. I am only the second paid position this church has had in it's approximately 35 years of existence. With the pastor, I organize the service order, choosing the Sunday service choruses/hymns/worship songs, contact/plan special music w/in the church and guests, plan & teach any children music specials, etc.

For this (approx. 6-10 hours per week; 1-2 days per week), I receive $6.00 per hour + .30 per mile. This amounts to approximately $3500.00 per year. I have as of yet been given a limit on funds for supplies, equipment, special guests, etc. But I am the first person to hold this position and have/will not abuse the freedom given me.

One might think that a person in this position should receive a salary that corresponds with their music education and experience (which would be not only wonderful, but also appropriate), yet it typically depends upon what the church can afford and/or what they have historically offered as compensation. We are creatures of habit.

In my position, I have not been unappreciated in the least and have been given quite a bit of freedom to grow and make mistakes, as a musician, soloist, and overall worshiper/follower of Christ. I can't put a price on what I've gained at this little place called Beacon Light Chapel.

Blessings,
Christina Dulworth
on December 30, 2006 10:00pm
For the past 10 years I have been adult choir director for a fairly small congregation (about 100 active members). Prior to my hire I was an ordinary volunteer choir member. Upon the departure of our previous director we went on without official leadership for about 18 months, at which time I realized that if we did not get a director soon we would no longer have a choir. I offered to assume leadership and was overwhelmingly approved by the members, despite my disclosure that I'd had no formal training as a director and would be calling upon my many years as a choral member as a starting point. I did not expect to be paid as I would be putting in limited hours and because of my amateur status; however, I was offered a stipend and I gratefully accepted.

We have one rehearsal and one service per week, plus the occasional special service. I am currently paid $106 per month, 9 months per year. Our congregation is generally not an affluent one, and I am obviously not doing this solely for the money. In fact I feel fortunate to get any tangible compensation at all. I am also granted a $250 yearly budget for purchasing new music which I have never come close to exceeding because I spend additional hours looking for low-cost ways to beef up our repertoire, such as exchanges with other churches and composing octavos myself.

My salary may not seem like much but I feel abundantly rewarded just the same. I have a wonderful relationship with our organist/accompanist, and every week I am faced by several terrific people whose voices and spirit are truly a blessing. As the credit card commercials say, that's "priceless".

Anne Chiarelli (VanScoy)
South Park United Church of Christ
Rapid City, SD
on February 1, 2007 10:00pm
I have been serving at a Presbyterian Church (part-time) in Mississippi for for a little over two years. Basically, I am only there on Sundays for a morning service, and an evening service. All choral / ensemble rehearsals are on Sunday afternoon between rehearsals so that I don't have to drive 40 minutes again during the week. The pay for the time that I'm there, planning time and travel time is currently $15,000. The leadership has been very gracious and given me two salary increases since starting.
on October 20, 2007 10:00pm
I direct the Jr. High Choir in a youth group of 200 and a church of about 1500. I also help with the youth worship. I put in 15 hrs a week. My position is only for the sept-december and then I direct the Sr. High choir from january-july. I make about $6000 annually.
on April 23, 2008 10:00pm
I find this thread both inspiring and sad. Inspiring because of all the committed, selfless people who humbly do their jobs for less than they would make flipping burgers and sad because it does indeed seem that not much has changed since I took my first church job 14 years ago for $3000 a year. At the time I was an organ student at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and I was grateful for the job. I learned a lot and grew as a musician. Years later, after finishing my bachelors and then masters degree at Eastman School of Music, I fell into a very fortunate church position where my salary steadily grew to a point where I now make as much as if I were a beginning pastor in the denomination. It's still a small salary for a profesional with a masters and, in Washington, DC where the cost if living is among the highest in the country, I have a hard time seeing how I'd ever afford a house or put kids through school, but by comparison to so many who are working for a pittence, I am blessed. The financial stability of my position affords me the time to practice, to develop the music program for a large, affluent congregation that has a tradition of quality music. Some denominations have a good balance between the pastoral and music ministries, seeing the importance of music as a component of worship that can strengthen and enrich a congregation. Others, because of the selfless service of the people who work for pennies, will never know just how blessed they are to be getting good music for far less than it should be worth.

Music training takes decades and thousands of dollars. My music education has cost me and my supportive family well over a hundred thousand dollars. The field is so broad and diverse that I could spend another decade alone just learning the organ works of J.S. Bach and while that would be a significant element of music history it's but a fraction of its breadth. Skills and talents needed to serve well read like an impossible dream: strong sight reading, improvisation, harmony, an excellent ear, choral conducting, interpersonal skill, organization, public relations, knowledge of computer music software, conflict resolution, and the list goes on. It's one of the most diverse and challenging jobs I can think of.

So, blessings to those of you who keep doing this job for remuneration that would be illegal for McDonalds to pay its employees. I think there must be a special place in heaven for you. Keep the dialog alive about this topic. Continue to challenge and educate your congregations to the importance of music and what it takes to create it.
on December 27, 2008 10:00pm
Mark, you pretty much hit the nail right on the head. You, however, are one of the lucky ones. My disadvantages are that I do not have a music degree (my degree is in Electronic Technology) and I am in a small church, where I have been for all but about 5 of the 32 years I have been directing. I have seen some small churches, though, that pay their directors pretty well. Some of my experience:

Directing church choirs since 1976 (started at the tender age of 21)

Former vice president and board member of the Mid-Eastern Federation of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians

Well-versed in Byzantine liturgical chant (self-taught), read Greek fluently

Recognized by Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America in 2002 for my contributions to church music

Composer of liturgical music based on Byzantine chant

Yet after all this and more, I am still only paid $75 a month. My other problems are I really don't get the committment I need from my small choir. Those of you who have weekly rehearsals are fortunate. I have trouble getting my people to commit to rehearsal every other week! And I know many other directors in the same boat. My pastor is in my corner and we are definitely on the same page as to what we want and expect but the problem is that the members don't seem to get what it means, at least in the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith, to "serve the Lord with gladness; come into His presence with singing" (Ps. 100:2). Maybe it's time for me to step down and see if they can find a younger person to take over (I'm 53).
on January 17, 2009 10:00pm
I have just been invited to take the position as music director at a church of about 800 members. There is one rehearsal on Thursday evening and one service on Sunday morning with a sanctuary choir.I have a DMA in church music from USC. I have had 46 years of experience directing church choirs in various denominations. I taught church music courses at a major Christian university for 27 years. There would also be a major choral work performed at Christmas as well as Easter.The church has a solid financial base.

What should the salary be?

on January 20, 2009 10:00pm
I have 22 years experience as organist/choir director in small New England Churches...starting when I was 18 and am now 40.

I am currently organist and choir director for a church with about 100 active members and a choir of about 14 members. I play one weekly service on Sunday morning and conduct one weekly evening rehearsal. I have been in this position for about 6 years.

My annual salary based on 10 months (September thru June - I do not work in July and August) is $13,131 and paid equally over 12 months. Taxes are withheld and employer taxes are paid by the church. In addition, I recieve 2 weeks paid vacation and a book allowance of $100. I usually recieve a 4% annual increase.

I feel this is a very good salary.