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Question about your procedures for getting a sub for your adult church choir

I am hoping to get some information from those of you who direct an adult church and have a separate accompanist.  When your accompanist needs to get a sub for a rehearsal, what are your procedures? 
Specifically I am wondering how far in advance does your accompanist let you know of the absence and does he/she have to fill out an absence request form?  How many absences from rehearsals is he/she allowed?  Are some of those absences paid and others unpaid? Is there a separate budget for sub accompanists, does the pay for the sub come out of the accompanist's salary, or is there a mix of both?  For those in the Philadelphia area, how much does your church pay the subs?  I know AGO has guidelines, but there is a wide range on those guidelines.
Thank you so much for your information!  I always find great information and wisdom from the Choralnet community. 
Replies (8): Threaded | Chronological
on May 12, 2011 10:17am
I'll try to help the best I can.
Most ask for 1-3 months in advance for planned absences. Of course people get sick at the last minute sometimes. A casual choir may ask for 1 month while more professional may require up to 3 months (NY Pro Choirs).
How many absences from rehearsals? That depends how many you have? Are we talking 1 per week? If so then 1-3 absences from relearsals may be accepted if there is a proper replacement and planned in advance.
Absences are only paid if the person is salaray and it is written in the contract that they are permitted X amount of absences paid per year etc...
A seperate budget for subs? That would be nice but not always the case. Does the pay come out of the salary of the accompanist? I dont think so. Philly Churches Pay subs accompanists approx. anywhere from $100 and up. It's hard to answer this question without knowing what the sub is responsible for? How much music and the difficulty, etc...
Hope this helps.
on May 12, 2011 11:58am
This helps a lot!  Thank you very much.
My adult choir meets once a week and the music usually isn't difficult.  The sub would just be responsible for accompanying the rehearsal.
on May 12, 2011 2:53pm
We typically plan around 3 months ahead at my church, sometimes further than that, depending on the season, so we expect our staff members to let us know when they will be out ahead of time in meetings. It's a part-time position and we're somewhat flexible, so as long as she's not missing a Sunday every month, it's not normally a problem. I've been at this church since September and I can only think of three instances that she was out of town; two of which were when she went to Italy. The absences are typically paid, as she normally will still be in town for rehearsals. My preference is to choose a replacement for the service whom I already know, so that we don't have to feel each other out on Sunday mornings. 
on May 14, 2011 7:41am
Our organist is part-time and gets 4 weeks of vacation where the church pays the sub.  He is retired (young retiree) and likes to travel some, so he will pay his own sub if he wants additional time. He always takes off Memorial Day weekend to go to the Indy 500 so we know to expect that. He always recruits his own subs and they are always folks who have played for us before so it is never an issue. He and I have worked together for 16 years (he has been working as organist at the church for 25 years and also grew up here) and if something comes up at the last minute he always lets me know and has a sub lined up.  Somehow he is never sick (wish I had his genes!)  I also get 4 weeks vacation and he will fill in for me with no extra compensation.  I try to take vacation in the summer when the choir doesn't sing and there is no rehearsal. He would quit in a minute if asked to fill out an absence request form and I wouldn't blame him.
on May 14, 2011 8:03pm
Hi Austen
At the church I was at for 23 years the pianist/organist for the last 3 years had 4 paid vacation weeks and took many, many sick days, frequently at the last minute. (technically, I think the employment agreement said 4 sick weeks, but no one counted.)  I ran rehearsals from the piano (without any extra pay, and which was more productive sometimes) and sometimes played for the service as well.  We did have a budget for substitutes for services (but not rehearsals) and I usually made the arrangements for planned Sundays when choir was singing, usually at least 1 month in advance.  If it is hard to find a good substitute in your area, I think 2-3 months lead time for planned absences is reasonable. 
on May 15, 2011 2:31pm
Our organist is salaried, so does not lose money when she is out on vacation or sick.  The 1-3 months prior knowledge of an absence is a good guideline.  We are fortunate to have a line item in our music budget for organ subs, whether for rehearsals or Sundays, though I usually lead the rehearsal from the piano so the sub doesn't have to learn all that choral music they won't play on a Sunday.  Subs are quite hard to find in our area, so I'm already looking now for someone for several weeks in July when our organist is away for continuing ed.  She gets two weeks of continuing ed (an exception was made for this summer) and 4 weeks of vacation.  Good luck!
on May 16, 2011 6:37am
Hi Austen: 
All good replies to your question.  The only thing I would add is maybe the church, with your help, needs to write out a job description for both your job and the accompanist. I work at a small Methodist Church and several years ago after  just dealing with absences as they came up, finally put something down on paper.  This also included a line item in the church budget for paying subs.  This helped solve a lot of problems.  Good luck.
Tom Council
on May 16, 2011 7:25am
Tom -
The organist and I do have job descriptions.  Since my position involves directing 5 ensembles, I would not have taken the position in September if there had not been a job description.  There were a few minor conflicts that had been simmering before I came.  Now I am resolving some of those challenges.  Some holes in procedures at my church simply need to be filled in.
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