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Double Dipping as a Music Director

We have a part time Music Director who is also serves as the piano accompanist for choir, solos and ensembles.  We also have an organist who plays each Sunday morning.  Our Music Director is now demanding that when the organist if absent and if she plays the organ, or the piano for the whole service which would include a prelude (short) offertory and hymn that she should be entitled to the substitute organist compensation.  Our church is small (60 or less members)  I maintain that if we had to get an outside substitute they should be compensated but when we have someone who could easily fill in for the 4 Sundays of the year that the organist is gone, no additional compensation should be warranted.  The Music Director is fairly compensated in her job as Music Director which includes the responsibility of playing for congregational singing and ensuring that other music is provided.  Thoughts?  Comments?
Replies (21): Threaded | Chronological
on January 4, 2014 3:05am
I would go along with what you're saying regarding paying someone who fills in for a month the same as you would pay your regular organist.  I would also be prepared for those temporary musicians to ask for a little more compensation, and would make sure I had a little extra moolah tucked away in the budget somewhere in case we needed it.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 4, 2014 3:36am
I work with community choirs rather than in a church context, which I know is different, but my thoughts FWIW.
I conduct two choirs where we have no regular accompanist at rehearsals, but hire accompanists for our major concerts, and sometimes for other gigs.
Sometimes I choose to accompany the choir myself instead of hiring an accompanist - and that's generally done to save the choir money. I don't ask for extra payment on those occasions.
But - that is my choice, firstly to play at all, and secondly to provide that service effectively as a volunteer.
If it was a case where the committee refused to hire an accompanist, and directed me to play, without offering additional compensation for something that's not officially part of my job, I think I would feel very differently about the situation.
Your situation sounds similar to the latter hypothetical situation - moreover, it's not clear to me from what you write that covering the organist's absences fall under the responsibilities of your Music Director.
Is it her responsibility to organise substitute organists?
Is it her choice to fill in for the organist herself? Or has some other decision-maker within the church decided this should be the case?
If the last situation, then I think she has the right to decide whether or not she is willing to take on the extra responsibility without additional compensation. 
Applauded by an audience of 3
on January 4, 2014 4:08am
Gailyn, I have to side with your Music Director on this. It is unfair to ask someone to do work beyond what is noted in his/her official job description for no extra compensation, especially when, as you noted, your church would indeed pay an outside substitute for the same tasks.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on January 4, 2014 4:46am
It looks like we're missing some information here to help you.  A lot depends on what was initially agreed to when you first hired her. Is your music director an employee of the church (salaried) or an independent contractor? What specifically does the contract say with regards to responsibilities of the music director?  
If occassionally serving as organist is in the contract then the director should honor that.  If it's not in the contract, and you regularly hire a seperate person as organist then it sounds like this is a seperate position. There is probably some overlap in the responsibilities and skill set so it might be worth working out a deal with the music director for those times when the regular organist isn't there. It doesn't seem fair to say to a musician (or anyone for that matter), "please be prepared to do this extra work; we'd gladly pay somoene else for, but not you."  
I'm guessing that your part time music director has to have other work/gigs to support herself and has a reputation to maintain. She may be fairly compensated for work as a music director. However, fair compensation shouldn't mean you get more than what you paid and agreed for.  If it gets out to her other colleagues/collaborators that she's doing additional work without compensation it could have a negative effectt on her other working relationships.  
I am a singer and diction coach for soloists and choruses. Sometimes I get hired as ringer and coach for rehearsals but very often it's one or the other.  When I'm working as both ringer and coach I don't receive two fees; we negotiate a slightly higher fee for the work involved.  It's incredibly frustrating when I am hired as a singer and then mid-rehearsal am asked to coach diction. Like your music director, I am already there and I can do it, but it's not fair to me and the work I put into building my diction skills to do this without prior agreement and compensation. 
It's feel great when someone asks you to do a job because they believe you can do it well, but when the monetary value of that job is not clear it can become very frustrating for both sides, each thinking the other is taking advantage.  This isn't the first time this has happened and it sounds like you're open to working out a fair solution.  I'm sure others on the forum will have insightful advice and you'll be able to work out something fair for you both.  
Good luck!
Applauded by an audience of 3
on January 4, 2014 5:51am
Are you a congregant, staff member or both? This issue needs to be discussed between the Music Director and whomever (be it an individual or a group) does the decision-making for the church. Whatever is decided about expectations for serving as a substitute organist and compensation for those services needs to be explicitly included in the Music Director's contract. If the phrase "ensuring that other music is provided" is a quote from the Music Director's contract, this does not imply serving herself as a substitute when the organist is absent (including the preparation that filling that role would entail). 
I am in a similar position: I serve as Director of Music at a large church where the responsibilties for administering the program, leading the ensembles and accompanying the services are split between two professionals. Sometimes when the Pianist/Organist is absent, I step-in and accompany the services. My contract does not include an expectation that I do this, so I volunteer my time (willingly). Other times I hire a substitute. Back when I first started at the church where I currently work, I was initially hired only as the Choir Director and not the Director of Music; I accompanied a few services when the Organist was absent and was compensated fully as a substitute. So I can see this issue from both sides.
Bottom line: come to an agreement and put it in writing.
Applauded by an audience of 4
on January 4, 2014 6:52am
A few assumptions:
1. There is a contract for both positions that clearly defines (as you have done here) the parameters of each.
2. Each position allows for paid vacation and the church remunerates the replacement.
If the church budgets for a replacement organist, and they ask the MD to fill that role (or accepts the mD's offer to do the same) then the additional work entailed in performing as the organist's replacement entitles whomever is doing the job to be paid accordingly.  It really doesn't matter that the MD is already there, or that the extra work seems minimal.  There will be some extra time taken in the preparation of the prelude/offertory and additional hymns. This time and effort has value and it is appropriate to compensate the Music Director for the extra work involved in selecting and rehearsing the music.
Applauded by an audience of 4
on January 4, 2014 8:14am
I think Theodore has a great response to your request above, and the general consensus seems to be that musicians need to be paid for their work.  I have served in churches for several years, wearing many hats, and it can be a challenge to decide what services for which one should be compensated, and which are gifts to the church.  My current job as Chancel Choir Director is salaried, but when I am a soloist I never ask for compensation because it is my gift and service as a member of the church, even though I am paid to sing in the summer at other churches.  It always takes preparation to play for a service, even if it is physically easier to have someone fill in.  All musicians practice countless hours outside of the actual service and should be compensated as with any job. 
Applauded by an audience of 2
on January 4, 2014 12:07pm
I was unclear.  It IS in the job description :-)  for which the job is compensated.  Asking to be further compensated because the MD decides to play the organ, instead of the piano, seems like double dipping to me.  In my opinion (and in the opinion of our music committee) the Directors job which includes accompanying for congregational singing, soloists, choir and ensuring that the worship service program runs smoothly and effectivley covers a lot of different hats.  The job doesn't specify which instrument she can play only that she play.  If the organist is gone for a week, the congregation does just fine with piano only.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 4, 2014 12:15pm
Thanks all!  Maybe a little more info.  I serve as chair of the music committee.  I have a masters in vocal performance and conducting.  I make a clear distinction between my  work in the secular world and work as part of Christian ministry.  If I sing with a symphony or other group I have a set amount that I charge which includes my practice time, my travel, hotel stays, etc.  But I would no more think of charging the church for a solo than do it naked.  It just doesn't fit within my context of Christian ministry.  However, we do pay our organist and our music director what I believe to be a fair compensation for the work that is done.  Realize too that this job is one that takes, at the most, 10 hours of work, and I'm being generous there.  1 hour on Sunday, 1 hour on Wednesday to practice with soloists or ensemble groups.  I'm assuming that 8 other hours are spent in organization, communication and practice.  Our 'choir' only sings once a month and choir rehearsal are for 20 minutes on Sunday mornings.  We're not talking about a large church where we have a plethora of music programs.   I agree and believe that one should be compensated for one's work.  I believe we do that at our church with the Director of Music.  Her job description is quite detailed and clear as is her contract.  I appreciate all of your insights and comments.  They will help as we move forward. 
on January 4, 2014 7:36pm
What I think would help clarify things is what happens on a "normal" Sunday when everyone is there.  If your MD plays piano for the choir or any other solos or ensembles, and the organist plays for other aspects of the service, such as prelude, hymns, offertory, responses and postlude, then that would seem to define their "normal" responsibilities.  If you hired a substitute organist to do the organist duties when the organist is gone, you would pay the substitute accordingly, right?  So why then, if the MD volunteers to do those extra parts of the service that the organist normally does, would you not pay the MD what you would pay the substitute organist?  If the MD's contractual responsibilities include everything the organist does, why do you have an organist that you pay?  Am I missing something here, or does this logic make sense?  
Applauded by an audience of 3
on January 5, 2014 2:27pm
You may have specified in the director's contract that the occasional fill-in is part of her job description, but you could see this discussion as an opportunity to revisit that contract and decide if it's fair.  As an example, when I was hired at my small private school, I was told that part of the job would be assisting in preparing musicians and providing accompaniment for the spring musical (in addition to directing all the choirs and teaching some other subjects.)  At the time, I agreed to that, because I didn't have a clear idea of how much work everything was going to take.  NOW, I am planning to revisit that question with my supervisor, because I have realized that it will add a HUGE amount of work to my plate, for which I believe I should be compensated.  I am not "demanding," or trying to "double-dip"--I am asking to revisit a question, based on new understanding of how much this will cost me in effort and time.  
I'd like to point out that you are using loaded language in talking about this--talking about the music director "double dipping", and "demanding" extra pay.  Also, I was reading this thread to my husband, and he pointed out that it's actually the church that is "double dipping"--since you are asking a musician to do two separate jobs for one paycheck (and the one that is extra to her usual is one for which you are willing to pay other people).  It may be helpful to step back and think about whether you have unnecessarily polarized your thinking about her motivations.
Applauded by an audience of 3
on January 5, 2014 2:27pm
Out of curiosity, what happens on the Sundays during the year when the MD is gone? Does the organist cover the things she would have played and do the full service, or is a substitute brought in? The answer to that question might, to me, have bearing on which direction to go here.  
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 5, 2014 9:54pm
I'm glad you asked this forum.   (I, similarly to you, also have a masters in voice, and I have conducted, subbed as M.D. , subbed as pianist, organist, etc.)
Some others points I'd suggest you consider:
1. Depending on an individual's skill level, it may take significantly more practice time to prepare organ than piano.  (It does for me.)  There are registrations to be considered, foot pedals, finger substitutions, volume issues, etc. (And in some older churches, the organs have issues such as squeaking, sticking, or popping - not a great thing for us, professionally, or worship-wise. ! :)
2.Generally, a person has to physically travel to the church to practice organ, whereas piano can be practiced at home.  This can complicate personal and family schedules significantly - not to mention possibly occupying a vacant building after dark.
3..  Who handles the choir warm-up while this person is doing the prelude?   Does it necessitate extra time to communicate plans/coaching?
4..  If individuals such as this have an additional full or 30-hr-pr-wk job, especially if it is school-teaching or suchlike much take-home work, family to care for, then this additional practice time might actually require that s/he use pay childcare, or eldercare for extra time.   Or take the kids out rather than making dinner, which is generally more expensive - hence the need to be compensated.
Have you, with an open attitude, simply asked her why she feels she need to be paid?
I respect and hear your delineation between a church-gift solo and concert work.  That might be affected somewhat by the small number of members.  I can see that if one has the active national career that you apparently have, and the church had little/no extra money, then an extra rendering on Sunday morning, when it is a song you perform regularly, might not require much prep extra time beyond a quick run-through with keyboard artist.  In that situation, I sometimes do that gratis.  But when my child was younger, and a daytime group in my church asked to me sing for them gratis, I had to explain that this was not "dipping", as you say, but reimbursement for childcare fees - to keep from going broke by "volunteering" for my church.
However, when any hymns or choral pieces are played, it generally gets more complex.  We have to meet with/communicate with the pastor.  We have to be sure that enough singers will be there.  The verses have to be decided.  Descants, harmonizations, etc. might need to be added.
The bottom line is that time is money, and we all have to work out the best way we earn it, spend it, and return it to Our Creator.  You say, " It just doesn't fit within my context of Christian ministry."    So at what point, in your view, does a music minister cross from a compensated staff minister to someone adding a volunteer skill ?  Conversely, if you are singing a sacred/Christian song on a local concert stage,  it requires no hotel/travel, and minimal rehearsal, do you consider it volunteer ministry....or is it only voluntary if it is at your home church?  Perhaps ministry is anywhere we offer it, if our heart is there.  So why would we need less compensation at our own church ... ?   unless we are offering it in lieu of a contributory pledge.
I think that Laura Huizenga and her husband also have made good points re: the fact that musicians often shoulder responsibilities willingly, out of good-heartedness, and find out later what it really takes.  And yes, churches do the "double--dipping" that her husband describes - way too often, in my view.
We do understand it's not easy; it is a complex set of issues.  I hope we have not made your brain over-full with our suggestons !  :)
Best Wishes as you work this out with your committee.   I'd be interested in the result.
on January 6, 2014 2:06pm
Hi Ann,
Your description regarding who is to play what, and on which instrument, is not clear enough to address in detail. Here are my general thoughts on fairness.
We music directors pursue advanced degrees and often incur tremendous debt to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to obtain such positions. For many of us, church work is a second, third, or fourth job. I take pride in the diligence and quality that goes into my music program. The situation is harmonious because my employer is supportive and fair.
Whether or not your MD happens to be a member of your church, she should be treated first as an employee. If she chooses to volunteer her craft for your cause, that’s very nice. But the decision to volunteer must be made by the volunteer. Requiring an employee to donate their skills is not ethical.
Best wishes for a mutually respectful resolution!
Applauded by an audience of 2
on January 9, 2014 7:03am
All -  Thank you for your insights, thoughts, and comments.  To clarify, again a few points.
The job description of the MD clearly specifies that MD play for the morning services, whether or not the organist is there.  The job description was written specifically for the person upon hiring.  There is no question as to whether or not the MD should or should not play.  They have done so and it IS in the job description.  Nobody is asking the MD to VOLUNTEER to play as it is part and parcel of the job.
The question was whether or not to compensate her as the volunteer substitute.  The Church's council maintained that there was NO neeed for the organ to be played on the 4 Sundays that the organist is absent.  The church was willing to have just the piano which, again, is in the job description to which the MD signed off and agreed to upon hire.  
The church has said we don't need an organ on the Sundays the organist is absent.  IF the MD CHOOSES to play the organ that is her choice.  We are not asking the MD to do so and are quite happy with only piano accompaniment. 
When and IF we have had an OUTSIDE SUBSTITUTE,  we have indeed compensated.
Also, please understand, we are a church of, on a good day, 50 people.  This is NOT a huge church in the middle of NY or San FRancisco.  It's a little country church with a small budget.  
Thanks, again for your input.  I think we have put the issue to rest at our church.
on January 9, 2014 7:38am
I wonder why you even bothered starting this thread, because it seems to me that you'd already made up your mind on this issue before you first posted, and that nothing said here has affected your thinking.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on January 10, 2014 6:50am
I would also add to Simon's comment that had you included the information from your last post in your first one, much of the discussion above would have been unneccessary.  Why ask for advice if the parameters of the situation are entirely clear to you?  
on January 10, 2014 4:18am
Simon -  just because someone asks for input does not necessarily mean they will change their mind. One who is wise will ask for counsel to hear all sides to help clarify. No, I did not change my original decision however that does NOT mean I did not hear and weigh what I heard.  Weighing ALL the factors of our situation and considering the insights and input from the  folks here brought me to the do closure our church needed.  Disagreeing or taking a different approach doesn't mea I did not value the input or consider what people here offered. I'm sorry you think differently. 
Applauded by an audience of 2
on January 10, 2014 12:55pm
I went back and read the original post.  I'm not sure it WAS entirely clear, but after reading the replies it appears that folks didn't read in entirety the orignal post where this person wrote "Music Director which includes the responsibility of playing for congregational singing and ensuring that other music is provided. "  If I understand it correctly, the person was trying to see if the Music Director, whose job apparently covered playing during a service had a legitimate argument that she be paid more, simply because she was going to play the organ, which apparently wasn't required.   I think musicians need to be paid for a job done.  I understand that this music director was and her request for more money to do what she was already doing was Ann called "double dipping"  It appears to me that she was trying to clarify for herself that the decision of the church was correct, but maybe she had missed something.  Just sayin......   
Applauded by an audience of 1
on August 8, 2014 8:48pm
I have always lived by this motto, and have yeilded a lot of work.... too much at times. If a church hires me as a pianist, I will do whatever they need me to do on a Sunday morning. I might be hired to just play for praise choruses with the band, but am happy to also play a prelude, offertory, postlude,or  sing along with my playing should the need arise. All this without expecting any other compensation. I apply the same thinking to jobs as a wedding pianist and vocalist. At one recent wedding my prelude was extended by almost 45 minutes while we waited for a member of the wedding party to arrive.  Does this mean that I should have charged more money?  Perhaps. But life happens. If someone is serving in a position at a church, I would think that some extra "serving" (especially in a church the size of yours) without pay would be commonplace. 
I currently "serve" as the Vocal Music Director at a public high school. On occasion, I step in to help out a music or drama colleague when a need arises for one of their performances. I am not paid extra for coming to school when I am not scheduled, nor do I expect extra compensation for it. I consider these occasional events part and parcel to the job. 
Glad to see you have worked out the situation. 
Applauded by an audience of 3
on August 10, 2014 11:21pm
I'm happy to hear you and your church worked out the issue Ann.  Always know you can count on us to weigh in and help each other out through the tough choices.  That's what a community is for! :)
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