“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.” Vince Lombardi
Last week, I briefly introduced the history and design of the Chorus America report, Choral Conductors Today: An Updated Report, A Comparison of 2017 and 2005 Findings. Released on September 7, 2017, their report compared findings from their 2005 report to new data gathered from a 2017 survey, using virtually the same questions. Today I will be blogging about these newest findings. What do they mean to us, in 2017, and to our profession?
There were seven key findings in this latest Chorus America report. Today we will speak of the first three.
1.Choral conductors create careers directing multiple choruses.
According to this study, many choral conductors conduct more than one chorus in a variety of settings. These choruses tend to NOT be alike, varying in numbers of singers, age of singers and type. Directing more than one chorus often affects income, benefits and other compensations conductors receive; most are considered “part time.”
Respondents conduct as many as five choruses or as few as one; the most common number of choruses being conducted is two and the next most common is one. The 621 respondents of this study lead a total of 1,148 choruses with a total of 68,100 singers!
What kinds of choruses do respondents conduct? Volunteer and community choruses are conducted by 37 percent of respondents, with 28 percent leading school/university choruses, 18 percent direct volunteer religious choruses, independent children’s choruses are led by 8 percent, 6 percent lead profession choruses and 3 percent direct professional religious choruses. Only 19 percent of those teaching in an academic setting conduct exclusively in a school setting. Choruses led by 2017 respondents tend to be bigger (62 singers) than the 2005 (51 singers) respondents.
2. Choral conducting remains a very satisfying profession
When asked how satisfied they are with their careers, 90 percent of respondents agreed strongly they are very satisfied. Female conductors agree equally with males that conducting is very satisfying, although females are not as compensated as well.
Income varies due to age, gender and level of education as well as workplace setting. Educators report higher incomes, with those in higher education and full time positions the highest paid. Besides level of education and type of workplace, gender is also a major factor in differences in compensation.
Female respondents (42 percent of all survey respondents) are as overall satisfied with choral conducting as a profession as males. But, as in the general population, they receive 73 percent of male conductors’ income. And receive lower compensation regardless of having obtained a doctorate and regardless of their workplace setting. Females and males are often associated with different types of choruses which could be a factor. The wage gap is highest between females and males directing professional choruses (52% difference) and lowest in independent children’s choruses (18 % difference).
Many respondents build a career out of multiple jobs, with benefits and retirement planning a challenge; half have no employment benefits. Educational settings and professional choruses tend to have benefits of some sort but like other artists, the gigging choral conductor struggles.
3. Conductors perform a range of roles and responsibilities for their choruses.
Conductors were asked about performance and preparation activities for their most recent (2015 or 2016) season. In general, most rehearse once a week; professional choruses tend to rehearse less and school choruses rehearse more. Concerts, outreach and other performances total about 15.4 per year. Excluding religious and school based choruses; it breaks down to 12.5 times annually.
Respondents were asked what changes they expected in future seasons. 68 percent expect the same number of performances, 30 percent expected an increase and few expected a decrease.
Overall, 35 percent of respondent conductors have paid management support, while the independent choruses typical of Chorus America’s membership have about 41 percent. Schools and churches typically do not have this sort of help (13 percent, the former, and 14 percent, the latter), with 63 percent of these choruses as respondents to this survey which explains the lower percentage.
Most of the Chorus America respondents do NOT have paid administrative help; conductors must use not only their conducting and artistic skills but a whole range of other skills as well. And even if they have some help, they still may do everything from finding a venue to accompanying rehearsals to fundraising. Choral conductors work hard!
Next week we’ll delve in to the last four key findings of Chorus America’s report. See you then!