Wouldn’t it be awesome to make $100 or $200 an hour? As every couple of seconds float by, a few more dollars fall into your pocket. I wonder how closely that kind of dough puts one to the 1%?
Now, suppose you make that kind of money, buy you only are only paid to work and hour or maybe two a week. The rest of the time you are preparing for work and you don’t get paid for that. And there is the chance that at times, there will be no work, and other times, inconveniently too much. All of a sudden, even $200 an hour doesn’t sound so great.
This is the predicament of your parish organist – and here I am talking about a real organist, not someone who plays the organ (as was the case with me.) In a parish with a well trained organist, the bench fee can be quite high and at times people bulk at it. On the surface it does sound a little ridiculous that someone should earn such an outrageous sum, but you are not paying only for that one hour. You are also paying for rehearsal time (so that the organist will play your chosen music well – as my Mother used to say, “If you don’t practice one day, you will notice it. If you don’t practice two days, your audience will notice it.”) There is also consultation time with bride and groom picking out the music that they want, the possibility of having to purchase new music and learn it, and partly you are paying for their years of schooling.
About once a year someone will say to me, “the parish should really pick up the cost.” Interestingly it is usually by people who do not contribute in the first place. And there may be a point there. (And we do if the couple is really struggling and cutting corners everywhere.) But as a Church in general, we do not support our artists well. Could that be the reason at the University of Akron there is only one organ major left and when he graduates they will be closing down that major as is the trend across the nation? What will we do when the only person left to play your wedding is someone who took a couple of years of piano lessons when they were in grade school and will try to plunk something out for you on the organ? Of course, then you can get by slipping the $5 under the table.
When you can, join me in supporting the arts and artists particularly as they pertain to the life of the Church. Like a plant, if we do not nourish them, they will vanish and we will be less because of it.
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