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#2172057 - 10/25/13 08:26 PM Playing free at church  
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Sweet06 Offline
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How can I find a church to play free for? I'm not religious but i'll pretend so I can play each weekend! Do I just walk into churches and ask? Would it be advisable to just go along with being religious or should I tell them I'm only interested in giving to the community and creating a win/win situation?
I just figure churches would be easiest to find a gig AND easiest for a relatively new beginner. I'm open to other gig suggestions if anyone has a better idea!


"Doesn't practicing on the piano suck?!?!"
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#2172062 - 10/25/13 08:38 PM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Sweet06]  
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I imagine that churches might:
a. be happy to have you no matter what
b. have a strong interest in having you subscribe to their religion
c. be some combination of a and b

Give 'em a call.


Having power is not nearly as important as what you choose to do with it.
– Roald Dahl

#2172064 - 10/25/13 08:41 PM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Sweet06]  
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Sweet06 Offline
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Yea, I just don't know what type of reactions I'll get when i say "yea, i have no interest in what you offer and I don't even believe in God! however i'd like to give you guys a service free for a mutually beneficial reason!"

I feel like I'll have to skip around that bush haha. im most definitely not against religion, i just don't subscribe. to each their own.


"Doesn't practicing on the piano suck?!?!"
"The joy is in the practicing. It's like relationships. Yeah, orgasms are awesome, but you can't make love to someone who you have no relationship with!"
#2172070 - 10/25/13 08:52 PM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Sweet06]  
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Originally Posted by Sweet06
Yea, I just don't know what type of reactions I'll get when i say "yea, i have no interest in what you offer and I don't even believe in God! however i'd like to give you guys a service free for a mutually beneficial reason!"

I feel like I'll have to skip around that bush haha. im most definitely not against religion, i just don't subscribe. to each their own.


You should hang out with the Unitarian Universalists. While not wanting to give nor receive validation here, since being a UU I've been able to play anything from Bach to Zappa at my church.

I did explain to them at first every reason why they wouldn't like me, and that I didn't like churches in general, and one reply I got was 'yeah, you'll probably fit in!'. grin

I used to be THE music person there, now I'm 'a' music person there. It's good.

Forrest


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#2172080 - 10/25/13 09:18 PM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Sweet06]  
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Honesty is frequently the best policy. Just tell them the truth about who you are, what you can do and why you want to be there. If they say yes, cool. If not, then that's not your church to play in, and it wasn't meant to be.


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#2172087 - 10/25/13 09:32 PM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Sweet06]  
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I agree that Unitarian Universalists are more open than most, but even there, I think it's advisable to go and visit for at least one service before offering music. That will give you an idea of what the general level and style of music is. Some churches are pretty professional about their music (even among Unitarians) and might not be a good venue for relative beginners. (Robert Shaw was music director of a Unitarian church in Cleveland for some time, maybe before he got to be a famous choral conductor.) Other churches might be happy for anything they can get (though even a lot of these might have their own amateurs).


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#2172112 - 10/25/13 10:52 PM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Sweet06]  
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I'm curious and nothing more. But why play for a church if you don't have the same feelings and beliefs as the ones you would be playing for?

I can understand how it would benefit the church, especially since many are having a hard time finding a pianist. But if I can be nosy, what benefit would you get?

It would be a great help to those who need it, and likely appreciated. But I think honesty about what you are wanting to do would be the best.

Hope you don't mind me asking, I'm just curious.


Tuning and repairing pianos since 1981 in Ranger, Tx. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Roys-Piano-Service/173273022711505
#2172129 - 10/26/13 12:10 AM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Sweet06]  
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I agree that you should be honest with the church about your intentions.
Also, what level did you say you play? I believe you said late-beginner.
Some people assume that the music played in churches is usually not very advanced.
You might be surprised. Most churches I know, including the one I serve at, will play music that is quite advanced.

What pieces do you have in your repertoire, if you don't mind me asking?
Also, you should realize that most churches will look for people who can accompany a choir or a solo or a worship team. Not many churches will have lots of solo piano music as part of their services. There could be some churches though, who might be seeking for instrumental music during Communion or the Offering.

If you are looking for places to play, you can begin by looking at community centers or perhaps nursing homes. Most nursing homes will have a piano, and the audience is usually quite appreciative.

Please share more about your experience as you move forward.

#2172131 - 10/26/13 12:18 AM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Florentin]  
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Originally Posted by Florentin
If you are looking for places to play, you can begin by looking at community centers or perhaps nursing homes. Most nursing homes will have a piano, and the audience is usually quite appreciative.


+1


Ron
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#2172140 - 10/26/13 12:51 AM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Sweet06]  
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Originally Posted by Sweet06
How can I find a church to play free for? I'm not religious but i'll pretend so I can play each weekend! Do I just walk into churches and ask? Would it be advisable to just go along with being religious or should I tell them I'm only interested in giving to the community and creating a win/win situation?
I just figure churches would be easiest to find a gig AND easiest for a relatively new beginner. I'm open to other gig suggestions if anyone has a better idea!


If you don`t do the religion, you won`t feel the music. When you do feel the music, you will be doing the religion. And you won`t be sorry. . .


"I am not a man. I am a free number"

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#2172181 - 10/26/13 03:08 AM Re: Playing free at church [Re: peterws]  
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Originally Posted by peterws
If you don`t do the religion, you won`t feel the music. When you do feel the music, you will be doing the religion. And you won`t be sorry. . .


You caused me to think of an African American Church. Those people really really get into their music. I'm imagining them telling her: Oh honey. Don't you worry one bit. You just do your best to keep up. We'll carry you. smile


Ron
Your brain is a sponge. Keep it wet. Mary Gae George
The focus of your personal practice is discipline. Not numbers. Scott Sonnon
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#2172192 - 10/26/13 03:44 AM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Sweet06]  
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Depends on where you are. In most major cities, at least the piano player is typically a paid professional. I've played for tons of church services over the years (do a lot of subbing for the main players) and it's usually a mix of paid players and volunteers. The volunteers usually are from the congregation though.

Having said that, I've never been asked if I believe in their religion when I'm hired to play. If that kind of work interests you, it doesn't hurt to tell some places that you're a piano player and offer to fill in when their regular guy can't make it. Especially if you're in a smaller town that relies mainly on volunteer players. Be sure you can do a good job though and play what they need (usually either hymns or contemporary worship songs), or you might not be asked back.


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#2172211 - 10/26/13 05:43 AM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Sweet06]  
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Just listened to some of your work at facebook ... hey, nice playing buddy! Is that a volkswagon engine?

Council on Aging sometimes have pianos there to be played.


Rerun

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#2172215 - 10/26/13 06:24 AM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Sweet06]  
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Originally Posted by Sweet06
I'm not religious


Maybe someone is calling you.

#2172221 - 10/26/13 07:13 AM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Sweet06]  
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Church gigs are good paying gigs. They often have pipe organs rather than pianos. If you can read well, the church will have a book containing all the hymnals and you can practice those. It's typically 400 or so short pieces, 3-4 or 5 voices.
Small towns can have trouble finding qualified organists.
You could consider joining or auditioning for your local organist chapter.
You shouldn't have to join any religion, but you should be familiar with the repertoire. You'll be contacted for weddings, funerals, baptism etc... So you will be playing at moments that are important in people's lives. Like I said, it pays well. Many jazz pianist still go to play church gigs on their way to the brunch gig.
Church gigs are for real, you can play them for many many years, truly enjoy them, and make decent money at the same time.

Also, you may be surprised but a lot of people have organs at home. They are horribly heavy but you can get one cheap. Mason used to make them, they are still on ebay and elsewhere. They would be great for practicing because the drawbars work the same, and it has foot pump, pedals, volume etc...

If you're just looking to play piano for free, a retirement home might also be a good gig. Bring arrangements of peppy tunes and entertain. Some retirement homes are large, and some are really small, like a person's house. If sing, that's a big plus.


#2172242 - 10/26/13 08:08 AM Re: Playing free at church [Re: knotty]  
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Yep, Ed Alstrom is good at it with Odetta:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOGXiYruaug


and Church of the Redeemer, Morristown, NJ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzmSdyIhk78&feature=c4-overview&list=UUiMGn3wstCN1ZlM3I6i-XoA

...and from his bio:

Alstrom realized a childhood dream in 2004 when he was asked to be the weekend (Sat/Sun) Organist at YANKEE STADIUM, where he filled the seat at the mighty Hammond Colonnade formerly occupied by the great Eddie Layton, who retired after a 37-year stint. From the time he was 9 years old and his father took him to his first Yankee game against the Washington Senators ... young Alstrom heard that organ at the Stadium and said, "I wanna do THAT". He never dreamed he'd actually get to do it!!

Last edited by Rerun; 10/26/13 09:03 AM.

Rerun

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#2172351 - 10/26/13 11:45 AM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Sweet06]  
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Hymns are dead easy. There's hardly ever more than four notes at a time, rarely faster than quarter notes at moderate tempo, never goes above or below the staff, never any syncopation or weird rhythms, never any strange key signatures.

That's just to lure you in. Once you start playing them, it's a different story. Be sure you can actually do what you're offering.

I can't tell you how many times we've had a guest organist blaze through a fantastic prelude, then crash and burn on a simple hymn. It looks easier than it is.


gotta go practice
#2172424 - 10/26/13 02:32 PM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Sweet06]  
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To find a church to play for, simply look at a Google map of your area, type in churches, choose one & turn up for the Sunday service. I'm sure they will be glad to see you.

If I was in your shoes I would simply sit through the service & not announce that you play the piano until you are sure you can make a positive contribution. After a process of elimination you should find what you are looking for.

Checkout this Article http://www.ehow.com/how_5542371_play-piano-church.html

Apart from knowing Hymns you will also have to know Contemporary Christian music & have the ability to play in numerous keys : Good Luck & please let us know how you get on.




I am learning to play the piano. My main influences are Gospel, R&B and Jazz piano
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#2172605 - 10/27/13 01:23 AM Re: Playing free at church [Re: cmajornine]  
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Charles Cohen Online content
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Quote
If I was in your shoes I would simply sit through the service & not announce that you play the piano until you are sure you can make a positive contribution.


+1.

It's not all hymns, these days. Depending on who's playing, and what music they're playing, you may find that _you_ should be learning from _them_.

My choir sang at a church tonight. Their "house PA system" was running a 20-channel mixer, all set up for a good-sized band.

Take a look at 'gospelmusicians.com' -- some good chops, there.

. Charles

PS -- I just stumbled on a related thread, here:

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/ubb/showflat/Number/2171526/gonew/1/Reading%20From%20Church%20Hymnal:%20Su.html#UNREAD

Last edited by Charles Cohen; 10/27/13 01:35 AM.

. Charles
---------------------------
PX-350 / microKorg XL+ / Pianoteq / Lounge Lizard / Korg Wavedrum / EV ZXA1 speaker
#2176683 - 11/03/13 11:06 PM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Sweet06]  
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Since I have been a church pianist for 30 years (sad to say), I know that there is a huge need for pianists. However, church pianists typically need these skills:

1) Sight-reading (arranged music for choirs and groups; not too hard but not beginner stuff either)
2) Improvisation (hymnals are not designed for pianists to play from; they just contain vocal parts. Pianists have to read from hymnals, identify the harmony and improvise on it. In modern churches, the music is not from hymnals but is provided in lead sheet or chart form and requires even more improvisation).
3) Playing by ear (you can get along without this for a while but eventually you will need it)

There are some churches where the music is quite intimidating. Most churches are using volunteers and the quality is not great. Getting paid for that kind of work is not easy by the way though obviously earn money playing in church.

Last edited by Greg Howlett; 11/03/13 11:06 PM.

Free downloads, arrangements, piano lessons and tips for pianists at http://www.greghowlett.com/freechristianpianomusic.aspx
#2176843 - 11/04/13 09:12 AM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Greg Howlett]  
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Originally Posted by Greg Howlett
Most churches are using volunteers and the quality is not great. Getting paid for that kind of work is not easy by the way though obviously earn money playing in church.


There is an argument that performing professional services for free is unethical. It depresses the market and makes it impossible for others to be paid.

And because using unskilled volunteers has become so common, the expectations for high quality music have been reduced, and appalling performances are now acceptable.



gotta go practice
#2176859 - 11/04/13 09:52 AM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Sweet06]  
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When I decided to help out our music director with the piano, my teacher told me not to get into hymns yet. She said i can start doing an offertory music, communion music, prelude, postilude or something that can be prepared beforehand. I can sight read four part chorales at home. But she told me its totally different to read music under pressure and have to improvise to respond to any situation. So I started observing the organist / pianist closely. She was absolutely correct. Somedays she had to improvise because you have too many people or handicapped elderly etc. some other days she had to find a way to end a piece quickly. I think it will be good to offer to play a piece or two for the part of service until you feel comfortable.



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#2176861 - 11/04/13 10:01 AM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Sweet06]  
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Originally Posted by Sweet06
How can I find a church to play free for? I'm not religious but i'll pretend so I can play each weekend! Do I just walk into churches and ask? Would it be advisable to just go along with being religious or should I tell them I'm only interested in giving to the community and creating a win/win situation?
I just figure churches would be easiest to find a gig AND easiest for a relatively new beginner. I'm open to other gig suggestions if anyone has a better idea!
I started my first church gig and I was upfront about not being religious. They were fine with that. Not all of them will be, but don't be offended. Here are some things to consider:

- Some churches call this "leading worship", and so it is understandable with such a title that they would want someone who is of their faith to lead them in worshipping. Be honest and upfront about your faith or lack thereof, and take it from there.

- You say you're a relatively new beginner. What does that mean? Do you have the skills to lead a congregation?


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#2176867 - 11/04/13 10:30 AM Re: Playing free at church [Re: TimR]  
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Originally Posted by TimR
Originally Posted by Greg Howlett
Most churches are using volunteers and the quality is not great. Getting paid for that kind of work is not easy by the way though obviously earn money playing in church.


There is an argument that performing professional services for free is unethical. It depresses the market and makes it impossible for others to be paid.

And because using unskilled volunteers has become so common, the expectations for high quality music have been reduced, and appalling performances are now acceptable.

I sing with the praise team for my church. I also direct the choir for our Christmas musical. There is a paid music pastor there who is in charge of the band, music selection, prayer, and generally what we do. I am happy to do this for free for my home church. If they offered to pay me, I don't know if I'd accept or not. I really cannot donate money to the church, so this is my way of donating. Why is this unethical?

By the way, I think the quality of musicians in the band and praise team is pretty high in general. It was one of the things that drew me to the church to begin with.

I know of many churches with lots of money that do pay people to perform, especially for Christmas and Easter services. Many don't care what faith you are (or if you have any). I haven't even tried to get a paid position elsewhere because that would take me away from my church family. I'm sure that is how the other musicians feel as well (I'm not sure if band members get paid). So these people who want to offer something for free are not creating a "depressed market" because they aren't in the market.


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#2176907 - 11/04/13 11:42 AM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Morodiene]  
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
So these people who want to offer something for free are not creating a "depressed market" because they aren't in the market.


They aren't in the market, but they eliminate a large part of the market.

At my own church I play and direct for free, though I have some qualms. At any other church I will not do so, for this very reason. We volunteers are taking the bread-and-butter away from people who need it. It really is considered offensive by performing musicians.

I just heard about a handbell director who has a unique approach to this problem. She charges $2,000 for her services and has the church write it into the annual budget. Then she donates it back and takes the tax deduction. When she leaves, if the church has to hire they know what it costs and are prepared.



gotta go practice
#2176975 - 11/04/13 02:08 PM Re: Playing free at church [Re: TimR]  
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Originally Posted by TimR
Originally Posted by Morodiene
So these people who want to offer something for free are not creating a "depressed market" because they aren't in the market.


They aren't in the market, but they eliminate a large part of the market.

At my own church I play and direct for free, though I have some qualms. At any other church I will not do so, for this very reason. We volunteers are taking the bread-and-butter away from people who need it. It really is considered offensive by performing musicians.

I just heard about a handbell director who has a unique approach to this problem. She charges $2,000 for her services and has the church write it into the annual budget. Then she donates it back and takes the tax deduction. When she leaves, if the church has to hire they know what it costs and are prepared.

I'm not taking bread and butter away form anyone simply because the person who is making bread and butter at my church (the worship leader) is getting paid. I'm not sure if band members are also paid, but I know the praise team is volunteer. It's not different than me being in a volunteer choir. Also, many smaller churches just don't have the membership to support paid musicians, so even if they had no one, they would not be able to be in the market for someone to pay.


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#2177001 - 11/04/13 03:29 PM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Sweet06]  
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I get the sense from the OP that s(he) is a relative beginner. That's a potential barrier if the person doesn't belong to the church.

In my experience, churches usually have a paid music director who is either a voice, piano, or organ specialist. That director is often quite competent at two of the three, or at all three of the three!

There is very little need for outsider beginners. The church does use professional musicians, but they bring some unique talent or training. I have seen professional brass players, great African drum specialists, and Celtic musicians for a Celtic service. [My youngest has actually played at Celtic services around the region, often for pay.]

The church's kids do get the opportunity to play a piece now and again as an offering. That's on a volunteer basis, and it occurs only once in a while (except over the summer, when it is more regular).

#2177004 - 11/04/13 03:34 PM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Morodiene]  
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TimR Offline
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TimR  Offline
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Virginia, USA
Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by TimR
Originally Posted by Morodiene
So these people who want to offer something for free are not creating a "depressed market" because they aren't in the market.


They aren't in the market, but they eliminate a large part of the market.

At my own church I play and direct for free, though I have some qualms. At any other church I will not do so, for this very reason. We volunteers are taking the bread-and-butter away from people who need it. It really is considered offensive by performing musicians.

I just heard about a handbell director who has a unique approach to this problem. She charges $2,000 for her services and has the church write it into the annual budget. Then she donates it back and takes the tax deduction. When she leaves, if the church has to hire they know what it costs and are prepared.

I'm not taking bread and butter away form anyone simply because the person who is making bread and butter at my church (the worship leader) is getting paid.


If I offer piano lessons at $5 a week, will that affect your earning power? I'll get a lot of students that can't afford your rates anyway so I'm not hurting you, right?

It's not a simple issue. Most of us like to play, and most of us would rather give actual service than write a check; it feels more genuine. But we need to be careful where and when we provide unpaid services. When we undervalue ourselves we tend to also undervalue all musicians, and they are not all pleased.

We pay our DOM (director of music). He does the organ and vocal choir. (I do the handbells, Christmas pageant, and all the extras that come up as a volunteer.) We don't pay him enough to live on, nor do any of the traditional churches (the megachurches are a different story). Since nobody can make a living as an organist, most of the music schools have dropped the major. I'm on the hiring committee and it is a real struggle to find anybody. But scarcity has not caused the price to rise.


gotta go practice
#2177008 - 11/04/13 03:39 PM Re: Playing free at church [Re: Piano*Dad]  
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TimR Offline
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Virginia, USA
Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
I get the sense from the OP that s(he) is a relative beginner. That's a potential barrier if the person doesn't belong to the church.



Very true. When I had a Praise & Worship team I did take beginners, but they were part of the community, and I could assign them parts within their capability.

If you're a beginner, the most likely opportunity is within your own church.

If you're not a beginner, you should offer to substitute. In my area $175 per service would be fair to charge though I think it's below scale. It's okay to do one freebie as an audition, but after that if you're good enough to play you're good enough to be paid.


gotta go practice
#2177154 - 11/04/13 08:56 PM Re: Playing free at church [Re: TimR]  
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Morodiene Offline
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Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted by TimR
Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by TimR
Originally Posted by Morodiene
So these people who want to offer something for free are not creating a "depressed market" because they aren't in the market.


They aren't in the market, but they eliminate a large part of the market.

At my own church I play and direct for free, though I have some qualms. At any other church I will not do so, for this very reason. We volunteers are taking the bread-and-butter away from people who need it. It really is considered offensive by performing musicians.

I just heard about a handbell director who has a unique approach to this problem. She charges $2,000 for her services and has the church write it into the annual budget. Then she donates it back and takes the tax deduction. When she leaves, if the church has to hire they know what it costs and are prepared.

I'm not taking bread and butter away form anyone simply because the person who is making bread and butter at my church (the worship leader) is getting paid.


If I offer piano lessons at $5 a week, will that affect your earning power? I'll get a lot of students that can't afford your rates anyway so I'm not hurting you, right?
This is different, because I am getting paid to teach. There are teachers who teach for free out there, I'm sure, but they aren't the vast majority. Also, my students are not charitable organizations whom I can choose to teach for free. I may do this, at my discretion, but it's never been a good thing in the long run, I've found.

My church, however, IS a charitable organization. As such, they depend on volunteers to clean the building, teach Sunday school and Bible studies, run lights and sound tech, head up Christmas musicals, run Awana programs, and other outreach programs. Sure, these could probably be done, and done very well by paid professionals in those respective fields, but the whole purpose of the church is to help one another, and to do it of their own volition. It is how they manage to survive week in and week out.

I have no problem with the church offering to pay any of the professionals that they use. If I were approached and offered to get paid by my church, I'd probably do what your friend does and turn that right back around and give it to them. But they haven't, and I am not going to ask. I know that if I had said no when they asked, they would have found someone else or made do without my help. What I do is not and never was a paid position.

Now that I think of it, my church let me use their space when I did summer voice program. I was able to teach class there in the mornings and we were able to perform there at the end of the 2 week class. They didn't charge me for it. I suppose they're undercutting the facilities that wanted to charge me $800 for use of their space for one day, but I wasn't in that market.

Quote
It's not a simple issue. Most of us like to play, and most of us would rather give actual service than write a check; it feels more genuine. But we need to be careful where and when we provide unpaid services. When we undervalue ourselves we tend to also undervalue all musicians, and they are not all pleased.
I would love to give a check as well as my time. Perhaps circumstances will allow me to in the future.

Quote
We pay our DOM (director of music). He does the organ and vocal choir. (I do the handbells, Christmas pageant, and all the extras that come up as a volunteer.) We don't pay him enough to live on, nor do any of the traditional churches (the megachurches are a different story). Since nobody can make a living as an organist, most of the music schools have dropped the major. I'm on the hiring committee and it is a real struggle to find anybody. But scarcity has not caused the price to rise.
It is unfortunate you cannot pay him enough to live on. As far as I know, our music director doesn't do any other jobs on the side. His wife recently decided to home school their 4 children, so his is the only income. So I have to assume that he's getting paid a decent amount. I think it's VERY important to pay people that do this as their one and only job. The incidental stuff, however, I don't think it is necessary if both parties are happy with that arrangement.

I did put a lot of thought into doing this, because I used to have a part time music director job at a church. It made it very hard for me to worship and it was "work" (hmm, maybe "workship" is a better name for that). At any rate, it's been many years and I'm at a different church, and glad to do what I can for them.

I presume this is why you do all that you do for free? And if so, you don't feel bad if you're undercutting other professionals?


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