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#575456 01/06/09 05:23 PM
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Now I have only been studying piano for a few years and due to excess slacking I'm not as progressed I could/should be. I just got done learning my 3rd Bach Invention piece and struggle with learning any other new songs. I just passed my examinations for Grade 8 piano and might either take Grade 9 this year or wait next year and take Grade 10. Okay so there's a bit of history. Now I know at my age and level (age 20 at Grade 9) I really have no chance for becoming a concert pianist but I really do have aspirations for playing for a church, hopefully ending up playing the organ. I want to know more about what they usually require or expect of musicians to play there and how difficult it is to make a career out of it. I love old church music, hopefully I'll end up studying sacred music, and I would love to play for the church. Any insight? All would be helpful, thanks!!

#575457 01/06/09 05:45 PM
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Do you already go to church? A number of church musicians have been part of theirs for years and aren't necessarily doing it for pay. That being said, there are openings for keyboardists that pay, and pay well for the time you put into it. However it's not enough to make a living off of from what I've seen.

What can you look forward to? Time at choir practice once or twice a week plus the service, sightreading hymns with the congregation, playing offertories, preludes, interludes, postludes, etc., having to work on your footwork for being an organist and making your fingers work harder at legato. Also you may need to work on playing things by ear and/or by chords depending on the church. Transposition is a useful skill, as well as score reading (reading more than 2 lines at once is what I refer to).

For organ especially you'll want to be able to read 3 lines at once, considering that is how organ repertoire is written out. Don't forget being able to change registry at the organ while keeping the song going, changing manuals, etc.

Now, I make it sound a lot harder than it is if you ease into it, but I would definitely advise a few years of organ lessons and that you own an electronic organ at home for practice if you want to be at least a competent organist.

That all being said, you still will want more than than one church job, and it probably won't be easy to schedule a 2nd church job just because most churches meet on the same day, some with multiple services on the same day.

I'd also advise a serious practice schedule to up your skill level at any keyboard instrument, to make it easier to learn new repertoire that you may need to learn for a church gig.


-Piano Instructor since 2008-
#575458 01/06/09 06:06 PM
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Originally posted by AdlerAugen:
Do you already go to church? A number of church musicians have been part of theirs for years and aren't necessarily doing it for pay.
To be an accomplished church musician/organist takes a lifetime of study, practice, preparation, etc. For the hours and skills involved, they should be fairly compensated. It can also be a very stressful job!

I'm aware that there are some who do it as a gift; unfortunately this makes it all the more difficult for those people who hope to earn an income from it.

Shyeifan, I strongly recommend you keep up with your piano studies until at some point you are ready to make the switch. At that point, you really do need a qualified organ teacher to help you learn the basics.

If you are having troubles with piano due to "excess slacking" I'm afraid you won't find the organ to be any easier. If anything, it is more difficult to master.

I'm a longtime church musician so would be happy to answer any questions you have. You might also want to check into a forum specifically for organists, such as The Organ Forum .

#575459 01/06/09 07:09 PM
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Well thank you both so much for what you said. Now I'm sure I would have to find another source of income. Even though I have only been going to church for a little over a year now I have always loved church music, notably catholic music from the renaissance and early baroque era. I hope to study sacred music after my piano studies since I have both a love for theology and music and blending it is all the more satisfying to listen to! No matter, if they pay or not, I would still love to play, I know I do need more discipline in order to achieve this. I guess the reason why I was slacking off so much is because though I absolutely love classical music and really do enjoy studying piano performance I really had no idea what I was going to do with it. Now I would like to, as I said, play for liturgical reasons and hopefully teach, at least the most basics of piano performance and music theory.

#575460 01/06/09 07:14 PM
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Oh and thank you whippen boy, I'm sure I will have questions to ask you. I am going to prioritize and pursue my piano studies before I, if ever, go on to study organ. Even if I play piano that's fine. It ought to be since I'm studying it obviously, I would just like to use my musical studies for the church I so love.

#575461 01/06/09 08:58 PM
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I play at two different churches, voluntarily. But I do not play every week, it's normally once a moth or so because there are other organists I switch on and off with.

The first church I play at is my own church, a Catholic one, and all that's required there is just the hymns, which are usually pretty easy. It's good to play some pre-service music, some music during communion, and maybe a piece after the final hymn when everyone is leaving. It's sort of up to the organist/pianist. Bust basically it's nice to have a quiet little piece for background music.

The second church is a presbyterian church. They're music is much more organized. There is actually a prelude and postlude built into they're program. And normally that requires more practice on my part because people are actually quiet and listen! The same goes for the postlude. Then there are just the hymns throughout ther service.


Once during a concert at Carnegie Hall, the violinist Rachmaninoff was playing with lost his place in the music and whispered to Rachmaninoff, "Where are we?" Rachmaninoff replied, in all seriousness, "Carnegie Hall".
#575462 01/06/09 11:16 PM
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Good to hear you have such a love of church music and you gravitate to the music from a very exalted period.

Are you currently in school, or do you have plans to go to a music school?

A couple things you can focus on: Theory, and Improvisation. It sounds like you have already studied some theory, but to be successful in improvistation you need to be fairly solid in theory.

Improvisation is - sadly - a bit of a lost art. You will be most likely to hear some good improvisation at some of the more prominent churches and cathedrals in metropolitan areas. Some organists may teach it, but there are also publications on the subject.

Are you familar with the French organist/composers? There is a very long, unbroken tradition of fine organ music in France (still used in the Catholic churches there); if you are not familiar with composers such as Duruflé, Widor, Vierne, Dupré and Messiaen (just to name a few) then you are in for a wonderful treat! smile

#575463 01/07/09 03:12 AM
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Just to add a slightly different slant - my old music teacher was the organist at a church and when he retired they couldn't find anyone else to play so he suggested me (I was about 16 at the time). I'm not an organist but they just wanted someone who could at least play the right notes, even just with manuals.

It was a real challenge for me, but it also really improved my playing - it helped me especially with sightreading and score reading and got me into improvisation. I also played a repertoire that I would never normally have chosen myself, and ended up playing a keyboard a lot more than I would have done otherwise.

My playing really improved throughout the 2 years I was there, even though I still can't call myself an organist...


John
#575464 01/07/09 03:32 AM
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Originally posted by JohnEB:
It was a real challenge for me, but it also really improved my playing - it helped me especially with sightreading and score reading and got me into improvisation.
Ah, that was the other thing I wanted to mention. I said theory and improvisation but I really meant to say sightreading and improvisation. Theory is good too... but sightreading is crucial for a church musician.

#575465 01/07/09 04:24 AM
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You may also find that some churches have both an organ and a piano and that the piano is used for the less well-visited services/masses. A way to get started can be as a substitute pianist for off times like the 10:30 Jan. 1 Mass, during summer holidays ,etc. Once you have started somewhere you might be able to work out a way to take lessons on their organ later and then become a substitute organist. In my city there is a real shortage of church organists/pianists -- mainly because the pay is quite poor. It can be a great stimulus to your playing, could set other roads open for you to play semi-professionally and I hope you are able to find a way to move ahead with it.

#575466 01/09/09 10:59 AM
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Wow! I didn't know you can make a career out of being a church pianist and actually get paid for it! I thought you were supposed to be doing it for free as a contribution. I used to be a church pianist for a few years. Imagine how much they owe me! LOL...


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#575467 01/09/09 11:42 AM
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you have to learn to sing too.


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
#575468 01/09/09 01:17 PM
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Not in my case - thank goodness for all concerned. smile

#575469 01/10/09 04:22 AM
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Originally posted by pno:
Wow! I didn't know you can make a career out of being a church pianist and actually get paid for it! I thought you were supposed to be doing it for free as a contribution. I used to be a church pianist for a few years. Imagine how much they owe me! LOL...
A long time ago, I did both piano and organ for my parent's church. For free. And not only that, as a kid with very religious parents, I more or less had to do it, whether I wanted to or not. I guess I got some musical experience out of it, but if it were me now, I would joyfully nail them with a child labor suit. I also think that in the long run, rather than helping me perform in front of others which you'd think it would do, in some complicated way it is likely that church experience is part of the basis of why I stopped playing for people many years ago.


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