What’s an Organist Worth?

Upon receiving notice of my successful completion of the AGO Service Playing Exam earlier this year, I learned that in addition to the warm fuzzy feeling to which I am entitled every time I place the initials SPC after my name, I am also now justified in asking for an increase in pay for my organistic endeavors.

Wow! An increase in pay for going to church and playing the organ. Sweet!

Of course, since I play for my LDS ward, a church which has no paid ministry—including organists, unless of course you count the fab five—even doubling my pay will leave my income pretty much where it is now. But still it made me feel good to think that out there in the world somewhere, someone would be willing to part with their hard-earned money just to hear me do what I’ve been doing for free for the past seven years.

Check this out…Maybe you’ll see that your musical contributions are worth more than you knew:

. . .

Salary Guide for Musicians
Employed by Religious Institutions

Worship Service
• Single service (organist only or director only, no separate rehearsal) $100-$225
• Additional services (organist or director only) not requiring additional preparation $50-$125
• Rehearsal fees range from $25-$100/hour, depending on whether the substitute is organist only, director only, or organist-director combination and the preparation required

• Service fees are $100-$225 (service only)
• Rehearsals $25-$100/hour, depending on the difficulty of the music and the participation of choirs, soloists, or instrumentalists.

• Service fees are $100-$350 (service only)
• Wedding rehearsal with bridal party is $50-$100/hour.
• Additional rehearsals are $30-$50/hour.

• The charge for contracting singers/instrumentalists is $15-$35/person hired.
• The current, federally approved business standard mileage rate for reimbursement of business travel is charged if visits to church for practice, rehearsal, and service exceed 20 miles per round trip.

From Salary Guide for Musicians Employed by Religious Institutions

. . .


6 thoughts on “What’s an Organist Worth?

  1. Glad to read about the journey. That’s where I’m headed, too. I, however, am currently beginning Level 3, but making good progress. Do you think an extremely qualified instructor would be able to prepare me for the Service Exam without going through the actual Independent Organ program? If we concentrated on building my strengths in the areas in which I would be tested…doing the appropriate repertoire, too, I mean — do you think it would work?

    • Absolutely! Even though I could see benefits to going through BYU’s Independent Organ program, I chose a different approach—similar to what you are suggesting. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to prepare for the Service Playing Exam. But there are probably some ways that are more effective than others. There are many factors to consider, of course, in assessing the effectiveness of a course of study. For me, personal enjoyment of the journey is a major factor. If I am pursuing my goals in the way I feel is best for me, that satisfaction, confidence and joy will ultimately come through in my music.

  2. What did you think of the Service Playing Exam? I’m thinking I’d like to do that someday, even if it’s a few years in the future. I finished BYU Organ Performance Level 4 this year. There are 6 levels and I think it’s designed to get someone ready for AGO certification, but I’m wondering if it’s necessary to do levels 5 and 6 before tackling the Service Playing exam. Do you have any insight there?

    • The exam was a very good experience for me. My preparation for it taught me so much—much more than just the music. I’m glad I did it and I’m glad it’s done.

      As far as the BYU courses, I think that by the time Level 6 is completed it’s time for the Colleague exam. There are a lot of factors beyond just playing the notes, of course, but if you can play Level 4 repertoire with a good supply of confidence and musicality you are probably ready to start serious preparation for the Service Playing Exam.

      Let me know how it goes!

      • Thanks, Florence. I think I will start working my way towards that, however slowly. I know I’d have to work on transposition quite a bit, but otherwise there’s no theory, right? No written exam? I think the Service Playing Certificate would be a good step towards someday auditioning to be a guest organist on temple square. I’m talking about maybe ten years out, but I gotta start somewhere, right?

      • No written. No theory. The two most challenging parts for me were the transposition and the choral pieces, as I had no experience with either one. My teacher guided me along and I was amazed how I was actually able to learn to do the transposition quite comfortably with a consistent 5 minutes a day practice. Baby steps are awesome!

        btw I’m wanting to auditioning for temple square and will probably be ready in about 10 years too…See you there?!

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