Practice Makes Perfect
by Bill Fay
Those who know me well are aware that I have to work hard on my organ playing as that instrument was not my first instrument of study in college. As a voice major, my piano training was only what was required to be a competent choral music teacher and my organ instruction was elective in nature.
Now that I have morphed into my second career, I work hard to find the time to practice.
According to the NPM Workbook; Job Description, Contracts and Salary, (revised edition by Virgil Funk, (1996) serious organists practice two hour per day. The suggestion is made that it takes one hour per day just to prepare for the basic hymns, depending on the skill development of the musician in question. This time does not even include preparation of a choral anthem where you need to be so sure of the notes so you can conduct the piece as well!
For cantors, the NPM workbook states that a serious singer has to practice every day to maintain muscle control.
These guidelines offer the non musician a way of understanding what is needed for “maintenance of standards”. For those of our membership who work full time and whose church music ministry is secondary, it is certainly understood that this time commitment is unrealistic. However, for those of you are work half or full time for the church, your pastor needs to be aware of the time needed to do the job.
The American Guild of Organists has several suggestions in their booklet: Guidelines for the Work and Compensation of the Church Musician (2009). The AGO says: “at all levels of training and ability, there are church musicians who spend a great amount of time and effort in maintaining skills and knowledge in their field and some who spend a minimum amount of time at this.” The organization has a work sheet for calculating church musicians salaries with one category for “maintenance of technique and repertoire” where one can assign the necessary number of hours to accomplish this criteria.
In my own situation I plan the liturgies at home, and practice at a nearby church so that I do not have to drive so far to my church of employment (and to experience a pipe organ). I wonder if I did all my work at church, where the planning, practicing and management of music volunteers were completed on site….perhaps that visibility would work in my favor.