Home Worship Planning Music Resources What Are Church Music Teaching Privileges?

What Are Church Music Teaching Privileges?

Teaching privileges for the church musician have been widely recognized and accepted since the early Middle Ages right through the Renaissance, the Baroque, and to the modern day. They have been more prominently a part of the musician's work at some times than others. For some, such as Leonin and Perotin at Notre Dame more than eight hundred years ago, teaching was actually a part of their assigned duties. Others, such as J.S. Bach 300 years ago, had a combination of assigned duties with the choristers and orchestras and gathering around them a school of private organ, harpsichord, voice, and composition students. Most musicians today who also teach privately follow the Bach model, which survived through his pupils, through the great French school of organists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, right to today in the USA. It is a practice well-grounded in many centuries of Christian church tradition.

Sometimes an individual or committee in the church will object to extending teaching privileges to the musician. Perhaps that individual does not want the musician to make additional income from those students while the church is paying for the instrument, the facility, utilities, insurance, and the musician's salary. Others who raise the issue may believe teaching is fine if the church sets and collects all fees.

However this issue is resolved in a local church, it again points out the need and benefit to both the church and the musician of having two different documents: an employment agreement and a job description.

The employment agreement is short, and it details the date of employment, salary, benefits, working relationships, evaluations, and renewal date. It is this employment agreement that should also cover teaching privileges. Don't leave these to a verbal agreement.

The job description covers the duties and responsibilities, choirs, hours, planning, meetings, concerts, seasonal programs -- anything that relates to the actual performance of the job. Both documents should be reviewed annually by the appropriate church committees and individuals and updated as changes are made.

Teaching privileges today are not the same as they were with Leonin, Perotin, and Bach. Today we understand them not so much a part of the job, but as a privilege or benefit since the musician financially benefits from them, and the church partially funds them. Do not ask the church to approve teaching privileges as a part of the job description. Instead, teaching privileges should be considered part of employment agreement as an additional benefit.

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