Empty Organ Benches

Photo by Old Shoe Woman

Believe it or not, there are still churches that want organists, and we are facing both a shortage and a surplus of good players. How can that be? For the bigger jobs, the professorships and the bigger church positions that pay full-time salaries with benefits, there are many more applicants than jobs. There are actually quite a few young people out there studying organ. Unfortunately, there are very few competent organists who are interested in taking a part-time job at a small-to-average church. ABC News did a story on this ironic situation last year. We are losing traditional music programs in smaller churches because those students go on to become professionals, and they aren’t interested in the smaller jobs.

I am vacating my current organist position at a United Methodist Church in Augusta, GA and will be moving to a new church in August. Our fine choral conductor needs a competent organist to support the traditional program she has worked hard to build. Even though we live in the second largest city in the state of Georgia, we currently have no applicants for a 10-hour per week position, even though the pay is commensurate with the American Guild of Organists Salary Guide. (Base pay, that is – there are no benefits) Churches such as this one deserve excellent worship music just as much as the larger ones. What can we do to help programs like this one continue to thrive and attract competent organists?

I’m curious to know what’s happening in your churches. Do you have an organ and an organist? What do you do in your churches to recruit, train, and retain organists for the future?

5 thoughts on “Empty Organ Benches”

  1. We have an organ at our church, but my husband and I are the only ones who know how to play. I had some organ lessons when I was younger, but honestly, I'm usually on the piano and on weeks when my husband is leading the music, the organ sits empty. 🙁 I think it is such a beautiful part of a worship service, and I wish there were more people who played!

  2. We have an organ and there are three of us in the congregation who can play. I play, as my ministry, every Sunday unless I am out of town. I am working with two students in my congregation who play piano. I do a bit of inservice with them, playing prelude on the piano with me at the organ. They are not ready for organ lessons. I am concerned with the overall picture for the future.

  3. I recently became the organist in my congregation, and have been giving myself a crash-course. I learn because I have to, and nothing short of being put in this position would have made me force myself to go to the church and practice. I was trained as a pianist, not an organist. In my church (LDS), almost all of the work is volunteer work, and to help meet the growing need for organists, BYU has created a free online podcast. http://news.byu.edu/archive10-feb-organtutorial.aspx

    There are a lot of amateur organists in my faith (like me!), but podcasts like this really help. I'm a lot better organist now than I was seven months ago!

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