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I was an organist for a church way back in high school. I landed that job because a friend of mine who was an organist at that church wanted to quit. After high school, we went our separate ways.

(I am currently a software/web developer during the week and I would like to earn a little extra doing something else that I like.)

Now, I live in a different area and have been looking for a pianist/organist position for the last 20 or so years. I looked at local newspapers and websites and I have not found a single listing for that position. For a while, such a position is, I guess, "obsolete" because worship has become contemporary, in general?

I've asked my acquaintances here and none of them knows anybody who knows anybody (and so on) that knows of a local church who needs a pianist/organist. No local web/paper listings. No acquaintances in a close enough network proximity to such a church.

I'm thinking of calling every single church in my area to ask them if they're in need of a pianist/organist. I don't think I'll find one this way, though. I know there are jobs in bigger cities, but they're hundreds of miles away, which isn't viable for me.

Is there a better way to approach a job search like this where jobs are not traditionally listed in "normal" ways?

  • Downvoters; I'd love to hear what the problem is with the answer or the question – user30031 Oct 24 '16 at 15:00
  • They probably downvoted this question due to my alleged lack of research/effort. – Mickael Caruso Oct 24 '16 at 15:02
  • I edited this a bit to clarify and make it more clearly on topic, it seems on topic to me. – enderland Oct 24 '16 at 15:02
  • 2
    How to land a specific type of job is generally off topic. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 24 '16 at 16:03
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    Have you tried visiting the churches in person and asking if they need an organist? – WorkerDrone Oct 24 '16 at 16:06
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For specialty part time positions in very small organizations there are lots of roles that would rarely ever be posted. For these the backup/assistant of the outgoing person will often just replace them. Church organist is a great example, outside of cities small appliance repair person is another good example. For things like this networking is the most important thing. I'd advise against straight cold calling on the phone. In person makes a stronger impression. Given the typical size of these organizations if stop in to the location during their operational hours you are likely to meet the person who would be responsible for hiring. Let them know you are looking for current or future work. If possible also talk to the person presently in the role you are looking to fill and make sure that it isn't a huge hassle (eg toxic church internal politics, unreliable equipment, etc).

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Contacting area churches would be a very good idea. There are many who still use organs. While there may not be any positions immediately available, you could ask to have your name put down as a potential substitute organist. This is a fairly common need; besides Sunday services, churches may need someone who can play for an occasional wedding or funeral.

It would be good to start attending a church as well, if you are not already. Getting to know a few church leaders and current organists may help.

Churches with a traditional worship style are more likely to hire an organist/pianist. Those with contemporary music in worship are more likely to rely on volunteers.

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There are comparatively few churches that pay anyone on the worship team apart from the worship leader - even then, few of those are full time. Mega-churches do pay the worship teams, but these are generally contemporary worship, and the people in the teams are often professional musicians.

The suggestion for putting your name down as a sub is a good one - but you'll need to be able to back it up; can you sight-read, do you have any recordings, etc.; especially if you're not a regular attendee, you're going to have to be a really good salesperson.

I'd suggest instead getting a good stage/portable keyboard and joining up with a gigging cover-band (one of the few that gets paid). Many more opportunities for that.

  • "There are comparatively few churches that pay anyone on the worship team apart from the worship leader." I disagree with that statement. I know many people who are paid to be accompanists at churches. – David K Oct 24 '16 at 16:28
  • It must vary with area, then. Here in Utah it's not common. – PeteCon Oct 24 '16 at 17:14
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Seems like you'll just have to start cold-calling places in your area and asking if they have an opening.

Be sure to highlight what you can personally bring to their organization (be specific, research the organization first!)

0

To answer the more general question: Apprentice. Understudy. Talk to folks who hire this kind of worker and ask them where they look when hiring. Talk to others in the profession or related professions. Consider taking a job in one of the related professions for experience and to build contacts. Ask your teachers to suggest openings and/or recommend you. Look for ways to do solo projects -- demo CD, for musicians, can be both marketing and, if you go out and hustle it at every busking stop or gig, a possible income source. Oh, right, for artists busking is another way to publicize.

And so on. Widen your goals to open more opportunities, and be prepared to "pay your dues" and work your way up slowly. If you can't play for a Broadway show, maybe you can play for rehearsals, or a summer-stock company, or rehearsals of a summer-stock company...

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I know someone who did church music for several years (before deciding to concentrate on teaching about a year ago) as well as someone else who's been part of a choir my entire life so I've seen a fair amount from the insidish. AFAIK all of the positions she auditioned for were ones that she found out about via professional networking; both from classmates also in the area and via people she'd worked with in the past. (Possibly also via her music teaching, but I don't recall any being mentioned that way.)

Since you're new to the area and don't have any initial contacts joining a church choir is probably your best bet to start making new contacts. Smaller congregations in particular often need back players for when the primary one is unavailable; and those are generally found/promoted from within the ranks. From there you can begin to acquire the reputation/standing needed to pursue regular positions.

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