Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Support Staff?

The link at the above tweet goes to a job listing for an On-call Music Accompanist (at the Support Staff pay level, no less). Although the listing for the position doesn't reveal any hourly rate information, The job's page on advertises an hourly rate of US$10.06. I also followed a link to another page that advertised info on On Call Music Accompanist Salaries in Fort Worth, TX, which lists an average salary of $20,000 per annum for this type of position.

On the salaries page, here's another interesting tidbit of information:
Average On Call Music Accompanist salaries for job postings in Fort Worth, TX are 17% lower than average.
Double digits! Below that quote on the same page, even has a graph of National Salary Trends for On Call Music Accompanists, which you can see in the following screenshot:

Just look at that growth! I don't know where got their facts regarding the salary trends of On Call Music Accompanists, but some recent research by OSSTF (the parent union of the RCM Faculty Association) failed to uncover any information in existence regarding average salaries of faculty at schools of music, either across North America or internationally, let alone those of the On Call Music Accompanists that work there.

Two Questions: 

1) Is this type of position worthwhile for those pianists with collaborative piano degrees who are entering the workforce and looking for their first taste of academic work? (Disclosure: I started my teaching career as a staff accompanist, and although I moved beyond it into classroom and private teaching, I worked with fantastic teachers and students and it was a rewarding experience overall.)

2) Are there any resources in existence where salaries of faculty at schools of music (including staff accompanists) are listed? Or are salaries at schools of music a closely guarded secret that are never shared outside the groves of academe?

(Via @tmj_dfw_music and the dreaded accompanist search on Twitter)


  1. Great article. These kinds of discussions need to happen among musicians and we need to share info. Thanks. Keep up these kinds of posts, please.

  2. $10.06!? For on-call AND sight-reading? Even at USD, IMHO that hourly rate is so ludicrously and unacceptably low that it borders on human rights abuse. Where did they get their guidelines from, the Fifties? It should be plainly obvious that any campus should be ready to pay AT LEAST twice that much for any kind of viable quality.

  3. Thanks for the comments, Toto and docudramaqueen!

    Now I'll play Devil's Advocate from the management side: From a college's point of view, they simply must stay on their business plan's financial targets at a time when times are tough and there is a surplus of available labor in the field. Keep in mind that there have been only a handful of openings for tenure-track collaborative piano positions this year in North America. Lots of people are looking for work. Why not make a position available at a sustainable wage level that will provide opportunities for those entering the field?

  4. Er... I made more as a secretary. A low-level secretary. Without an undergrad degree.

  5. Heh, I'm afraid working in McDonalds is much better financially. You will get $7/h and no home preparation. Actually, there was e time when I worked as a pizza delivery guy. I made $12-13 per hour for sure, including the tips. Are there any 10-20% tips in this job offer??

  6. I think that $10.06 is not a "sustainable wage level" unless you live at home or with roommates. Maybe if the college could offer additional benefits of some kind it might sweeten the pot. Anyone have any ideas what kinds of bennies they could provide?

  7. To be honest, I don't know much at all about benefits at county colleges. Why don't you call them up?

  8. I really, really doubt $10.06 comes with free (and good) health insurance with dental and vision, employer contributions to a 401(k) or a 403(b), FSA accounts, professional development, generous paid vacations, etc. I am thinking it *does* come with unrewarding work and colleagues that strongly feel accompanying is definitely a "support staff" position, and only worth $10.06 an hour - and the resulting mistreatment.

    But that's just my guess.

    Students at many colleges make more accompanying their friends - and are paid by the school... but even when their friends pay them, even in barter, it's still worth more than $10.06 an hour.

    I am trying to find any upside to $10.06 an hour, but I really can't. I've made more in retail and as a secretary, and the hours are a lot more regular and less stressful. I was scheduled for days off! I think they'll be getting what they pay for in this case.

  9. As a staff accompanist at Westminster Choir College, my wages are funded by "accompanist fees" paid by the student to the school. We're paid on a "per student/per semester" basis, and in exchange we're obliged to provide 15 hours of service for each student, both in lessons and private coaching periods.

    Of course, WCC has a little over 400 voice majors and a dozen staff accompanists, but the "accompanist fee" model could be easily adapted by any school with legitimate budgetary concerns.

  10. Thanks for the comment, geor3ge. If a department has the human resources to administrate that type of system (both in accounting and in CP department coordination), it can result in positive experiences for students, pianists, and the school as a whole.

  11. I used to look at staff accompanists with envy. Now I can look at staff accompanists with pity. Guess I won't go to graduate school for this field....

  12. Ellen, I understand. But just because there are a few abusive job situations doesn't necessarily mean that the entire field is rotten. You have to be selective when looking for employment.