Loyola music students earn money singing at churches
Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014 15:02
English writing senior and music minor Emma Grimsley has spent the last three years going to church every Sunday — for work.
Like several music students at Loyola, Grimsley earns money with a church choir job. She works at St. Charles Baptist Church as the soprano section leader.
Grimsley, who describes her religious views as “something I’m figuring out,” said that being a regular attendee at Sunday services is not something that she ever thought she’d do but that the experience is useful.
“At this point, I want to go to graduate school for voice,” Grimsley said. “It’s just like an internship for any other field. You go to church job every week, because it helps you get up and sing. It’s a good place to start if you want to be paid to sing.”
Matthew Higginbotham, music therapy senior and tenor section leader at St. Charles Baptist Church, said that the job helps him gain experience, and it fits into a music student’s hectic schedule.
“When I say we have time commitments, we have a ridiculous class schedule,” Higginbotham said. “It’s better than $7.50. You get more pay per hour at a church job and a time to practice your skills. You’re at school for being a music major, so why not put those skills to use?”
Students working church choir jobs can either get paid by the number of hours they spend in the church for rehearsals and performances, or monthly. A lower-paying church job will make a student about $50 a week, or $25 per hour for a weekly rehearsal and a weekly performance at a service. A higher-paying church job can earn around $250 per month.
Brindley McWhorter, music performance senior and alto section leader at Munholland United Methodist Church, said that some churches are better for work than others.
“For example, Catholic churches sometimes only use one cantor. It’s easier to work at a Protestant church because they have places for choir members as well as section leaders,” McWhorter said.
McWhorter said that the most common position in a choir for a student is a section leader, a person who may choose music or help choir members in their voice section learn music.
McWhorter, who does not identify with the Methodist faith, said that spending every Sunday singing for a church of a different faith has both rewards and challenges.
“Singing in a church of not your denomination is a good look into the life of a musician. You get a multi-faceted look at people to work with and different experiences. You get to perform different music,” McWhorter said.
Higginbotham, who was raised Roman Catholic, said that participating in Baptist services was awkward at first.
“I was used to basic Catholic mass, but I started to see similarities between our faiths. You pick up subtleties, but nothing has greatly affected my beliefs as a Christian as a whole,” Higginbotham said.
Grimsley said that she sometimes feels guilt over being at church for a job and not worship but that she has found a connection with the church community, which she finds supportive.
“I have a level of investment in the congregation. There is a thing for people our age about having a spiritual community. It’s a crucial thing. I feel like a lot of our generation is missing out on it. When I’m there, I don’t necessarily believe the stuff in the leaflet, but I say it because it’s important to the people there,” Grimsley said.
McWhorter said that if she had to work with a faith that went directly against her beliefs, she would just treat her position as a job. However, she said that she has found a family within the Munholland community and can connect to them through her work.
“Being spiritual allows me to believe in what I sing for them. I can identify their connection to what I do for them. The music is a spiritual experience for all of us,” McWhorter said.
Grimsley said that she finds the church teachings about living a good life to be applicable across faiths.
“I believe in everything except the bible stuff. It’s nice to have a job in such a supportive environment,” Grimsley said.
Kylee McIntyre may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org