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Accompanists: High School Accompanist fees

Dear Choralisters:

On Aug. 25th I wrote:

"I found the recent compilation on accompanist fees fascinating, since I
am in a similar position of fighting for a raise in fee for our
accompanist position for our high school choral program. It seemed,
however, that most of these responses had to do with community choirs
and such. I would be interested to know people's thoughts on
accompanists' pay rates for a public high school situation. Not that it
should be any different, but I'm very curious to know what people's
experience is in this regard. I'd like to know what is "out there"
these days. I could use some "ammo" when I go to the powers that be to
convince them to raise the rate, which currently is dismal."

Finally I am getting around to publishing a compilation of the responses
I received regarding pay rates for high school accompanists and related
matters. I hope this information is helpful. I've tried to edit out
any names of specific school districts or other personal information to
preserve professional confidentiality. Thanks to all those who

Tim Bartlett

My district in southern California pays $1155 per year for a HS choral
accompanist. 126 hrs. according to union contract.

Some districts that have accompanists for their choirs count them as
"classified staff" which includes custodians, secretaries, computer
managers, as opposed to "certificated staff" which includes teachers and
You might want to find out how much a lead secretary or computer systems
manager in your district earns (your district should have a salary
or other such systematic way of determining salaries) and figure if your
salary compares well.
The pay for most classified positions is figured out on an hourly rate
number of hours per week (or month). The pay for certificated positions
a yearly salary based on 183 days of service. Teachers can receive
"overtime" for extra service beyond what is covered under contract at an
hourly rate. Find out what that is in your district.

here in ********* we pay $10 a class for Dress rehearsal, and then 30 or
40 for the concert. Two vists to each class, and the concert nets our
accompanist anywhere between 120 and 150 per concert.

Ditto. Our fees are dismal as well. We are currently paying 5.75/hr in
(university town with very strong programs). I'll be anxious for this
info as we
prepare to fight for a raise. THanks in advance.

Just to give you an idea: I paid for accompanists for two of my choirs
past year at a Secondary School. The grade 10 choir accompanist was a
college student in the area(not a music student) and was an average
I paid her $15.00/hour Canadian. Our senior choir accompanist is a piano
teacher in the area and a piano performance University grad. We paid him
$30.00/hour and it was well worth it!

Our school system presently pays $15/hr., not great by any stretch of
the imagination.
My budjet at ****** HS is close to $10,000 /year for accompanist.

When I taught at the HS level a couple of years ago, I had a full-time
accompanist. The position paid between $10-15 an hour. If you'll give me
your snail mail address, I'll send you a copy of the job description we

I am a professional musician (pianist, composer, conductor) living in
smallish town in ****** [major city] area. I have been playing the piano
middle school events since my son was a 6th grader, which means the
season will be the 12th year. The events range from a December holiday
program (2 performances) to a spring talent show (2 performances), with
almost all my work being accompaniment of the choral groups. There are
numerous smaller events - Junior Honor Society assembly, Veterans' Day
assembly, a dinner theater, etc. Although originally playing for one
school, I now play for both. Last season I received about $2200 for all
events; scale depending on complexity and duration of event. Simple play
song or two $25-50, depending how long I had to sit before/afterward, or
whether I played a little extra up front. Holiday shows $300 each,
shows $600. I do a lot of transposing, either at piano or by computer
accommodate youthful voice ranges, and there are enough reruns over the
years to get value for the time spent. My involvement includes dress
rehearsals after school (several) for larger events, clustered
during school as an event approaches.
My primary relationship is with the music teacher of the larger
- if I have complaints, suggestions, she listens and responds, including
getting the piano tuned when it becomes too disgusting, even if it means
tweaking the fund-raising (the official administration position on piano
tunings is: tuning? What's that?) Earlier on, when I thought I was being
asked to do more things for the same (earlier) money, I asked for more
got it. I also get along with the younger music teacher (male) at the
I do rather enjoy the contact with the young people (and the yearly
stroking from the teachers!), even to the point of writing the
choristers a
piece now and then. Other than that, the community involvement is not
without its pleasurable aspects, and I will probably continue playing
them for some time to come, or at least until the faculties weaken.
It should be stated, however immodest it may sound, that there are
few people in the larger suburban area with my range of abilities (and
flexible schedule), so that my services are seen as well worth the money
paid. In an area with competition (not too likely in the middle school
arena, I suspect), there would probably be downward pressure on the
available. (Incidentally, the second middle school had a go at using a
volunteer faculty member as accompanist, presumably to save money -
lasted for one fairly miserable event, proving yet again that being
does not guarantee being able.)

I pay my pianists $50 every time they make a trip to the school. Based
on 3
rearsals and a performance, it costs me $200 to put on a concert.

In my district, the district pays for an accompanist for every period of
choir that is taught. It is on a similar pay scale to that of a
secretary or
teacher's aide. It ranges around $10 per hour. Not much for a musician.

I have been fortunate to work in two school districts with full time
staff accompanists. The arrangements for payment were different between
the two. In ************* (urban public school system), staff
accompanist positions were classified, rather than certified, and paid
an hourly wage. There was a 40 hr. per week maximum, so during musicals
and performance times, comp time was given to offset overtime. These
employees were also included in the district health plan, and were given
some sick days. I really do not know what the hourly wage was.
In my current school district, the high school
positions are titled choral assistant, and are paraprofessional
positions much like teacher aides. If the employee has a teaching
certificate the pay is much better; otherwise, it's an hourly wage.
I would recommend pursuing these possibilities, especially if you have
large numbers of students in your program. Stress the safety factor for
the students in having only one adult for so many kids. If you are at
the piano, you cannot maintain a direct connection with the classroom.
Also, compare the number of assistants paid to assist football and
marching band.
Neither of these districts are wealthy. The positions were supported by
administrators who understood the importance of assistance in creating
and maintaining successful programs.

Our situation in ******* is a fortunate one. From grades 6-12, our
district schedules two choral music teachers for each in-school
ensemble. This allows one teacher to be the primary director, and the
other teacher to be the full-time accompanist. The periods where the
teacher is a scheduled accompanist count as a complete "period" of the
daily teaching load. Needless to say, this works out well for all
parties involved.

My daughter accompanied the ***** from 1997-1999. The ****** basically
is part of the public school system. Paid $20 gross per hour, and got
her check every 15 - 30 days, punctually with the wrong hours written.
The office always did adjust though.

Our high school pays $12.50 an hour when they need me (an adult) to come
in and play the difficult songs.

My accompanist earns $11.00/hr. and is scheduled for 15 hours/week.
Additional hours for evening rehearsals and performance add to her
totals and it is accepted by the district that she will be "on the
clock" for more hours throughout the year.

I'm afraid I have no insights to share re. fees for HS accompanists. But
I have a fabulous accompanist for my HS choir and he is dismally
underpaid, too.

I had the same thought, thanks for doing this. The present rate of
pay in the ****** is $13.00 an hour. The maximum amount of hours is 19
due to the fact that at 20 hours the district would have to provide
benefits. To complicate my situation I start school on the 30th with
200 singers and no accompanist.
on September 18, 2002 10:00pm
Where are all the piano students? What a great opportunity for a young musician to learn accompanist skills. I was never payed a dime, but the three years I played for my high school choirs was an invaluable experience. I was made to sight read the music just as the singers were. Also,there were a couple of pianists to share the playing for concerts so we could also sing. I know this offers no suggestions for fees, but it is an alternative to having to pay someone to come in to the classroom.
on April 27, 2008 10:00pm
I started out accompanying the choirs while I was in high school (for credit) and it was an invaluable experience. During that time I had the opportunity to work under many fine directors both in the public schools as well as local churches and community groups.

Since then I have worked as a freelance accompanist and vocal coach for the public and private school systems for 20 years. Some schools pay the rate of $10/$15 and hour but some will hire you on for the year for $10,000 - $15,000 which is not very much considering that you're there most of the day and finding another day job around those hours is tough. I now teach music at the high school and college levels and continue to freelance as an accompanist for concerts and musical events. I charge $200 for all day prior to the concert and another $150 for the concert. For musical direction at the high school level including playing piano for all rehearsals I charge between $3000 - $6000 depending on the size of the musical. For the college level the rate is slightly higher at $5000 - $10,000. If you're a good accompanist you can make a decent living at it because word-of-mouth references will get you the work.