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January 10, 2007
Vol. VII, No. 1

"I'm Not Done Yet"
Thus begins the seventh year of While it's a new year, the topic is unfortunately an old and familiar one. For the most recent installment, please refer to my previous Rampage:
"Authority Submissiveness Syndrome" - December 11, 2006

Since that last Rampage, I have learned of two situations where clergy have decided to install digital instruments in their churches despite the recommendations of their organists and without consulting their congregations. "Because I said so" is a great way to massage your ego but how is that best serving your flock? And as if that's not bad enough, one of those situations even resulted in the unwarranted firing of the organist.

Whenever I hear of an organist being fired, I always email them my "You're Fired!" workshop:
It seems as if I'm always trotting out this old warhorse but as long as organists keep getting fired, I'll keep sending it.

One of the recommendations in the workshop is to have a contract with the church that employs you. Now, a reader objected that if you can't afford a lawyer, a contract isn't worth the paper it's printed on. In response, I think part of the problem is that we think of contracts as coming into play after something has gone wrong. What I'd like to suggest is that a contract be used for finding out beforehand what you're getting yourself into.

How many times have you accepted a position and found out down the road that the job really sucks or that the people involved were just pretending to be nice? Not many job interviews have your potential employer saying, "For the puny amount I will pay you, I will work you like a dog and treat you worse."

So if you want to avoid a potentially bad employment experience before you step in it, your first step should be to insist on a contract. A decent person or institution won't balk at that. Now, if you really want to flush out their true character, take the next step and insist on a dignity clause. If they turn blue or green or red, walk away. No, in fact, run.

Wait, what's a dignity clause? (Quick, name that Marx Bros. movie: "Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! You can't fool me. There ain't no Sanity Clause!") No, I haven't lost it. In my last Rampage, I mentioned I was reading "All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity" by Robert W. Fuller:

Well, I finished it and I have to say that it is a very well-written and inspiring book. I've added it to my Book Store and Book Club pages and highly recommend it to all, and especially to church musicians. So, what's a dignity clause?

If you are an AGO member, you should already know that the AGO will under certain circumstances become involved after a wrongful termination of an organist by a church. However, as its involvement on these occasions takes place after the fact, the AGO has a limited ability to actually impact change in the workplace. With the number of seasoned organists that have been fired recently, I'd like to suggest that the AGO exchange its reactionary policies for policies that could really make a difference.

The AGO certifies its members so why not have an AGO certification for churches? When the AGO becomes involved in situations where an AGO member is mistreated by a church, its actions could be considered a form of de-certification of that church. Why not be pro-active and certify churches ahead of time that make a point of hiring AGO members, offer an AGO-scale salary, and maintain, what else, a pipe organ? That would be consistent with the AGO's policies. Let's see, that would hurt who: churches too cheap to pay a decent wage and organists who insist on playing for free? Cool. Above all, as part of the contract, churches would have to sign a dignity clause, a simple pledge to treat the church musicians they employ with dignity.

The main idea here is not for the AGO to dictate to churches how they should run their businesses but rather to identify safe havens of employment for AGO members. An AGO certification would be a badge of honor for a church. In "All Rise," Fuller paraphrases Victor Hugo when he concludes that "dignity is an idea whose time has come." It's time for church musicians to get their fair share of dignity and everything else!

Click this link to read comments and offer your own:

Updated Pages
Featured Links:
Added is "The Estey Pipe Organ - A Virtual Museum."
"For over 100 years, the Estey Organ Company manufactured organs large and small in Brattleboro, VT. These included some 520,000 reed organs, 3200 pipe organs, and, at the end, a foray into the area of electronic organs. Although the company closed its doors in 1960, this site is a tribute to the vision and achievements of the men and women who dreamed and created these wonderful instruments. This site is a labor of love to the American pipe organ and all it has meant to performers and listeners alike."

Musician Jokes:
Added is "Hymns & Praise Choruses," an amusing comparison that was submitted on a discussion list that I read.

Book store:
Added is "All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity" by Robert W. Fuller.
"Robert Fuller's bestseller Somebodies and Nobodies diagnosed and named the malady of rankism 'what somebodies may do to nobodies.' In this sequel, he further explores the social and psychological costs of this problem and counters it with the vision of a 'dignitarian' society. Drawing on his experiences as a scientist, college president, and public diplomat, Fuller identifies rankism as the chief obstacle to achieving the American vision of liberty and justice for all -- and he spells out the steps required to eradicate it. Beginning with a call to action, the author exposes what is at stake by demonstrating rankism's poisonous presence in politics, business, and even personal relationships. By way of solutions, he offers alternative dignitarian models for several fundamental parts of society, including education, healthcare, politics, and religion. All Rise illuminates the subtle, often dysfunctional workings of power in all our interactions, and shows why change is not only desirable -- but vital."

Dan's Book Club:
Added is "All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity" by Robert W. Fuller.


Have a great week!

Dan Long

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