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Albright College Combined Choirs Sings "No One's Perfect"

Why don’t orchestras pay choruses for the concerts that require a chorus? Why would an institution with a $20 million budget not pay choristers?

Here’s the deal. They do pay choruses, but they pay the organization, and there are no choral organizations in San Diego which have enough income to pay their singers any more than about $100 or so, on the rare occasion they are paid at all.

It would be easy to put the blame on the orchestras, but choral organizations are also at fault. The only unionized chorus I know of in Southern California is the Los Angeles Master Chorale. (I’m not counting the opera choruses in this.)

What I find interesting is that orchestras pay union wages for everyone involved in a concert, including the stage hands who set up the chairs, but they do not pay union wages to the singers in the chorus.

Chorus members are used to not being paid. You’re not paid in high school choir or in college choir. (College choir is often a requirement to receive a vocal scholarship, so there is some benefit there.)

The catch with college choir is that it’s usually a half to a one-unit course that meets five times a week and involves weekends and evenings as well. The time involvement rapidly exceeds what you might expect from a one-unit class.

Church choirs aren’t paid but will often have paid section leaders and will sometimes pay to have extra singers come in for a big concert in order to bolster the quality of the chorus. Chorus and choir members grow up not being paid, so why should I expect them to be paid as adults?

Remember those people who got vocal scholarships and were required to be in choir? Those are the people you want, but those are also the people who aren’t going to sing for free, because they respect their abilities.

They’ve usually put tens of thousands of dollars into becoming an excellent singer and they’re not going to join a chorus that doesn’t compensate them for that time and effort. If you’ll recall, money is supposed to be compensation for time, effort, and ability.

This is a huge topic and exceeds the scope of a single post. With that in mind I think we’ll come back to this issue of choral singing from time to time. We’ve also yet to talk about the solo singing. This summer could end up being quite vocal.

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