Music arguably is one of the most freeing arts. In fact, some musicians consider choral music to be the culmination of culture, as it does not require any other instrument in order to be written, performed or enjoyed. Salaries for choral directors, musicians who lead choirs, usually don't exceed $80,000, and most have salaries closer to $50,000. However, this depends on the exact responsibilities the director has, the size and number of groups they lead, the location of the employer, the education level of the director and similar factors.
Church Choir Directors
Church choir directors lead choir and congregational singing in religious institutions. Their average salary is $26,000 per year as of April 2011, says the SimplyHired website. The American Guild of Organists also provides recommendations on minimum salaries. Although the recommendations apply to organists, AGO designed them to be applicable to all musicians in religious facilities, including choir directors. The AGO guidelines for 2011 indicate pay should be $37,599 to $81,177, depending on the education level of the musician. The size of the church is a major salary determinant, however, as directors in large churches often lead multiple choirs. In a small church, pay may be as little as $10,000 or less a year.
School Choir Directors
Many choir directors work in educational facilities. As teachers, choir directors generally make about what teachers in other fields make, but pay varies by level. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2009, the average salary for a teacher at the elementary level is $53,150 a year. For a middle school choir director, the average is $53,550. Choir directors who teach in secondary schools make $55,150 annually. At the postsecondary level, choir directors may earn $68,230.
Other choir directors, such as those who lead major professional choirs and orchestras, usually have salaries far higher than what a typical school or church choir director makes. If a director is fortunate enough to lead a nationally or internationally renowned group, he may command a salary well in excess of $100,000. These types of salaries reflect the extraordinary experience, education and musicality of these choir directors. Only a few directors reach this salary level.
Choir director salaries vary greatly based on the size of the group the director leads, the number of rehearsals and performances required and what degree the director has. Generally, the more hours the position requires, or the larger the group and higher the degree of the director, the more the director earns. Choir directors also take on other music and non-music jobs. For example, a choir director at a small church may work as a librarian or auto mechanic as his full-time job, using choir directing as supplemental work. Others play double duty, leading the choir and performing other roles like organist as well. For this reason, it is hard to say exactly what a choir director will earn, although the BLS states that, as of 2009, most music directors make an average of $53,410 per year.