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Teaching privileges as a church music director

Hello all,
I am hoping to draw on your collective wisdom/resources here--I'm looking for information on allowing church music directors to have "teaching privileges" at the church.  Is this the norm, is there any literature about it (perhaps AGO or ACDA), and are there any resources regarding insurance liabilities?  I'm in conversation with a church that is worried about their insurance liability should they allow the music director to teach private lessons there (eg. organ, piano, voice).  It's my understanding that teaching private lessons at a church is standard practice (after all, not many private homes have organs!!), but I'd like some background or resources to back that up.  If you can help me let me know!!
Replies (9): Threaded | Chronological
on May 22, 2011 10:51am
Hi, Heidi.
My church had this issue come up a few years ago. Their concern was not of insurance liability but of their tax-exept status if they allowed a profitable business to be held within their building. A former director was teaching voice lessons there to her middle school students. Eventually they pulled her key and privelidge to use the church for such a use. I'm not sure if the church over-reacted but I'd be curious to what other directors have experienced.
on May 22, 2011 2:27pm
Heidi:  I doubt that there are any overall guidelines.  Your example of organ teaching is a pretty obvious one, of course.  And I've known many cases where a church allows a staff member to teach privately, and one specific case where the Minister of Music and his wife started a youth academy teaching music and theater.  In that case the church considered it outreach to their youth, I believe.
But this is going to be entirely up to whoever is in charge and making decisions in a particular church--perhaps the clergy, perhaps a Vestry or something similar.  And that means that it could very well change with a change in administration.  It might also have different answers in different denominations, although I have no evidence that that is so.
If there is concern, the best thing to do is to have the church's insurance agent explain the policy and say whether or not it covers such activities by a PAID STAFF MEMBER, who is presumably already covered by the church's insurance.  And if it is not covered, find out what would be involved in covering it.  These are rather simple questions, and can certainly be answered.
All the best,
on May 23, 2011 4:58am
Many larger churches have "Music Academies". I don't know if the same concerns are there, but I can't imagine they would do something that would be an insurance risk or put their "tax-exempt" status in jeopardy.
One such program is at Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas:
Perhaps you could contact them!
on May 23, 2011 6:13am
Another issue is what my church administrator calls "double dipping." I am a full-time music director, and the question came up if I were to teach, would it be on "my" time or "their" time." The insurance issue also was mentioned, as well as the possibility of the church losing tax-free status if I were to make money on the church's property.  Frankly, this became a non-issue for me. As a full-time music director, I don't seem to have what could be called "my" time. I am much too busy to teach. If I found an extra half-hour during the week, I think I would simply go to sleep!
on May 23, 2011 11:18am
Susan, LOL!!!  That full-time thing truly means full-time, as in 24/7, doesn't it?  I know it well!
The policy at my church, which may come from insurance or IRS guidelines, is that I may teach some lessons at church, but it cannot be my regular studio (my house is).  Since I live 30 minutes away from my church, it is much handier for the few members I teach to come to my church.
Nan Beth Walton
on May 23, 2011 8:22am
In the churches where I have been the Music Director, it was made clear that as part of my "pay" I had the privilege of teaching voice, piano, organ or whatever.  However I would not know of the legal ramifications.  I would suggest that you ask a lawyer in your church as well as a tax advisor.  Perhaps having it all in writing as part of your contract would eliminate questions and certainly whoever holds the insurance policy could address part of the issue as well.  All the best.
on May 23, 2011 8:47am
Every church where I have worked has allowed me teaching privileges.  Most of my students have been choir members so the church benefits from having the choir sound better as well as having additional soloists available. I charge a bit less than the local community music schools so that choir members can benefit, and if a student doesn't come for a lesson I do my church work instead.  I have never had an issue of it taking away from my "work time" since I usually go "above and beyond" as most church workers do.  For the last 3 years we have had a professional trumpet player use our facilities to teach (maybe 6 or 7 students a week) and at his suggestion, we set it up for him to play a solo in church about once a month. This was a wonderful trade for us and he liked it as well.  Too bad he is moving.  :-(
on May 23, 2011 9:08am
The website for the Presbyterian Association of Musicians has some suggested guidelines concerning this issue but they are "guidelines" only...still, you might want to check it out.
Alison Vernon
on May 23, 2011 8:17pm
THANK YOU, this is the most official resource I've come across so far.
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