The above picture is a real sign from a real church right down the street from me. They need a keyboardist but might as well get in line – all churches need a keyboardist and good ones are in short supply. I know of one big church with multiple campuses and multiple bands that have guitarists coming out of their ears and in rotation – and they still need keyboard players!
There’s a dearth for many reasons, but I think the main one is that most piano students (private lessons up to the piano majors in college) can rattle off complex classical masterpieces yet are dumbfounded by a pop chord chart and synthesizer.
And even classical keyboard players are hard to find these days in the church. At a megachurch where I once worked I was the only keyboard player, evidently out of the entire congregation, who was able to sight read music well enough to play for choir rehearsals – plunking out parts, etc.
To any young people out there I give this advice: if you want a career in music learn to play the keyboard and learn theory for these reasons:
1. You’ll never want for a church job. I can count on one hand the number of keyboardists comfortable with theory and improv in this part of the country who could hold a full time job at a church that requires arranging, notating music with software, creating chord charts and improvising for transitions and under prayers.
2. You’ll always be in demand to play. I know one keyboard player with a regular job who moonlights at two big churches because there just isn’t anyone else in town. Even if you don’t want a full time career in music, a keyboardist can still make extra money on the weekends from churches who pay their musicians. If you can play both blended/traditional as well as pop keyboards you’ll be even more in demand.
3. You can arrange and distribute your own music. It’s nice if you can sit in your room, strum a guitar and write a song, but then what? How will your music ever get out to the public? Learn theory. Learn chords so you can create your own chord charts. Learn how to record your songs in the most professional way possible so others can hear them. Learn how to write out a piano part since the vast majority of church pianists can’t improvise. Learn how to arrange your song for choirs or praise teams since many volunteer vocalists don’t have enough of an ear to pick out their own parts. Even by being able to simply write out the melody for a lead sheet you’ll be way ahead of the pack.
Bottom Line: If you want to make a living in music learn to play the keyboard – you’ll be a more well-rounded musician and have a leg up on the tons of competition.