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How much should teaching artists in El Sistema-inspired programs be paid?
It’s a fool’s mission to come up with a hard number, because there are too many variables and particularities to factor in. But I can bring some hard-number research to bear on the question.
I often say that El Sistema is in the intrinsic motivation business. If we want life-transformative learning to happen in Sistema programs, we have to focus our priorities on nurturing our learners’ hunger for ambitious musical accomplishment – it’s the number one requirement to help them. We can only create a hothouse of intrinsic motivation for students if the teachers themselves are intrinsically motivated to create such an environment. If you don’t have intrinsically-motivated teachers, you don’t have intrinsically-motivated learners – and you don’t achieve your Sistema-inspired goals.
And here is where the research slams in. To the question raised above, the inarguable answer from research is…you have to pay enough. Enough that the issue of money becomes irrelevant. Many studies have shown that there is an income level subjects often describe as “enough” – the point at which money ceases to be an issue. That’s how much our teaching artists should be paid.
What is that in actual dollars in each local setting? That’s up to program leaders to determine. But I see hard evidence that our teaching artists are not paid enough. I see too much turnover. I see teaching artists expending so much energy on getting other work that they can’t commit to the full motivation a Sistema program requires. Sometimes ancillary perks are added to the remuneration package, but I have not seen a program in the U.S. where underpaid faculty are sustainably motivated by the ancillary perks.
I have talked with many Sistema administrators about raising their faculty pay, and I grasp the difficulties. And…why pay more than you have to?
Because you have to if you want to achieve extraordinary results. Which is what Sistema-inspired programs are in the business of accomplishing. How much? The answer is quite probably: more than you currently pay, to become “enough.”
For a fuller version of this article, go to: http://tinyurl.com/y7omuw39