I’m in my tenth year in my current building. When I came to my school, my Orff instruments were upside down in closets with missing bars. I had no drums. I had a few keyboards in various states of disrepair. I had a handful of rhythm instruments and an aging keyboard that literally exploded mid-performance (not kidding).
It was a bleak situation, made worse by the fact that budgets were shrinking and there was no money for the music room. That didn’t deter me in any way though. I put pen to paper and wrote a two page wishlist of everything I wanted for the music room. It included drums, computers, a variety of world music instruments, and an interactive white board. Within two years, every item on my list was checked off. In my ten years at my school, I’ve received well over $25,000 for everything from tubanos to iMacs. So what’s the secret? How did I do it? Three simple words: Vision, Ask, and Patience.
- Grants – For the big ticket items, I write grants. I’ve received $3000 for Tubanos and $4000 for iPads. There are many foundations that support the arts through grants. People often get overwhelmed with the process or think they’ll never get funded. You would be surprised how much you can get by simply “asking” through writing a grant. One word of advice – make sure your grant MATCHES the vision of the grantee. If the grant is to fund an artist to come to your school to perform, you’re probably not going to get money for ukuleles from them. But if you write that you would like to bring an artist to your school to perform on ukulele AND will need some for your students to use, then you are more likely to be get your grant funded! AOSA has a fabulous list of possible grants for music teachers. You can find it here.
- DonorsChoose – I love DonorsChoose.org. I highly recommend that once you finish reading this, that you go post a project to be funded immediately. My first DonorsChoose project was for 30 headphones for my new keyboards. I posted it on Facebook but didn’t say too much to parents or staff about it. A Swedish-American group of teachers found my project, rallied around it and funded it! As my class sizes increased, I found that I needed a few more drums for my room. I wrote several projects for additional tubanos and had Disney, Gymboree, and The Woodwind and the Brasswind all help fund significant portions of my grants. And ALWAYS have a grant posted. Last week, DonorsChoose hosted a #BestSchoolDay where a company matched funds dollar for dollar. Within in 6 hours, my project for a new 21″ iMac was fully funded. Always have a project posted on DonorsChoose. Always.
- State Arts Organizations – I teach in Michigan, and there are grants available each year for materials for art and music rooms. For many years, no one knew about the grants, so every grant submitted was funded. Check out your state’s art organizations to see what grants are available within your state. You can find a list of state & regional arts organizations here.
- Community Foundations – A few years back, my community began an Education Foundation to fund educational projects for our district and city. In the few years they’ve been around, they’ve funded over $300,000 in grants to teachers and schools. I’ve written and received several grants from them for iPads to adaptive instruments for my special education classes.
- Education-Friendly Companies – You might be surprised to know that many companies will make donations or have grant programs as well. In the mid-west, the insurance company, Meemic, has multiple grant programs for educators. From books, to classroom materials, many companies are willing to make smaller donations for classrooms. Many Home Depots will gift 5 gallon buckets to schools for bucket drumming. All you have to do is ask!
- Parents – When all else fails, talk to parents and share your vision. When the PTA said no to my ukuleles, a family came to me privately and donated $500 to purchase ukuleles. The following year, instead of buying holiday gifts, many parents donated funds for additional ukuleles. In 6 months, I had 30 brand new ukuleles for my classroom. I’ve heard of other teachers placing a table in the hall the evening of the concert with instruments and the price to donate one to the music room. The simply act of letting someone know of the need can do wonders!
And lastly, think outside of the box. A few years ago, I heard about a local auction house that was liquidating a charter school. On a whim, I checked out their site and found that they were getting rid of many items I would use in my music room. Over the past three years, I’ve purchased $120 of Remo Hand Drums for $15. I purchased a brand new Epson projector for $30. I also purchased a $1500 iPad Charging Station for $40! Yes, I paid out of pocket for these items, but I got them for a fraction of the price. I alerted a colleague of mine who needed Orff instruments that they had Sonor Xylophones on auction. She was able to purchase several Xylophones for $30-$40 each and her principal reimbursed her for the instruments.
So where you do start? Vision! How do you start? Ask! And what do you do when you get a no? Patience. What do you want or need for your music room?