One of the most amazing and frustrating things about U.S. schools is the wide variety of support for music education. While some children have music on a regular basis, others receive instruction every few weeks or not at all. Even when looking at schools that have reasonable schedules and full-time music teachers, there is a huge discrepancy in instruments, resource books, and other materials.
What I have experienced over my career is that, regardless of where you start, it is possible to leave a school with better resources than when you came. Below are a list of resources for funds to support your program:
While music budgets range from $0 to hundreds (or on rare occasions thousands), the first rule is to always spend what you're given. Assuming you don't have the perfect classroom with barred percussion and drums for every child, there's always something to buy.
If you don't have a budget, or it is ridiculously small, you should still present your administration with your needs every year. Often, principals have a building budget that can be flexed to where needs are, and by politely making your case, you become part of that process. It's the old "squeaky wheel" cliche, but it's absolutely true. And of course, this speaks to why developing a positive relationship with your administrators is so important.
Just as buildings
ften have flexible money, so do districts. There is danger in being seen to go over the head of a principal, but if you are fortunate enough to have a district music or arts supervisor, or have a personal relationship in the central office, it never hurts to let them know your needs as well. In some districts, the majority of funds flow from the arts director instead of the principals.
This is one area that is often overlooked. Districts normally have a curriculum/textbook budget that is separate from the building budgets, and is used in a rotation to supply new textbooks to various subject areas and grade levels. While some districts may reserve this for only "core" subjects (although according to the ESEA act music is a core subject), there is plenty of precedent for including the arts in this rotation.
Even though this money is used traditionally for textbooks, our education system is slowly adapting to online resources. For music teachers, curriculum money would be useful for software services such as Unison.School, or even to provide the instruments needed to teach your curriculum!
When district budget options are exhausted, the next step is to talk to supportive parent groups. This can be the building PTO/PTA or a music booster group. These organizations can normally make only concrete supply purchases, but they are often very open to suggestions on how they can help the school. If their children love music, they will want to support you.
Many cities and regions have local non-profit organizations devoted to supporting the schools. Like PTOs, they are made up of local concerned citizens and parents, looking for opportunities to help out.
Grant applications can seem daunting, but the trick is to dive in, and have a clear image in mind about how the resources will impact your students. They are also often looking for particular catch-phrases, such as STEM/STEAM. Since acoustics is a science that can be studied by the vibration of an instrument, there's always a way to tie things together!
Large companies such as Target offer school grants, as well as professional organizations like the American Orff Schulwerk Association. Like local grants, you need to detail your project's goals. However, since these groups may not know you as well, it's also important to explain why your school is in need.
Finally, many teachers have had success with Donors Choose, the crowdsourcing of school funding. This allows you to specify materials you need, and go directly to social media and a national network to ask for support. Be sure to check with your district on their policies, as you may need permission first.
So what did I miss? How have you funded your music program?