7 Fundraising Ideas for Your Elementary Music Class

We all have ways we want to expand our program. As music teachers, we’re always looking for funding for new instruments, sheet music, programs, and teaching materials. Most of us are doing this on a shoestring budget.

I’ve been dreaming up ways to expand my program too, with things like adding more Orff instruments, tubanos, and quality literature for my choirs. When I added the numbers up I was reminded of the scene in White Christmas:


So I sat down and thought of 7 ways to fundraise for your music room. They don’t involve grants, selling candles, or going door-to-door.

These ideas are based on the practice of creating funding through creating engagement in your program. Quite literally, creating buy-in. Not all of these need to be implemented, and they certainly don’t need to be implemented in the way I’ve listed them here. You can take the basic concept and tweak it for your specific program.


 
7 Fundraising Ideas for Your Music Room
 

Here are 7 fundraising ideas for your general music room:

 

1. After - School Ensembles

What instruments do you have already that you could use for an ensemble? If you don’t have enough instruments for an ensemble, start a choir. Charging students around $10 per class will seem like a bargain to the families, while supporting your program financially. Consider structuring it for about 6 to 8 weeks each trimester, or 12 weeks each semester. Have this ensemble perform at your regular concerts.

Pros: Even with students only paying $10 per class, you can get some good funding out of ensembles when large numbers of students join. It adds publicity to your program when these groups perform at regular concerts.

Implementation: Have notes sent out several weeks in advance, and then talk about your ensembles constantly in class to get students excited!


2. After - School Private Lessons

Similar to the idea above, consider giving private lessons to students after school. What is your primary instrument? Chances are, there are students who want to learn that instrument too!

Pros: You can charge a bit more for these lessons because they are one-on-one.

Implementation: If you go this route, check around for the average price of private lessons around you. Your goal is to cut their prices while still looking reputable, and still raising funds for your music program.


3. CD’s

Do your students improvise and make song arrangements in your classroom? Most of the time parents never hear the “small wins” in music class. We normally save presentation for performances. Putting together a CD of 2nd Grade’s Greatest Hits is a great way to keep parents involved.

Pros: You’re likely already rehearsing and creating original ideas with your students. Just press “record” on the device of your choice.

Implementation: This idea would work best with a small explanation of each track that gives parents insight into the musical process.


4. Notes for Notes

Have you ever been to a marching band competition where parents give “shout outs” to their musicians on the field? Why not take that idea and apply it to general music? Parents could pay $5 - $10 to have a personal note attached to classroom instruments. Once parents submit their message, type them up in school colors and attach them to instruments. This can be done in a way that is safe for the instrument, doesn’t change the sound quality, and still looks attractive. If you’re concerned about the look, consider just creating a border instead of covering the whole thing, or putting the notes on the performer’s side only.

Pros: Increases parent buy-in for your program; adds a personal touch to your performances

Implementation: Give parents a character limit before you start. This could be even more effective if you can tie the notes into a school theme.


5. Adopt a Note

Trying to raise funding for an entire set of Orff instruments can be tough. But broken down, the cost of a single Orff bar is around $40 - $80. Instead of asking for huge donations, consider asking families or organizations to adopt a single note. The Jones family might adopt a soprano xylophone F. Maybe a local business adopts an alto xylophone A. Pretty soon you’ve built an instrumentarium one bar at a time. Then, each time you perform, give a thank-you to the donors who “adopted the notes” to allow each song on the program.

Pros: People feel that they’ve made a difference through a manageably sized donation.

Implementation: Since people are only adopting one bar at a time, have clear communication about what bars still need to be adopted. This idea also works best when many people take part, so build excitement around it!


6. Concert Purchases:

I saw this basic idea on Facebook once and I can’t track down the original post. Partnering with a music vendor, your “wish list” instruments could be set out on display at the back of the performance area. After seeing students perform on the instruments you currently have, parents can walk back and contribute funding to building the program.

Pros: The performances gives parents a small picture of where your program is going. They’re probably excited about the direction the program is moving because they’ve just enjoyed a performance of their child.

Implementation: This could be especially effective if class reactions to the new additions were filmed and then sent out as a “thank you” to donors.

7. Front Row Tickets

At our school, the front two rows of music performances fill up quickly. It’s the best spot for parents to ensure they can see their child. It’s easily accessible by grandparents. It has a clear line of vision for filming. Since these seats go so quickly, why not charge a small amount for a front row ticket?

Pros: Though it’s a small amount of funding, over the course of the year you could make enough to replace old choir folders, purchase replacement recorders, buy yarn to repair mallets. . . .

Implementation: Have ticket sales ahead of time as part of the promotion for your event. It sends the message that your program is going to be highly attended, and people are excited about it.


 

What I love the most about these fundraising ideas is that each of them builds the program through partnerships with families or local businesses.

It’s not an isolated pathway to funding like writing a grant. Building your program while building your community is a great way to ensure that your vision continues year after year.

What other ways do you like to raise funding for your program?

 

Planning Ahead: How to Choose Repertoire for your Elementary Music Class

 

 

Now that we know what elements and concepts we want to teach, it’s time to start plugging in songs.
>>>> Read: Planning Ahead - Mapping Out Your Ideal Music Curriculum 

Song choice is very important as we plan the year, because the musical material we choose is the curriculum. These songs and pieces will introduce students to new ideas, give the springboard for creativity, and encourage their awareness of their own musical development.

 
Let us take our children seriously! Everything else follows from this... only the best is good enough for a child.”
— Zoltan Kodaly
 

Here are some of the criteria I use for selecting musical material.


 
Songs for Elementary Music
 


1. Choose Material that is High Quality

It can be simple, and it can be fun. But remember that the repertoire we use will shape our students musically. 

I look for two main things when selecting music that is artistic: the lyrics, and the music itself.

Musically:

Look or songs with interesting melody lines or rhythms. As we choose repertoire, it's best to get a variety of material so that we don’t end up with all the same chord structure or time signature in each piece. This can be tricky in some of the younger grades when their musical vocabulary is limited - but it’s not impossible!

For melodic pieces, sing the melody without the words. Is the melody interesting on its own? For pieces without pitch (spoken rhymes or unpitched percussion pieces), do the same thing. Is the rhythm interesting enough to play back in your head on its own?

Lyrically:

Does the poetry explain something about life as a child? Is it gratifying to speak without a melody? Is it particularly beautiful or insightful or humorous? All these things contribute to the lyrical quality of a song.

One of the best ways to test this to write out the lyrics or speak them by themselves. This will give you an idea about the extent to which the poetry can stand alone, without melody or harmony to aid it.

We select the musical influences from which our students will grow - and that's pretty exciting.


2. Choose Material You Like

You’ll spend a lot of time with this material. You’ll likely sing or play it several times a week as you rotate through different classes in each grade level. Additionally, you’ll be using it to sing, play games, play instruments, and create.

Since you’ll use this material so much, it’s important that you like it!

I used to think it was selfish for me to think about my own preferences when selecting songs or pieces for my class. Now I realize that having a connection to the musical material isn’t optional - it’s one of the core criteria.

As a trained musician you have developed an ear for quality music. If a song strikes you as cheesy, there’s probably a good reason. If a melody seems unnatural to you, you have a legitimate reason to keep it out of your repertoire.

Personal preference takes a key role when choosing material for your year.


3. Choose Material that Meets Your Curriculum Goals

Take a look at the songs that intrinsically are of high quality and that you would love to teach. Which of these meet the musical goals you have for your students?

Of course not every song needs to have a literary tie-in. Some material is worth teaching for its beauty. Some is worth teaching because of how fun it is to play. 

In the same way that we read The Chronicles of Narnia to young children who can’t necessarily read and write every word in it, so we also expose children to music of other cultures, classical music, jazz music, etc. This music may be beyond their reach literacy wise, but not beyond their understanding or enjoyment as young musicians.

That said, it would be a shame for students to leave our classrooms without the ability to record their musical ideas in notation or recognize the form of a pop song. For that reason, I usually pick about 5 pieces of material (songs, rhymes, movement activities, or instrumental pieces) for each target element in my curriculum.

These pieces need to meet the following criteria:

The target element is musically and lyrically obvious.

Look for material that uses the target rhythm or melody on a main word in the sentence, or a strong beat. The target element should also exist naturally in the music.

For example, a  2 over 3 rhythm in 6/8 time is technically an eighth note pattern but students won't get it intuitively. Finding mi re do in a la-based minor song is technically still mi re do, but students will have a hard time hearing it and applying it to other songs.

Think about what is natural to point out in a song; what the students will naturally hear.

The Singing Range and and Intervals are Appropriate:

The appropriate range of a song will change depending on the age of your students. Here is a quick reference I use.

 
 

It’s also good to look at the intervals in the song to make sure your students can sing them tunefully. Especially when working on target melodic elements, tuneful singing is essential.Avoiding half steps or large leaps for young singers will help them be more successful.

Our repertoire should move us toward our curriculum goals.


4. Get Creative!

Look through each song and decide how this song will actually live in your classroom - the shape it will actually take.

Some questions to consider:

  • How could you teach the song? 
  • Can it tie into any programs you have coming up?
  • Is there room in this song for students to apply their own musical creativity?
  • How would it transfer to instruments?
  • Is there text painting that could be emphasized?
  • Is there a story or strong emotion you could act out?
  • Is there creative material students could use to create an ostinato?

The higher quality the piece is (from point #1), the easier it is to take it apart and explore it piece by piece. And once you know why you have chosen that particular piece in your curriculum (from point #3), it’s easy to look for creative paths to enhance the purpose of the piece. You’ll probably be especially motivated to give this some serious thought because you actually enjoy the piece your students are working on (from point #2)



Where to Look for Songs

Like I said in the intro video, there’s never a bad time to think carefully creatively about your goals for your students, even if you’re in the middle of the school year.

If you want a collection of material that meet these criteria for me, try checking out the Sheet Music Library. It’s a totally free collection of songs from around the world that are perfect for your use in the classroom.

You can sign up below!

Planning Ahead: Mapping Out Your Ideal Music Curriculum


Planning ahead is an amazing thing to do in the summer before school starts, or in the first month of the school year. However, even if you start in the middle of the year it’s not too late, and definitely worth it.

When planning for the school year it’s best to start with a broad look of your goals for each grade you see. Once you understand what concepts you’d like to cover, its much easier to choose songs, activities, performance programs, and finally to create your lessons.

A concept table is the best place to start.  



 
General Music Curriculum
 


What is a Concept Table?

My own concept table for the 2016 - 2017 school year.

Simply put, a concept table shows what you want your students to learn and when.

It’s a zoomed-out view of your musical goals for your whole program. A concept table is a map of your entire curriculum, for every grade. I love it because as the school year gets going it’s easy for me to lose track of my goals for my students. A concept table keeps me accountable.

Something to note right off the bat is that this is a concept table, not a skills table. A concept table doesn’t show what you want students to be able to do with these concepts. Specific skills around improvising, reading, singing, and playing come later.

For now, the goal is to get a single sheet of paper that has all your concept goals for your students. This guides the rest of the lesson planning process. 


Writing Your Concept Table: Things to Consider

There’s a lot to consider when starting to design a concept table of your own:

  • How many times a week do you see your students?
  • What is your expected number of missed classes due to weather, school assemblies, field trips, or your own personal time off? 
  • Do you teach at one school or several schools? 
  • How long have you been teaching the students, and where are they already? 
  • In what grade do students enter your program? 
  • In what grade do they leave?

All of these things will change how you outline your concept table and what you can realistically teach within your given timeframe.

You Can't Teach Everything:

Things are missing in the example concept table above. Where is the category for teaching music history? Where is the Jazz section?  As you choose what broad sections to include (rhythm, melody, form, etc.) you’ll notice that some topics simply don’t make the cut to be included in the Concept Table. That doesn’t mean that we don’t teach them.

Rather, we choose concepts that are broad enough to encompass our other learning goals. For example, there’s absolutely no reason that you can’t include a listen to the Surprise Symphony when teaching eighth and quarter notes to your 1st graders. You can also have a great time discussing Benny Goodman when you introduce the clarinet as an instrument of the orchestra.

Start at the End

Take time to think about what you truly care about as a teacher. What skills and understandings do you want students to have when they leave your program? What do you want your students to be able to do at the end of each year? Break things down and plug them in.

You can’t teach it all but when you’re intentional about curriculum planning you can give students a solid foundation that allows them to be lifelong musical learners.


Thoughtfully Made, Adaptably Executed

Of course when we’re planning we would love to think that all our plans will be able to be executed perfectly, without a hitch or hiccup. However, we all know that even though we’ve planned in things like snow days and field trips, the reality is that we will likely get off from our planning table.

That’s okay.

Students may not learn at the rate we expect. Especially if this is your first time mapping out curriculum goals for your students or if you’re starting at a new school, be prepared for the possibility that your table may end up looking very different from where you started it.

The beauty of the concept table is in its simplicity, and how broad it is to fit in the things that you truly care about teaching.



What we find in the process of creating a concept table is that the act of intentionally thinking through your dreams for your students may end up being more important than the result itself. This valuable paper can have incredible benefit to your students and your own peace of mind.

And by the way. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using resources that spell out a curriculum for you.

These can be helpful starting guides and can get you going in the right direction if you’re struggling to get started. The shortcoming with these pre-made curriculums is that they fail to take into account your own personal teaching goals for your students.

In contrast, a concept table is a simple way to map out your own ideal curriculum, tailor-made for your own program. I love it because when its done thoughtfully, the rest of your curriculum has a straightforward structure, making it easy to plan out your year. 

Creating curriculum on your own doesn't have to be overwhelming. It doesn't even have to be complicated. This piece of paper is the best way I know to map out an ideal general music curriculum. 


You can grab an editable version for free right here! Just click the button to download.


How are you planning ahead this year? 

Let me know in the comments section!

Learning how to Learn: A Review of Artful-Playful-Mindful by Jane Frazee

A beautiful blend of philosophy and implementation, Artful-Playful-Mindful by Jane Frazee is sure to be a helpful resource for any music teacher, regardless of teaching method.

 

Through the activities in the book, students learn music. But through Frazee's process of being artful, playful, and mindful, they are learning what it means to learn.


 
Artful Playful Mindful Book Review
 


Watch the review to learn: 

  • What the book aims to accomplish
  • How Frazee plans curriculum using  Project Models
  • Frazee's advice that I won't be following this year
  • If this book would be a good read for you!

 
Artful Playful Mindful Book Review Video
 


What are you reading these days? 

Let me know in the comments section below!

Review and Reset: Wrapping Up the School Year

When the school year has just wrapped up, it can be so easy to sprint to the finish line and collapse once we've crossed it. We're ready for warm weather, slow days, and taking a break from the rush of teaching.

However, before checking out completely, I like to take a long moment to reflect on the past year and plan for the next. What went well? What would I do differently next time? What was my favorite moment of the year?

Today I'm sharing the printable I use to review and reset. I'd love for you to give it a try! It's a great way to congratulate yourself on the things you're are proud of, and reflect on what could be made better next year.

Enjoy!


 
 

1. What Went Well?

So often we can zip through the school year, planning and making changes, always looking at what's next on our calendar. As soon as we get a big event out of the way we roll straight on to the next one. In my experience we don't take the time congratulate ourselves for what we've accomplished.

That's what this first section is all about.

Use this space to jot down the things you're proud of. For me, I like to break this down into a few categories: Pedagogy, Behavior Management, Concerts, and Communication/Collaboration.

These four pillars make up my teaching practice. Increased communication and collaboration are personal goals for me, but may not be for you. With that in mind, I’ve left the last section on this page blank for you - fill in whatever you’d like!


2. A Year in Two Moments:

In this section we highlight two contrasting moments. Both moments shaped the year and who we are as teachers, but one shaped it by reinforcing something positive and the other shaped it by pointing out an area that needs change.

Take a moment to think about one “shining” moment this year. Perhaps it was a lesson that went particularly well, or a student who was finally able to demonstrate mastery of a skill after struggling all year long. Maybe it was a fabulous concert, touching parent note, or a complementary observation report from an administrator.

Next, think about the experiences that let you know it was time to take a new direction. Maybe it was a classroom management technique that went wrong. Maybe it was a lesson that you didn’t quite prepare for and went off track . Maybe it was an interaction with a parent that could have gone better. Whatever it is, take a moment to write down the experience.

3. What Are Some Goals for Next Year?

This is my favorite section to fill out.

The first two sections really pave the way for us to brainstorm ways to improve things that we want to change, and reinforce things that went well.

What programs do you want to start? What songs do you want to continue using? Do you want to incorporate more improvisation and composition? Centers? Technology? What changes in your concert preparation do you want to make?  This section uses the same areas as the “what went well” section, so look back at your answers from section one. If something wasn’t going well, what could you do next year to change it? This is the time to clearly think through your so that we don’t fall back into old, unhelpful habits or forget all our great ideas in the rush of back-to-school prep.

Write down anything and everything that you want to try, expand, or get rid of.


Summer is a great time to review, rejuvenate, and reset. This printable can jumpstart that process. Click below to grab it for free!