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

 
 
 

 

In this post we covered how to map out concepts in a curriculum outline. 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 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. These criteria have been sourced from several books, including Artful, Playful, Mindful by Jane Frazee and First, We Sing from Susan Brumfield.


 
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.

 
 

These intervals are sourced from Kennieh H. Philip’s book, Teaching Kids to Sing.

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 Folk Song Index. 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!