What do you do if you have no funding available?

Today’s discussion in Music Teacher’s Q&A covers an extremely important area for just about any teacher: the issue of what to do when there is little or no funding available for new instruments or resources.

The question came from Liz, in Colorado, USA, and she said:

“Teaching the music class in low income schools can be challenging since the materials available are usually substandard and not up to date.  Any ideas about sources for purchasing items or making them?”

So watch the video above, and then contribute to the discussion by filling in the comment box below this video. Any more ideas from teachers out there for funding sources for Liz and anyone else in this situation are very much appreciated!


  • By Valerie Junttila Reply

    I think that the “Stomp” model can also be approached with students bringing items from home (old pots, pans, garbage cans, old plastic paint buckets, etc) and students can experience rhythm with many everyday items. This is also showing them that music is everywhere – a connection with the instrument in their body (voice, body percussion).

    • By Janice Reply

      Very cool Valerie- who doesn’t like STOMP! Junk percussion is always a huge hit (excuse my pun!)

  • By albert Reply

    you can try to do simple charity concert with selling cheap tickets to students and parents and with money you can purchase what ever you need.

    my 2nd option try to ask for donor to help…

    • By Janice Reply

      Thanks for sharing your ideas with us Albert- much appreciated and I feel relieved and refreshed that we’re on the “same page” with the ideas.

  • By Lisa Edlind Reply

    Hello Liz and others,
    You don’t need a lot of money to have fun! If you are willing to put some of your own money into your building, this idea will last for a long while. You can also ask your teachers, community, etc., to donate. Look into the Will Schmid World Music Drumming Curriculum. Then go out and buy 3 different sizes of plastic flower pots. Small, Medium, Large. Using a packing tape gun, tape over the opening in all directions until you have a nice, tight drum head. You can hand drum or stick drum on these pots and learn alot about rhythms, sing along with songs, etc. I used these for 3 years before I got the funding for my drums. Worked great. Also, save small containers such as McDonald’s milk, ensure, boost, small gatorade bottles. Fill with popcorn and voila. Shakers. cut thin pvc pipe and make your own boomwackers. Go to local stores and ask for scraps, pieces, or just a donation of supplies. Initially its a cost to you, but in the long run, it’s cheap if you get many years out of it. Instructions can be found doing an internet search. I also was funded for a xylophone through donorschoose.org. Fundraisers? Parent-Teacher organizations? Good luck!

    • By Janice Reply

      Great advice Lisa- Thankyou so much for sharing your experiences and ideas 🙂

  • By Michael Smith Reply

    A few years ago all of the elementary schools in my area were given new instructional resources for Music but the student books were not included. This initially left me puzzled as I was not prepared to break copyright by photocopying and I didn’t want to merely type out words to the songs. My solution has been to create my own “sheet music” to show with the LCD projector or SMART Board. Whereas most of the songs in K-5 Music resources are in the public domain I decided to begin transcribing the ones that I need using Finale, a program that I already had because I do a lot of composing on my own. (The free version of this, Finale NotePad, is also very good and easy to use.) I actually find that this enables me to teach note reading more efficiently than I ever could using the books. I frequently use it to show a same song in different keys and the playback feature can be very useful as well. My students also like the graphics that I am able to insert into the scores.

    • By Janice Reply

      It’s so great to see you’ve found a program that works well for you Michael. It’s great to see that there is a free version of Finale Notepad available. Thanks so much for your experience and input.

  • By Connie Kroeze Reply

    Teaching Music without a budget: To teach high and low pitch to K and 1st graders, I made a pitch puppy puppet. Using various craft materials like a 2 foot wooden dowel, felt (for decorating the puppy’s face), a Styrofoam ball (size of a softball). Take a used tin can (from soup, etc) and remove both ends. The dowel goes into the styrofoam ball, then put the tin can under it on the dowel. Use a long sweat sock to cover it – the toe goes on the foam ball. Decorate to make hanging ears, nose mouth – use the eyes you get from the craft store – that wiggle. Use a hot glue gun to attach.
    Hold the dowel on the bottom and the can in the middle. Push up on the dowel and the puppy goes up (for high pitches); pull the dowel down for low pitches. The kids love this and are excited to get a turn.

    • By Janice Reply

      A lovely idea Connie – Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  • By Judy Volk Reply

    A couple other ideas is using scrape lumber that is 1/2 inch thick and cut into 2 or 3 inch squares and cover them with course sand paper that can be tacked to the sides and you have Blocs. You can also make small to medium boxes such as kleenex boxes or smaller boxes with lids, and use both top and bottom individually and put rubber bands around them and you’ve got a string instrument.
    I’ve used these ideas with different classes so that each student has their own instrument,to keep for themselves.

  • By Liz Reply

    Wow! This is all so wonderful! Thank you Janice for helping me get connected with these other inventive teachers and for your very helpful video. I have to say it was also very exciting to have my email picked! I will be forwarding this to my colleagues.

  • By Carol Troutmn Wiggins Reply

    Thank you for these great ideas, Janice!

    When I was teaching music at an inner-city church school, I started with nothing as well. In order to get started collecting rhythm instruments, I made a “Wish List” of everything I needed, and listed beside each instrument the cost of what ONE would cost, which back then was under a few dollars each. I distributed the list to the teachers, the church members, and the parents asking if they could purchase one tambourine for $3, or a set of wood blocks for $2. Others purchased small sets of Bookwhackers for $15. We had an outpouring of people willing to purchase or donate just one item. Before I knew it, our music room was overstocked with more instruments than we could ever use, and so many people had a major part in it!

    Also, the $1 stores are a valuable resource for inexpensive instruments:
    *Purchase small plastic buckets for use as “bucket drums”
    *Plastic cups for cup-passing rhythm games
    *Baby rattles for maracas
    *Hula hoops and batons for rhythm/movement games

    Other ideas included:
    *Filling potato chip cans and spice containers with bean/rice for shakers
    *Making shekeres from a large V8/juice bottle and drape with strands of inexpensive bead necklaces from the $1 store
    *Using large plastic coffee cans with lids for drums.
    Making sock puppets and allowing the “puppets” to teach or sing
    All of these can be decorated as a fun project!

    There are so many creative ways to get started that should help get a teacher through those first challenging years. Not having a huge music budget does not have to hinder your success in the classroom. Of course, it helps. Just think creatively, and the children can have more fun learning and you can have more fun teaching than you can ever imagine!

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