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How to Secure Funding for Music Education for Public Schools

Learning to play an instrument or sing is a priceless experience, but high-quality instruction does come with costs. Cuts to music education funding leave departments operating with tight budgets and make it harder for students to get involved. However, teachers can play a vital role in obtaining funding for music education for public schools, and their efforts have the potential to transform students’ lives.

music teacher in classroom

Instructors start or grow exceptional music programs by setting clear objectives and dedicating themselves to find the necessary resources. For example, one teacher introduced music classes to a small charter school in Mansfield, Ohio by applying for grants for the music program and prioritizing community involvement. The music department at a Chicago high school teamed with administrators, parents, alumni and local businesses to turn unused warehouse space into a home for one of the city’s finest music programs.

By seeking out funding sources, teachers can lay the foundation for delivering a cutting-edge curriculum to the next generation of musicians.

Funding for Music Programs: Budget Cuts

Career opportunities for music instructors are growing nationwide: As of 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected an 8% increase in positions for art, drama and music teachers over the next 10 years. Yet, times are lean for music programs in many school districts across the U.S. Public schools commonly determine their budgets and funding for instruction and extracurricular activities on a combination of local property taxes and federal funds, which are often tied to standardized testing outcomes. As a result, low-income and rural schools may struggle to develop robust music programs.

In Oklahoma, for example, state budget cuts between 2014 and 2018 resulted in the loss of 1,100 classes in subjects like visual arts, theater, music and band. As of 2018, 18,597 students across the state had no access to fine arts classes at all. When budget reductions result in schools cutting music programs, teachers must be prepared to advocate for the value of music in the curriculum and take action so kids have plenty of chances to participate.

Why Should Schools Have Music Programs?

An investment in music education delivers academic advantages as well as outlets for creativity and chances for peers to work together. Research suggests that studying music may lead to improved engagement in schoolwork, greater cognitive performance and increased motivation. One study found that students who took four years of art and music classes in high school scored an average of over 90 points higher on their SATs than those who took a single semester or less.

How Much Do Music Programs in Schools Cost?

Sustaining a quality music program means hiring dedicated and knowledgeable instructors and investing in equipment and resources. Music education funding statistics reveal that costs can run into hundreds per student each year, especially as young musicians advance into high school. When conducting a survey of school districts across the country, the NAMM Foundation found that the cost of running a high-quality music program averages around $251 of funding per student, 85% of which is spent on teachers’ salaries.

Significant expenses involved in running a music program include:

  • Teacher salaries
  • Professional development
  • Purchasing new instruments
  • Maintaining and repairing instruments
  • Setting up a classroom for optimal acoustics and secure instrument storage
  • Providing uniforms and concert attire
  • Transportation to competitions and performances

As outlined by the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, making the investment in facilities, equipment and personnel can drive a music department’s long-term success. To nurture a growing program that will benefit as many students as possible, leaders in schools must devote appropriate space for rehearsals, keep all equipment in good shape and encourage teachers to pursue opportunities for their own growth as educators and musicians.

How To Get Funding for Your Music Education Program

1. Fundraising

Even in schools that receive generous budgets for music education, fundraising can be a crucial supplement. And in many cases, especially at the high school level, teachers consider fundraising among their major responsibilities. A survey conducted by the Give a Note Music Foundation found that nearly 60% of music educators in urban settings consider raising money a necessity to provide adequate instruction.

Establishing a music booster group is a way to get parents involved in fundraising efforts and encourage them to make donations.

Teachers and parents can collaborate to bring in money for music programs by:

  • Organizing a benefit concert or play-a-thon
  • Selling items like candy, fruit or candles
  • Holding a raffle
  • Hosting a carnival or silent auction
  • Arranging sponsorships from local businesses

2. Instrument Donations

One of the biggest and most vital expenses involved music education is purchasing instruments. The cost of buying or renting instruments may hold many students back from getting involved in band or orchestra. Fortunately, educators can expand access by participating in regional or national programs designed to connect students with the equipment they need.

These are some of the organizations dedicated to providing donated instruments:

3. Grants for Music Education

Applying for grants for music programs can be a long, complicated process, but these funding opportunities open new possibilities for high-quality music education. Teachers and administrators can optimize their chances of being awarded funding by carefully researching the requirements for each grant and customizing proposals accordingly. Granting organizations look for thoughtful, well-written explanations of how their money will be used to benefit individuals and communities.

Private and Public Grants for Music Education

There is a wide variety of private and public grants available to help grow music programs.

Grants From Government Agencies Grants From Charitable Foundations Grants From Corporate Giving Programs

A career as a music educator is a rewarding way to contribute to students’ development. Pursuing a master’s degree in music education could be a vital step toward delivering instruction that inspires creativity and collaboration. Teachers are able to make the greatest impact when they explore both the latest pedagogical approaches and the policies that create educational opportunities.

About Teachers College MA in Music and Music Education

The Hybrid Summer Master of Arts in Music and Music Education (M.A. M&ME) at Teachers College, Columbia University is designed for professionals who seek to transform themselves, their students and their communities. With an academically rigorous curriculum and on-campus experiences, our program equips graduates with a diverse and rich skillset they can use to tap into their passions and become a driving force in the transformation of music education.

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