Need New Equipment? Spell It Out for Your Administration
By Joe Finnegan, WMEA Vice President, North Central District
Over time, the equipment in the music room just wears out, whether it is platforms, percussion, or that beat-up tuba in the back corner. The list really could go on. At some point, these well-used items need to be replaced for safety of students, and for quality progression of a music department. Your administration would like to help, if they only knew. When faced with this very situation, these were the steps I took to update and improve the band instrument inventory available for students. I am confident that these steps could help any music program.
Step 1 – Find a local repair service to assess your inventory.
Finding a reputable person to do this is important. Have them assess your inventory and provide you with this information on your current inventory:
- Approximate age of the instrument
- Playability of each instrument, rating it on a scale of 1-5
- Estimate to repair instruments with a 2-4 playability score
- List of reasons why the instrument should be removed from the district’s inventory
Often, they will do this as a free service, however this may take some time to complete.
Step 2 – Determine your ideal instrumentation.
What is the ideal balance of instruments that is needed in your program? Do you have a smaller band? Medium sized or larger band? Part of the process is determining not only the instruments that currently need to be repaired or replaced, but also determining what other instruments you should have in your inventory to meet the needs of current and future instrumentation needs.
The resource that I used came from a session at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic. The session’s speaker was Denny Senseney. Senseney lays out a plan for instrumentation of three different sized bands. The link is:
Step 3 – Compare inventory to ideal instrumentation.
Once the inventory and the ideal instrumentation has been established for your program, compare the list of good working instruments the repair service has prepared for you in relation to the ideal instrumentation list created for your program. This will tell you what instruments are necessary for the program to be on track for success.
Step 4 – Get bids.
After the list of instruments needing to be replaced or added to the program has been established, it is time to get bids out to music vendors. Use at least 3 companies in the bidding process to get a good understanding of companies’ costs. It would be wise to have the repair service as one of the companies providing bids if this company sells instruments.
Step 5 – Create an “order of importance” list, and make a plan.
- Create a replacement plan. Some instruments you cannot do without and need to be replaced right away. These instruments need to be placed at the top of the replacement list.
- Determine the length of time you’d like to complete the replacement plan. I used a 5-year plan, others have used a 8- or 10-year plan.
- Place the instruments in the plan, spreading them out over the time that you have chosen. Include the cost of the instrument and add up the total amount for each year of implementation. Balancing out the cost per year would be wise. If each year has the similar dollar value, it is more likely the administration will budget that amount every year.
Step 6 – Type up your plan for your administration.
When preparing a plan for your administration, here are a few tips:
- Share with them all of the steps that brought you to this point and why.
- Don’t be too wordy. They want facts, and they don’t want to have to read a dissertation.
- The ideal instrumentation for your program
- Your assessment of your current program
- The rationale for repairing, replacing or adding instrumentation
- The 5- to 10-year plan of improvement.
Step 7 – Meet with your administration.
It is time to set up a meeting to lay out the plan to the administration. If you have more than one principal, it is important to meet with all of them. If you are able to include your superintendent and district finance manager, that would be wise as well. Make enough copies of your plan so that they can each have their own copy. Make an extra one or two copies just in case you have an unexpected guest join you. This meeting may take some time so make sure that all parties are able to block out approximately an hour. Be prepared to see shocked faces. Chances are that this will be the first time they are hearing of this need in your program.
Step 8 – …patience.
Now that the administration knows the needs of your program, discuss ways to make it happen, then be patient. Administrators want the best for their students, and the majority of them want a good music program. Finding the funds may take some creative thinking and financial backing. These things do not happen overnight. To be honest, my 5-year plan turned into a 10-year plan, but progress was made and student success rates have increased. I hope that if you follow this plan, you will have similar success.