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Choral Risers

I am in my 2nd year of a brand new music program at an alternative school that I am creating the curriculum and oversee and teach all the music at this school. We have no budget and so everything is being purchased by me or by donors. I am looking for CHEAP but nice choral risers. Where would I look for those? Plus what brand is the better option. 
Also, I am in search of funding for the music program, buying music, instruments, hopefully a piano, etc. I know Donorschoose is a great resource. Any other ideas?
Ben Hanson
Replies (3): Threaded | Chronological
on January 6, 2014 10:11am
Good for you Ben,
   I started teaching in 2000, and in my second year took the one week World Music Drumming summer workshop.  This is a great multicultural curriculum (and includes singing), developed and extensively field tested by Dr. Will Schmid, former U of Wisconson professor and director of MENC, and I would urge you to consider it. 
More relevant to your question, though--  Prior to attending the workshop, I wondered how I would find the money for $2000 plus of drums.  Lo and behold, one evening there was a presentation on just this subject.  Teachers who had already started the program in their schools recounted how they had raised money, and it was an eye-opener for me.  "Just go out and ask!" was the basic message.  Of course it's not quite that simple, but the point made repeatedly was that most businesses, especially the larger chains, have specific line items in their budgets for local donations, and all you have to do is get in line and ask.....and keep asking.  Put it on your calendar; ask one new business per week, in person.  Find out when they decide how much and to whom they will donate.  Send mailings--not frequent nuisance mailings, but every few months, send a photo of the work you (and the students) are doing, with a line to the effect, "It was good to meet you last month" or "We'd appreciate your consideration next time you decide...." 
Be visible in the community, performing and/or doing service work.  When you get a donation, put that business on your mailing list for updates to show how you're using their money. 
Find out who your local reporters are and send them announcements of your programs; invite them to visit the school or cover your community performances and service; do the same with local non-profits like Lions, Kiwanis, Chamber of Commerce (ours has an adopt-a-school program), etc etc etc; and use these connections to announce and publicize your needs and fundraising.  Make the fundraising program formal--perhaps twice a year at set times, maybe aligned with your concerts (definitely ask for donations at your concerts and put out a donation box.)  Publish a list of levels, or "Your $20 will buy...  Your $50 will buy..."  OR, "Thanks to past donations we are offering these programs to our students, involving 32 kids in 3 programs totaling 6 hours every week."  Make sure this is available in your school office.  Ask the secretary to hand it out, send it home with kids, hand it out when you perform or work in the community.  Don't forget those "in between" businesses and institutions like law offices, medical practices, hospitals.  Some hospitals, for example, have employee or department groups that raise money.
In Arizona we have a tax credit program where residents can donate up to $200 each ($400 couple) and take the entire amount off their state taxes; AND they can do this for both a school and another non-school charity.
Ask your school to set up an activity fee that every family pays, or a music fee that music students pay. 
Both districts I've taught in have had Teacher Center or County Education Dept grants of up to $500.  I've gotten three of these in 12 years, just by filling out a one page form.  How about teacher awards from district, county, professional associations or nonprofits like Rotary?  These often involve an application where we have to brag about why we're "the best", and get colleagues to write letters on our behalf, which I really dislike, but many of these awards include cash to spend in your classroom. 
If you can afford it, don't hesitate to use your own money (but retain ownership of what you buy).  Not everyone will agree, but my own belief and practice is that if a purchase helps me teach kids and do my job better, I'll spend the money.  (See my 2nd response, January, to the forum page "I'm a great teacher...but my piano skills STINK!" for my thoughts on the digital piano I bought with my own money, which cost me a loan payment of $125 a month).
Regarding risers, the three schools I've worked in and several schools I've visited have all used Wenger risers, but I don't know what else is available.  The Wengers are well made, folding, and portable.  Suggestions: Make sure to buy the rear guardrail--you don't want someone to step off the back of the top riser and break an ankle; make sure YOU understand how the risers and guardrails work and YOU check them every time they're set up (rack them, jump on them).  In a pinch I have used 16" cement blocks and double 2x8s to make risers.  I don't recommend them because they are cumbersome if you have to move or store them, and also a potential legal liability, but they are cheap.  I always set them against a wall as a guardrail, and never make them higher than two cement blocks, and always space the blocks no more than 4 ft apart.  Check with your custodian about concerns he might have over damage to the floor from the coarse texture of the blocks.
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on January 6, 2014 8:48pm
WOW! What wonderful information you have. THANK YOU SO MUCH. You are awesome. Thanks!
on January 7, 2014 6:01am
Hi Ben,
Please feel free to come over and look through my files!  Since we are neighbors that should be a simple way to help you stretch what funds you come up with by simply borrowing octavos.
I would recommend getting Wenger risers.  
Just a thought, but the new Bluebird Foundation has just started with the express purpose to help youth arts programs and opportunities in our area.  I can get you the contact information!
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