Teaching music can be a very challenging – yet gratifying – career.  Nothing gives music teachers more satisfaction than seeing their students become passionate, life-long music learners. One aspect of teaching that is often less pleasant for music teachers, however, is managing the necessary equipment to achieve their program outcomes. Nearly every educator understands the importance of having quality musical equipment in their classrooms, but few know how to get this equipment and even fewer consider themselves experts in modern musical instruments, software or services.  …so – if you’re a music teacher and you know you need new classroom tools – how do you go about getting them?

Establishing the Need

In most school districts, the process of purchasing classroom equipment (whether it’s computers, beakers, books or pianos) contains several steps.  The first step is the easiest:  Establishing the Need.  If your piano won’t stay in tune (or you’ve duct-taped a music stand to the front of it because your music rack fell off), you know you need a new piano.  If you have practice rooms, but no keyboards… choirs, but no risers… music stands that wobble, etc.  As an educator, you should feel comfortable saying that you don’t have the equipment you need to achieve your program outcomes.  The science lab can’t succeed without test tubes.  The football team can’t succeed without pads.  You can’t succeed without the tools you need either.  It’s no different.

 

Do the Research

group piano classThe first question you’ll have to answer once you decide to communicate your desire for new equipment is what specific equipment you need.  It’s best to have an answer to this question before you approach “The Powers That Be.”  As a piano company, we pride ourselves in knowing the best solutions for today’s teachers.  You can find some of the school pianos we recommend on our website, but we recommend contacting us so we can create a custom plan of action for you.  There is no charge for this service and it will impress your administrators when you take the next step.  We’ll help you figure out the best way (or ways) to accomplish your goals and we can give you some rough pricing estimates so you know how much money you’ll need.  Doing this saves you a ton of time and stress later… and we will do all the work for you!  Contacting your local music store for help is always the best way to research solutions for your department needs.

 

Ask.

Once you have established the need and done your research, the next step is to communicate that need to the appropriate administrator.  Depending on how your district is structured, the appropriate administrator could be your principal and/or department chair person. It could also be a district Performing Arts purchasing person.  Find out who the appropriate administrator is before making your request.  Keep in mind that there are other considerations: annual budgets, purchasing schedules, fundraising programs, and grants – all of which have specific requirements and timelines.  Your administrator can help you navigate these obstacles – especially if you can sell him or her on the solutions you found in your research phase.  Don’t be afraid to ask.  Even if the answer is “no for now,” you can always begin planning for a future purchase.  If you don’t ask, nothing will ever happen!  [PRO TIP – Riverton Piano Company maintains a 10-page list of funding sources for classroom musical instruments and technology.  We can also help you with turn-key fund raising programs or ideas.]

 

Develop Bid Specs

Far too often, we have seen teachers request “digital pianos” for their classrooms only to have the purchasing department put out a request for “88-note, weighted-key digital pianos.”  Retailers submit quotes and the lowest quote ends up winning the bid.  Because there were no specific bid requirements listed (beyond the most basic product description), the teacher ends up with the cheapest practice keyboard on a stand instead of the rugged, institutional-grade digital piano (s)he envisioned.  …and – by the time the teacher realizes the instrument (s)he has is inadequate – it’s too late to do anything.  That is why developing exact bid specifications for the equipment you need is vital to this process.  Contact the local dealer you spoke with before and ask them to help you develop thorough “bid specs” for the equipment you need.  Then, provide these guidelines to your purchasing department so they can include them in the vendor bidding requirements.  You can even specify a name brand if that is important to your program.  Make sure your procurement team specifies these specs as *requirements* so any bids that do not meet or exceed the required specs will be rejected.

There are two different requests that a Purchasing Department will make of vendors. One is called Request for Quote (RFQ), and the other is Request for Proposal (RFP).  If you have established bid specs and you know exactly what (and how many) products you want, the RFQ is most commonly used.  Vendors then compete to deliver the best value (not always the lowest price – some vendors include valuable services, training and accessories that make their bid a better choice than a lower-priced bid without the extras).  The RFP process is quite a bit more nebulous.  Vendors are invited to submit their suggested solutions – which could include very different equipment from what the teacher requested at the beginning.  Knowing which process your procurement team uses to obtain competitive vendor information is extremely helpful.

 

BUYERS BEWARE

There are some music retailers who ignore bid specs entirely and submit bids for every request. These companies often represent lower quality instruments so they can offer extremely low price bids in the hope that your purchasing department will award them the bid based solely on the lower price.  This is a common practice here in Arizona and it often leads to long-term heartache. Ask your procurement team if you can require your bid request to accept “No Substitutions” or “No Substitutions without Music Department Approval” to avoid this unfortunate practice. It is unlikely that you will be given another chance to purchase equipment like this next year (or in the next few years), so it is important to take every precaution and get the proper equipment for your program needs.

 

Expect Service

AMEA music teacher at Riverton Piano booth

Sonja Lynne discusses classroom technology with an Arizona music teacher at the Riverton Piano Company AMEA Conference booth.

The final step in purchasing equipment for your music classroom is the most often overlooked:  After-the-Sale-Service.  Make sure the vendor you have been working with through this process delivers your equipment, sets it up and shows you how to use it.  For example, when we deliver a digital piano (or piano lab) to a school, we offer custom setup and wiring, in-person product training and unlimited access to our “How Do You Work This Thing?” training video library.  This ensures that music teachers always have the help they need to get the most out of the equipment in their classrooms.  Ask about our exclusive Roland Owner’s Club or our Yamaha Bonus Box during your digital piano search!

 

Procuring new musical equipment can be a challenge, but you don’t have to face that challenge alone!  From funding sources to bid specs to the world’s finest pianos, Riverton Piano Company is Arizona’s most trusted school music vendor.  We have a long history of supporting area schools, arts venues and local music educators!  Let us help you obtain and operate musical equipment that will make your program better – and lower your stress levels at the same time.  It’s possible and no one knows how to do it better than we do!  Contact us today and let’s supercharge your music program for many years to come!