Five Lessons I’ve Learned: #4: You Don’t Get What You Don’t Ask For

When it comes to asking for special funding for a music program, I have always taken the approach that “you’ll never get what you don’t ask for.” (Sort of a variation on the basketball phrase “You’ll miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take.”) I have given a wish list to my principals/administrators almost every year, and it has definitely been worth the effort.

We all know that some principals have little interest in the arts, but many have musical backgrounds in their own lives. They may be more willing than you might expect to do what they can to support your program. Sometimes they can afford just a little for basic supplies, but sometimes they can afford more for instruments.

By using the phrase “wish list,” I give my principals the option to say no, but it does give them the opportunity to offer some funding if they are so inclined. Believe it or not, I have actually had an administrator tell me, “I’m glad you asked. I’ve got some extra money I need to get spent quickly.”

On my wish lists, I make sure to include items at a few different price points. Again, this gives them the opportunity to respond, “Well, we can’t afford those new timpani, but we could probably get a new trumpet and some sheet music.”

The whole concept of not getting what you don’t ask for has other applications besides funding. Administrators often operate in sort of a “squeaky wheel gets the grease” mode, so they’re not likely to solve any problems they don’t know about. If you have a problem which can only be address by the administration, such as facility maintenance, scheduling, access to students, etc., make sure your administration knows.

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3 thoughts on “Five Lessons I’ve Learned: #4: You Don’t Get What You Don’t Ask For

  1. Hi Greg,

    I don’t seem to have my original document. My principals have been used to getting these from me for the past few years, so in recent versions I’ve omitted the intro paragraph I used to include at the beginning. But it used to say something to the effect, “If you find that you have available funds, here are a few items at various price points which would be helpful for the music department.”

    Here is my most recent wish list (without formatting).

    Wish List – May 30, 2007
    Instrumental Music
    Steve Engel

    Listed by price, from lowest to highest

    Sheet Music (See attached page) $110
    Trumpet $400*
    Clarinet $400*
    Violin $400*
    Flute $500*
    Alto Sax $800*

    * The Purchasing Department has current bids on these instruments. I think this estimate is on the high side and actual prices may be slightly lower.

    If at all possible, I try to hand this to the principal personally and explain (as I mentioned in this post) that this is just a wish list, so I harbor no ill feelings if there is no budget available. If the principal is generous, I always express my appreciation in person, as well as later in a more public setting like a concert.

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