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Education News

Crowdfunding Education: Band Director Joins Other Teachers With Online Fundraiser

Houston band director hopes to raise money for new band equipment.


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Band Director Rene Rodriguez demonstratesBand Director Rene Rodriguez demonstrates a technique for the class. He started the program from scratch six years ago at Holland Middle.

You’ve heard of students holding bake sales and car washes to raise money. Those efforts seem old-school compared to what some tech-savvy teachers are doing to supply their classrooms.

Take Rene Rodriguez, the band director at Holland Middle School in Northeast Houston.

sixth graders play
Beginning musicians in sixth grade learn how to play their instruments.

Now it counts 200 students. They did so well last year that they’ve moved up to the varsity level. And with so many students in band, the school’s rough reputation is fading.

But there’s a major problem: They don’t have enough quality equipment. Up to three students can share one used instrument.

“When you walk into your typical middle school band hall in Texas that is competitive in any way, you’re going to find about $200-250,000 worth of equipment and we are nowhere near there,” he says.

So Rodriguez has turned to crowdfunding. It’s a way to raise money on the Internet from hundreds or even thousands of people.

His campaign is on the site Kickstarter. The goal: $170,000 by early October.

All the money goes to new instruments.

“For example, a set of timpani that actually stays in tune — that’s a bonus. That’s $10,000 right there,” Rodriguez explains.

Karinna Ornelas
Karinna Ornelas, 14, plays first clarinet. She says she came to Holland Middle just to play with Mr. Rodriguez. She says new instruments will help the band sound better.

He says his school can’t afford that price tag. Just a few years ago, there wasn’t the budget for a nurse, librarian or a counselor.

“Introducing an innovative solution …”

In fact, more and more teachers are going online to ask for donations. The average teacher spends almost $500 of their own money on classroom supplies, according to a 2013 report by the National School Supply and Equipment Association.

“ … With just one click you can help.”

That’s from a fundraising website tailored for educators. It’s called PledgeCents.

Co-founder Ricky Johnson says requests include pizza parties, new calculators, even a string orchestra.

It’s less than two years old and has funded $86,000.

“It’s funny because whenever teachers get their cause funded they are still surprised by the response and the amount of philanthropists and people who are supportive out there,” Johnson says.

At Holland Middle School, students know what new instruments would mean. Karinna Ornelas, 14, plays first clarinet.

“We would all get to play one, not share. And the equipment would sound better since it would be new,” she says.

It would also make it easier for students to take the instruments home and practice.

Ultimately, their band director Rene Rodriguez wants his students to be successful.

But they have a long way to go. They’ve raised less than 10 percent of their goal.

advanced band
The advanced band involves about 60 seventh and eighth graders. Overall the band program has about 200 students this year.

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