Band Director
Close this search box.

Getting the Instruments You Need for Band & Orchestra Managing Your Instrument Department

Imagine walking into a new job as a director and finding all the instruments you need in inventory and in good working condition. Many directors would need to imagine that because, in most cases, it just doesn’t happen. Band programs grow and evolve. If your vision for your program doesn’t include new and upgraded instruments, perhaps it’s time to rethink that vision.

Instruments wear out, however, most school districts don’t account for the aging of musical instruments in their purchasing cycles. Depending on the quality level of the instrument, life expectancy can range from 15 years to as little as two! Even considering the longer life span of high quality instruments, without a regular maintenance and overhaul schedule these instruments will be due for replacement sooner rather than later.

The number of students who qualify for economic assistance at the school continues to grow as well. In some states, the school is required to provide instruments for these students for little or no cost, putting additional strain on the band budget for school-owned inventory. As well, many superintendents and school boards do not understand the importance of balanced instrumentation. It’s not enough to have an instrument for each student, you also need to have the right instruments to produce the appropriate educational outcome for the ensemble.

Most school boards are composed of people who want programs built and organized on a sound foundation. It’s up to the director of instrumental education to draw up and present a clear, simple picture of the organization that’s best for your students and your program. That includes helping the administration understand the investment and the best ways to budget.

There are many online tools that can help you capture and keep the appropriate records you need. What was once (and still can be) a hand written record can now be made much easier with these online tools. No matter which tools you might use, these are steps music educators should take to develop a proposal for new instruments.

Preparing a Proposal for Your Principal, Superintendent, and Board of Education for Equipment Purchase or Lease.
  1. Begin by making a record of each instrument in your inventory. Use a Band Instrument Record to keep track of instrument value, accessories, repair schedule and depreciation record. This record will allow you to identify the value of each instrument by a) identifying the quality level of an instrument, whether new or used, and b) determine when an instrument needs to be overhauled or replaced.
  2. Next, complete a Depreciation Schedule, using the Instrument Lifespan (above) and Instrument Depreciation Guide (right). This will tell you, at a glance, when instruments need to be replaced. Depreciation for eachinstrument will be figured using the Instrument Lifespan, taking the percentage from the Depreciation Chart multiplied by the remaining value of that instrument and subtracting that from the current cost of the instrument.
  3. Next, complete an Inventory Recordthat summarizes each instrument’s remaining value and life. This can be a summary report to backup any request for instrument purchases.
  4. Complete a Student Enrollment Summary sheet. With this sheet, you can quickly determine what additionalinstruments you will need as students matriculate into middle, junior, andsenior high school. Remember to factor in the planned growth of your program through improved recruiting and retention activities.
  5. From theInventory Record that you have prepared, make a list of the instruments thatshould be replaced in the next five years. Then, add instruments thestudents will require in future years. Keep in mind the probable growth of yourdepartment in estimating cost of repairs, music supplies, and equipment. Use aninstrumentationguide showing suggested instrumentation of varioussizes of bands to help choose the proper instruments to obtain.
  6. Plan your budget. Consider utilizing the School Music Lease/Purchase plan from SM Leasing so that you can get the instruments you need now but purchase them over a three, four, or five year period. Schools do it all the time. Determine the approximate cost of each instrument you need and completethe short worksheet for a free lease/purchase proposal.
  7. Write up acomplete five-year plan in a clear, concise manner. The first sheet shouldbe an explanation. Do this in your own words. For some ideas, ask for Sample AdministrationRequest Letter. Present this to yourmusic coordinator or principal. You may be asked to present the plan to the superintendent, or to the school board. Have a copy for each member of the board. If you need helpor a sample of any of the forms mentioned above, let us know. With over thirty years of experience inproviding solutions to music education instrument needs, SM Leasing can helpyou put together a lease/purchase proposal that makes sound financialsense. Everything wears out, including bandinstruments. By establishing a proper procedure for accounting for thedepreciation and replacement of band instruments, your students will have amore successful music education outcome and your band will have one less hurdleto performing to your expectations.
Here’s a List You Might Need.
  • Band Instrument Record*
  • Instrument Life Span Chart
  • Instrument Depreciation Guide
  • Instrument Inventory Record*
  • Student Enrollment Sheet*
  • Lease/Purchase Proposal
  • Sample Administration Request

*Some music office administration online services can contain this same data. For forms, more information or a free lease/purchase proposal, please visit or write to