Mike Lawson • Archives • May 1, 2003

Reinforcing the fiscal crunch facing most school music programs, a national sampling of band and orchestra directors revealed that the determining factor in selecting a music supplier is competitive pricing. Eighty-six percent of those polled noted that when other factors such as service and availability of product were equal, price was the motivating factor. As Matt Doiron, music director at Sanford, Maine’s high school stated,” In times of tight budgets, competitive pricing is the key issue.” He went on to note, “The dealer rep visiting the school is very convenient and would be the second most important factor.”

Coinciding with the tight budgets, directors expressed a need for both repair and product information to determine how best to maintain existing instruments as well as purchase new equipment. The majority of directors also favored suppliers providing clinicians and, in a growing sign of the emergence of the Internet, 59 percent considered an informative Web site of high importance while 50 percent viewed the ability to make a purchase through a dealer’s Internet site a priority.

Below are the results of a recent survey – in order of priority – and some of the comments gathered from directors across the country who would like to see improved pricing, product and repair information from music dealers.

Competitive Pricing

86 percent: High Priority
6 percent: Important
8 percent: Very Little Importance

“In times of tight budgets, competitive price is the key issue in my district. The dealer rep visiting the school is very convenient and would be the second most important factor.”

Matt Doiron
Sanford High School
Sanford, Maine

Repair Information

74 percent: High Priority
16 percent: Important
10 percent: Very Little Importance

“It is nice when there is a person at the retailer who knows the specific needs of the director. For instance, a band director should be able to talk to someone who is well versed in band literature, or an orchestra director who knows the requirements of the orchestra. I would like to call and say, ‘I need a piece of music that highlights my woodwinds that doesn’t have too difficult of a horn part. What do you suggest?’ Or, ‘I am looking for a certain piece but I don’t know who wrote it or who the publisher is’…”

Tim Davis
Austin High School
Austin, Minn.

“I won’t try to say that prices don’t have an impact on what I purchase or where I purchase it from. However, I will forego savings to work with a music dealer who has shown a sense of knowledge of the product and a commitment to me and our program. Once I find someone I can trust I will work through them to the best of my ability.”

Kevin Beaber
Crowley County High School
Ordway, Colo.

“Information, convenient times, availability, reliability, friendly help…these are important to me.”

Bill Bartman
Siuslaw High School
Florence, Ore.

“I need to know what music sounds good and is popular, and what skills are required to play it. The companies insist that all the music is fun for the kids. It’s hard enough to teach new skills while being accessible to all players. Companies claim the music will want to make the kids practice and will heal their warts and get them all dates for Friday night. I need the dealer to describe if the music has key changes, time signature changes, what rhythms are used, ranges for each part…does it have alternative parts (lower flute and first trumpet, alternate percussion especially), and minimum instrumentation. We also need a consistent grading system…medium hard for one company is a two for another and is easy for a third and is 3.5 for a fourth.”

Jim Carlile
Black Diamond Middle School
Antioch, Calif.

Repair Information

60 percent: High Priority
14 percent: Important
26 percent: Very Little Importance

“Be a resource for ideas on how to solve equipment problems…also help with financing school equipment…”

Name Withheld

“One area that is frustrating is the upkeep of older instruments – i.e. , finding replacement parts for older instruments, ordering parts for percussion equipment. This seems to present a challenge for most music dealers, and may require the establishment of a clearing house or parts warehouse where retailers have access to these older parts.”

Name Withheld

“The music dealer that provides 99 percent of our services has done an excellent job of communicating and making sure I have the information, rental and repair services I need…Another plus is they are a factory-authorized service center for every instrument they sell…unfortunately there is another music store in the area that is the exact opposite…you can’t even find an address for the brand names they sell…I think that may be because it’s more of a manufacturer du jour…I have both ends of the spectrum…”

Name Withheld

Provide Clinicians

59 percent: High Priority
20 percent: Important
21 percent: Very Little Importance

Informative Internet Site Informative Internet Site

59 percent: High Priority
26 percent: Important
15 percent: Very Little Importance

Dealer Evening/Weekend Hours

52 percent: High Priority
35 percent: Important
13 percent: Very Little Importance

“We, as music teachers, should always try to use the dealers in our immediate area. I rely on their expertise and knowledge when I have a question.”

Karl Fitch
Twin Peaks, Miss.

Repair Service

52 percent: High Priority
23 percent: Important
25 percent: Very Little Importance

Ability To Purchase Via InternetAbility To Purchase Via Internet

50 percent: High Priority
34 percent: Important
16 percent: Very Little Importance

Specific Sales Representative

48 percent: High Priority
29 percent: Important
23 percent: Very Little Importance

“It is very important to me that the store representative come by my school on a weekly basis. I teach in a small school and have no professional contact with others teaching or working in music except for the music store representative. I appreciate the interaction that person provides.”

Doug Cantrell
Carrollton Unit School
Carrollton, Ala.

“The most valuable service our dealer provides is our sales rep who visits weekly to check on our needs, transporting instruments for repair and generally staying in touch.”

Michael Boulanger
Dover High School
Dover, N.H.

“All in all, the music dealer needs to offer timely service with quality goods at fair prices. Inferior products do much damage in the process of educating young musicians. The dealer who catches my business is the neighborhood type personality with whom I deal on a weekly basis. This applies to the road rep all the way up to the store manager. The main concern must be the servicing of the music program and the many facets involved.”

Thomas Ellison
Craig Hill Elementary School
Rochester, N.Y.

New Product Specifications

46 percent: High Priority
39 percent: Important
15 percent: Very Little Importance

Technology Software Updates

41 percent: High Priority
38 percent: Important
21 percent: Very Little Importance


Assistance at Clinics

40 percent: High Priority
42 percent: Important
18 percent: Very Little Importance

Dealer Interaction With Students

34 percent: High Priority
34 percent: Important
32 percent: Very Little Importance

“The dealer needs to be a supplier for the music director and the music program only. The dealer should never supersede the director regarding a student’s participation in music. Communication is very important regarding a financial situation that can affect a student retaining an instrument. In our district, money is not a factor whether a student can or cannot participate in music.”

James G. Shaw
Gompers Junior High
Joliet District 86, Ill.

Provide a Weekly/Monthly Newsletter

17 percent: High Priority
19 percent: Important
64 percent: Very Little Importance

Catalog Timing

“I have all summer to read and listen but the companies send out their CDs and catalogs in late August…just when school is starting. The beginning of the school year seems a little crazy trying to listen to everything, and teach, so that I can make educated choices of music for my kids to play. I also have to order everything early so that I do not lose budget money. By the middle of September I am frantic trying to listen to everything. Can’t the companies get their catalogs out in early summer or late July?”

Marisa Weinstein
Warsaw Middle School
Pittsfield, Maine


“Would there be a better way to have a monthly/weekly short sight-reading music e-mail sent to directors? For example, I would like to see excerpts from Frank Erickson’s music for students to sight-read. I realize much of the older music is out of print and many of the older sets of music are missing parts, but the music is still good solid music. It would be nice to be able to sight-read short excerpts of the older music, but cannot because of missing parts or changed instrumentation. I would also like to see it available for various grade levels. I would pay for a service of this type to help my students become better musicians. It could be sent by parts and the directors could make copies of the excerpts to fit their instrumentation.”

Sharee Van Voorst
Dell Rapids Middle School
Dell Rapids, S.C.

Copyright Procedures

“My number one comment is for music publishers/dealers to quit holding onto the ancient practice of selling a ‘set’ of pre-determined instrumentation for music. You are making it impossible for schools to abide by copyright laws. Trying to get the additional copies of individual parts can take weeks and generally they aren’t printed copies but photo copies with a stamp, ‘copied with permission.’ In today’s world we all have computers, laser printers and sophisticated copy machines. Sell us the music in a format that will allow us to print or copy the parts we need. I would still pay the same price for a piece of music that would allow me to copy or print what I need, when I need it. That saves you the biggest expense in the printing business, paper! Your profits would increase…Most of my library is full of pieces that have been performed very infrequently…publishers are missing the mark.”

Name Withheld

Full Recordings

” Have full recordings on the demo recordings.”

William Buzza
Leavitt Area High School
Turner, Maine

‘On Approval’

” Dealers should make music available on approval so it can before purchase. Bringing in upper level instruments and other accessories so students can try them is also important.”

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