HC Practiceathon pic

For the past few articles ( Trying to Get Your Child to Practice? Here's Some Tips, and 7 Tips to Get Today's Students to Practice More) I have been addressing ways to motivate students to practice their instruments more at home.Many fellow teachers have shared some terrific ideas, advice and techniques. I wanted to highlight one in particular this week.

A good friend and colleague of mine, Peggy Rakas, started a Practice-a-thon in 2006 to help raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Her initial efforts raised $20,000, and was matched by the Dave Matthews Band! She has continued coordinating the yearly fundraiser ever since, with an average of $30,000/year being raised for the local Harry Chapin Food Bank. She is currently also the New York State Coordinator of the Practice-a-Thon.

With local governments giving less funding to schools, and school districts cutting back on music and arts programs, music teachers may want to consider running your own Practice-a-Thon. This is not only a great idea for music teachers, but also for PTA parents and Booster Clubs to think about.

What is a Practice-a-Thon?

The idea is simple: each student who participates gets people to sponsor every minute that they practice their instrument for a particular month. (Since March is Music in Our Schools Month, the schools on Long Island tend to run their Practice-a-Thons at that time.) Usually, people pledge a penny a minute, or 5 -10 cents for each minute. The student records their practice minutes every day on a practice log, and tallies the number of minutes practiced each week and then for the entire month. The student multiplies the final total minutes practiced by the monetary amount pledged by each sponsor. The sponsor writes out a check to the local charity for the final amount. The teacher collects the checks and sends them to the charity.

How Can Teachers and Parents Get Students to Participate?

Teachers can utilize the Practice-a-Thon to get their ensembles more prepared for competitions. Awarding further prizes for students or instrument sections that practice the most minutes per week will help stir up some more interest. Instead of a pizza party, maybe have a CD (or iTunes) Listening Party during a lesson period for the weekly winner. Peggy writes out popular songs that her elementary students would want to play for fun.

Parents can do something similar with their own children who participate. After every week, children can download a favorite song from iTunes. Parents can buy a favorite songbook or CD (or iTunes download!) for their child at the end of the month.

Private teachers can also organize a similar program. At the end of the month, they can present a student recital and present the final check to the charity of their choice. This would be a great opportunity to get active in your community, gather community support and recognition of your studio.

In this day and age where people seem to take more than give more, a fundraiser that involves a community is a great lesson for our children to learn to give back to others.

You can listen to my interview with Peggy Rakas on my Radio Show on the BAM Radio Network at: Donna Schwartz Radio .

Action Steps:

1. Have you organized your own similar event? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.

2. If you want to instill the values of discipline, hard work and responsibility, and give young musicians the gift of enjoying music, sign up for my private music lessons!  With over 27 years of teaching & performing experience, I have had countless successful students perform in elite ensembles and get accepted into top colleges like Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music. Click here for a free 30 minute lesson!