Elementary School Music


Posted in Instruments, Purchasing for Schools by P. Conrad on May 17, 2010
Please note: This section will be expanded to include elementary band instruments, guitars and other instruments. At the moment, it includes soprano recorders, guitars, and keyboards.

Soprano recorders and keyboard labs are often the instrument of choice for teaching music literacy and performance in schools that do not provide a regular strings, band, or orchestra program. Below are some links to on-line resources for these instruments.


Soundtree is a division of the Korg keyboard manufacturer that designs and supports keyboard labs for purchase by schools. The Soundtree website includes a collection of lesson plans which can be downloaded and used even if your school doesn’t purchase a lab.

Suzuki offers inexpensive keyboard labs. Their whole catalog is available online.

Soprano Recorder:

  • Recorder Karate from MusicK8 is a popular teaching program, but most people rely on a mix of resources and materials.
  • Do It! Play Recorder is a well-produced student book, with CD available (and extensive teachers’ edition) from GIA Publications.
  • Various fingering charts are available: one British site has an interactive diagram some 3rd to 5th graders would find fun.
  • Rockin’ Recorders, by teacher Kay Greenhaw, has transparencies you can print out and use in class.
  • Carnegie Hall offers two outreach programs, Music Explorers and LinkUp!, both of which involve whole class instruction in soprano recorder, and include a valuable prepared curriculum, and a culminating visit to Carnegie Hall.
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Purchasing for Schools

Posted in Purchasing for Schools by P. Conrad on November 8, 2009

Public schools and principals have widely-varying budgets and priorities for spending on arts education. Children’s own voices, hands, and feet are the primary materials in early childhood music. If the school has no space devoted to music learning, it may not make sense to purchase a fleet of keyboards or a full collection of Orff instruments.

But if space and funds are available from year to year, each teacher needs to make choices between spending on a permanent collection of band or percussion instruments, or on concert tickets or visiting artists, or on instruments that the children can take home to learn on, such as soprano recorders.


FAMIS is the online purchasing system used by NYC Department of Education staff to purchase goods and services for their schools. It replaces an older, more awkward system called Fastrack and like Fastrack, it was designed mainly to provide streamlining and greater accountability. Choices are somewhat limited, and sometimes thefamis prices are actually higher than what you would pay for the same product from a mail-order supply catalog, or on a web-site.

The FAMIS system is not for teachers’ out-of-pocket spending, or for using Teachers Choice funds. However, FAMIS is useful when the school is the purchaser: a teacher can shop in the “E-Catalog” and then provide his or her supervisor with a list of FAMIS item numbers and quantities. The ordering is then done electronically.

Since FAMIS is designed for on-line purchasing, the web-site or “portal” is accessed by a user-ID and a password. Teachers (who will not be approving purchases or actually placing orders) can request access for Inquiry Only, which lets you research items and prices without actually completing a purchase order. To do so, fill out and submit a request for a FAMIS User-ID, signed by your supervisor.

You can also do limited searches in the FAMIS E-Catalog by clicking the icon on the left and then simply entering your Board of Education e-mail address (no User-ID or password).


At first, the E-Catalog is a little tricky to navigate. The best way to use it is if you already know what you need. Armed with a product description or brand name, a user can search among the several commodity categories: Textbooks, Computer Software, AudioVisual Media, or General Supplies.

Users can search through the items in the commodity by selecting among the options in a “dropdown” list that includes:

  • Item number
  • Description
  • Vendor number
  • Vendor name
  • ISBN number (for books)
  • Vendor Catalog number
  • Manufacturer Name
  • Manufacturer’s item number
  • Brand / Model,
  • Contract number.

After choosing one these descriptors, you type in the specification, and click on the Search button. For some examples see the post about “Finding Things on FAMIS.”


The DOE Office of Purchasing webpage hosts a well-made training module for first time FAMIS users.

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Finding things on FAMIS

Posted in Instruments, Purchasing for Schools by P. Conrad on July 28, 2009

Item #: 604335865RB2303
Net Price: $16.38
Contract #: 1C50605
Manufacturer Item #: RB2303
Vendor Catalog No: RB2303

The above description comes from the FAMIS site and identifies a staple item for early childhood music: the eight note “step-bell” set. This item is manufactured by Rhythm Band Instruments and can be found on the RBI website for $26.00 plus shipping. The price on FAMIS is $16.38.

On FAMIS, you’ll be ordering the step-bells from the DOE’s contracted vendor: Bronen’s Music, in the Bronx.

Bronen’s “vendor number” is BRO057000. If you search that vendor number on the FAMIS site, you’ll see a 1000-item list of products they offer for DOE customers. If you click on the name (Bronen’s Enterprises, Inc.) you’ll get a vendor listing with contact information. It’s strongly advised that you speak to the vendor personally before placing orders on FAMIS, for help finding things you want, or learning about availability. Naturally, the same is true with any of the other vendors listed above.Next example is a set of Musical Terms and Symbols suitable for a music-room bulletin board.

The item number is #399626654, which refers to a product sold by GRAMCO, a vendor whose glossy catalogs of school supplies are in every main office across the city.

But the FAMIS site’s description shown at left provides the actual manufacturer’s name (McDonald) and a catalog number (MCB964).

Using that information you may be able to find the manufacturer’s website and look up the item and see if it’s what you really want.

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DOE Contracted Vendors

Posted in Purchasing for Schools by P. Conrad on May 19, 2006

Contact information and a general list of brands for each of the following vendors can be found by searching in the FAMIS portal.

Sam Ash is the biggest and carries large numbers of guitars and band instruments. Contact them at their Hicksville, NY office for information about FAMIS purchases.

Peripole-Bergerault, based in Oregon, carries its own brand of percussion instruments, including Orff instruments. They also have a P-B 1-piece soprano recorder.

Frederic Weiner (L.I.) carries the venerable Rhythm Band line of percussion products.

Bronen’s Music (Bronx) provides band and string instruments and the higher-end Orff instruments made by Sonor.

Music Delight (Brooklyn) carries string instruments, Suzuki products (guitars, percussion & Orff instruments) and recorders. FAMIS Contract # B062806

Catalano Music (L.I.) carries band and strings instruments and the best-quality plastic recorders on Fastrack: the 3-piece Yamaha YRS24B soprano.

West Manor (Bronx) carries brass and woodwinds.

Jade Music (L.I.) brass, woodwinds, percussion, instruments and rentals.

For Keyboards and Pianos, you can choose among a whole host of vendors:

  • Steinway & Sons (FAMIS Contract #1B78601) for a Steinway
  • Noldes Pianos (FAMIS Contract #1B78603) for Kawai brand
  • B&H Photo (FAMIS Contract #B058812) for Yamaha electric keyboards
  • Music Delight (FAMIS Contract #B058812) for Suzuki electric keyboards

For Sheet Music there are four contracted vendors: Music Time, Inc., Sam Ash, Catalano, and Advantage Music. Of these, Catalano carries by far the largest list of publishers.

For music text books (but not sheet music), it’s best to start your FAMIS shopping with the titles and ISBN numbers for a specific textbook series.

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