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We Bring The Music To You!

Chopin Elementary, IL

2450 W Rice St, Chicago, IL 60622, USA
Chicago Public Schools
Director: Arturs Weible
Category:  Sponsor Engagement
Award: Gold, 2020


Project Description

Our goal at Chopin is to raise the money needed to fund the program ourselves. We do not want to rely on school discretionary funds for a number of reasons. The amount of discretionary funds vary each year and our program is expensive. If we drain a prohibitively high amount from those funds, other programs have no recourse during the school year. Our string orchestra has 80 students participating each year. That is approximately 20% of the student body for our school. If we are able to partner with corporate sponsors to fund the program, the discretionary funds allotted to Chopin will be able to serve many more student programs in athletics, visual arts and tutoring. This is of paramount importance that we make every dollar stretch as far as possible.

Target Audience

We seek to play for corporate offices in and around Chicago. By doing so, we hope to partner with these corporations in order to fund our portion of the program. We have played for a corporation in Chicago this past spring and found it to be mutually beneficial. The employees enjoyed a concert in their building and found it feasible to make donations to help fund the program. These donations made a significant portion of our operating budget for the year. To repeat this at some other corporations around Chicago, we would alleviate a burden on our limited school budget and be able serve more of our students as a result. Employees of these corporations would see where their donations would have immediate impact by allowing us to play for them.

Overview of planning and execution process for this project

We have two payments of $25,000 due at the end of the first and second semester of school. These payments go to the Merit School of Music ( Merit pays for the remainder of the program’s costs through fundraising and grant writing of their own. The students receive group lessons for two hours a day after school at Chopin, Monday through Thursday. Selected students also receive transportation to Merit’s main campus in the West Loop neighborhood of Chicago for additional group classes on Thursday evening that last until 7 p.m. Selected students also receive private half hour lessons during the school day as a pull out service during the week. Students receive their own instrument to use during the school year. The students choose from violin, viola, cello and double bass.

All of these services are tuition and fee free for the students.

In addition to being the general music teacher at Chopin, I am the viola teacher and orchestral conductor. Merit provides additional violin, cello and bass teachers as well as a parent liaison position who takes attendance, chaperones student bus trips to Merit and any trips to play outside of Chopin Elementary.
My implementation of this program includes seeking out corporate partners for performances as well as having two Board meetings during the year in September and June. The Board members include professional musicians, civic leaders, local business owners, and our school principal. Together, the Board provides financial, intellectual and moral support throughout the year.

Community Impact

Our school survives on enrollment, like all schools do. One significant benefit to our entire school community is that we have students who live outside the neighborhood enrollment boundary who elect to attend out school. These students tend to be more committed to our overall success as they have made the decision as a family to increase commute time to get to our school.
Furthermore, our program’s graduates attend selective enrollment high schools and post secondary education at a higher rate than CPS average.

Explanation of current sponsor(s), longevity of sponsorship, sponsor levels, and benefits:

This past year, we partnered with Rewards Network, a network based marketing and financial technology company. We played for them in late May of 2019 at their offices in Chicago. The CEO attended as did a number of their employees. They made donations that evening in excess of $2,000 which the CEO matched. That $4,000 represented 8% of our yearly budget. They also asked us to come back and, with an established reputation within the company, we believe a bigger turnout and fundraising amount is within reach.

Summary of sponsor research and outreach process:

Previous sponsor outreach has been largely through an online presence. While this has raised over $50,000 from October 2015 to September 2018, the pace was insufficient to our needs. We maintained the donor list online and have a new online presence that has greater outreach and comes closer to meeting our needs. Putting this in tandem with corporate sponsor outreach, the feeling with our Board is that the goal of $50,000 per year is attainable.

Description of process for initiating and/or renewing sponsorships:

All online donations are tracked via email address. Postal delivery of checks has each donor receiving a handwritten return letter from myself with the tax receipt. The address is then added to the online data base of donors. An online presence is also maintained on YouTube for videos of our performances throughout the year and sent to donors for their enjoyment and verification of what their donations are funding.

Overall budget


Specific Budget Breakdown

2x$25,000 to
It is used to augment the fundraising and grant writing efforts of Merit School of Music.
Instrument purchases, maintain and replacement of consumables such as strings, bows, rosin, cases, and repair/rental

New or recurring project?


How did you update/change this project from its previous occurrence?

The Merit School of Music has partnered with first Lafayette Elementary (my former CPS school closed in 2013) and now Chopin for the past 18 years. Merit has steadfastly remained our ally and partner throughout any adversity and all our successes. When Lafayette was closed, Merit promised to revive the program at Chopin and support rebuilding the program. Now we have attained the culture of music education at Chopin that we had at Lafayette. Chopin has become a Fine Arts magnet school in no small part because of the partnership with Merit. I cannot imagine a greater obstacle than the closure of your whole school. I also cannot imagine a more trustworthy and steadfast partner than the Merit School of Music. The fact that our program is one of the largest string programs in CPS as well as one of the longest running programs speaks to the strength of this partnership and its ability to overcome any adversity.

Challenges/obstacles that were encountered

In realizing that online and media exposure alone was insufficient to the task of raising the funds we needed in order to remain viable, we have continued to explore additional revenue streams as well as ways to heighten our media footprint. Our efforts remains steadfast in keeping the program at it’s current size with no downgrade in size, standards, and professionalism. Having survived a school closure and numerous budget challenges, we remain at the high standard we’ve set for ourselves in the past and in moving forward.

Measurement of the success/effectiveness of this project?

Our donor list has increased every year. We would be happy to share that information with you upon request.

Advice for someone looking to replicate this project in their own community?

It takes years. Constant outreach, interviews, unpaid time devoted to the job. I have done over one hundred interviews in all media platforms over the years from the Chicago Tribune and CBS National News to local papers and students creating multi media presentations for the high school homework. Take every opportunity to get your voice out there. I found out about this opportunity today upon checking my email after returning from visiting family. It’s a good thing I did as the application is due today. While this application isn’t as polished as I wish, I am taking the time to make sure we have a chance. That’s all my program does; it gives kids a chance.

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