Teaching Music off a Cart

Teaching Music off a Cart

By Jim Tinter


Being told you are losing your music room and are going to have to teach music off a cart can be a stressful experience. For 70% of the 20 years I spent teaching elementary music I did not have a room, but still managed to provide a high level of quality instruction — but compromises and significant adjustments had to be made. In this blog we’ll examine philosophical, emotional, physical, and practical issues such a situation presents.

Philosophical Issues

Having to condense your entire repertoire of lessons, instruments, activities, and supplies from a classroom setting to what would fit onto a cart is impractical and impossible. Therefore, if this happens to you…




Push Back Politely, But Firmly

  • Try to get a written curricular exemption releasing you from established achievement expectations or at least an acknowledgement that losing your room will have a negative impact on your program.
  • Ask the powers that be how they would manage to do their job effectively if they had to operate from a briefcase or cart instead of an office.
  • If your union has any spine, get them involved to lobby on your behalf. In other words, fight for your art, and don’t take such a serious decision passively.


Emotional Issues

  • Feeling demeaned and unappreciated were two of the most intense emotions I felt on a regular basis. “Music education must not be highly valued in this school system if a decision like this has been made” was a common thought I had. If you find yourself getting depressed, burned out, or sick a lot, get counseling to help you deal with these negative emotions.
  • Be prepared to make compromises to your educational values. Trying to maintain the same level of instruction will be nearly impossible, and trying to do so will stress you out.


Physical Issues

  • Are you physically able to push a cart around the school without hurting your back or knees?
  • Does your school system realize that pushing a cart around increases the likelihood that you might injure yourself or someone else, resulting in potential Workman’s Comp claims or law suits?
general music
Photo: Roman_Gorielov | iStock | Thinkstock

Practical Issues

  • Where will you store your stuff? You obviously won’t be able to carry all of it around with you.
  • Will you have a “home?” — a place to plan, think, practice, and just get a little solitude?
  • Will you have to teach all of your classes in the classrooms, or might some classes be able to meet in the cafeteria, gym, or a larger space where you will have room for movement?
  • How will you manage things like projectors, smart boards, sound systems, etc.?
  • If you are used to using lots of classroom instruments, either get a flatbed cart or put the instruments into storage. Moving instruments around greatly increases the chance of damage and takes valuable class time to set up and tear down, not to mention the logistics involved.
  • How much travel time will you have between classes?
  • If you have to go into a classroom, make sure you don’t have to push your cart over carpeting, around chairs, and that you have easy access to an electrical outlet.
  • Having music in the classroom means generating lots of sound which will be a distraction to adjacent classes. Drumming may not be something you can continue.
  • Consider doing fewer performances in order to lighten your load.
  • Will the classroom teacher stay in the room while you have music or leave to do their planning somewhere else?
  • Consider doing more recorder playing to give students hands-on experience with a small instrument.
  • Classrooms are not movement-friendly places. Either move desks or take students outside, weather permitting.
  • Get your recorded music library onto a device so you don’t have to lug around CDs.
  • Avail yourself to curricular materials not requiring so many instruments or large spaces for movement. Materials by John Feierabend immediately come to mind.


music classroom
Photo: DimplyDimity | iStock | Thinkstock


The Cart

  • Get one that rolls easily and is stable. Bigger wheels are better.
  • I used a large AV cart with two shelves and a lockable storage area on the bottom. On the top shelf was my sound system and items that needed to be readily available. The bottom shelf held recordings and song books. The bottom storage area held small percussion instruments and a glockenspiel or two. Strapped to the side of the cart was my guitar — an indispensable instrument for any elementary General Music teacher. If you are a keyboard player, you’ll have to find a way to secure a small (64 note minimum) keyboard to your cart.



  • Being in the classroom lets you see first-hand what subjects are being studied, enabling you to tailor your music selections accordingly. I wrote and eventually self-published Dinosaur Rap and Rondo as a result of being in second grade classrooms where dinosaurs were being studied.


Having to teach music off a cart is an experience not to be wished on anyone. Hopefully this blog has given you information to help you make the most of a challenging situation.

Jim Tinter presented sessions on “Beginning a Dynamic Recorder Program” and “Developing a Dynamic Recorder Program” at the 2015 National In-Service Conference. Submit a session proposal for the 2016 National In-Service Conference by January 15, 2016.


About the Author:

July 21 - Jim Tinter Head Shot for bio

Jim Tinter is a composer, clinician, publisher and retired public school music educator from Medina, Ohio. He has presented dozens of workshops for the National Association for Music Education, the American Orff-Schulwerk Association, the American Recorder Society and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. His six publications have received rave reviews from American Recorder, and th e Jazz Education Journal as well as from teachers and students in the U.S., Canada, and Taiwan. Jim’s dynamic and interactive presentations incorporate moving, singing, and playing instruments, in addition to an inspiring and entertaining multi-media presentation with audio and video clips of his students in action.

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Brendan McAloon, Marketing and Events Coordinator, December 16, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org).