This past summer I was forced to take a long, hard look at my classroom closet because they had to re-do the floors. One of the biggest projects I tackled was re-organizing my choral music collection. Although it doesn't look very pretty or even new and shiny, I am happy with the organizational system I came up with- it has been very functional and I spent $0 on it! If you have a collection of sheet music and a small budget, you can take these principles and apply them to the materials you have on hand to get everything organized!
When I came to this school, I had a very difficult time finding any sheet music to use for my choir concerts the first year. All I could find were haphazard piles of dusty old 60's pop song arrangements, so I survived my first year creating my own arrangements of songs I found or knew. Which brings me to my first point:
organizing sheet music is important because if you don't, you won't use it, and that is money down the drain!
If you don't know what you have, or can't find the type of music you need when you need it, you'll never use the stuff you have (no matter how good the material is).
The first step when I went through the sheet music this summer was to get rid of decades-old photocopies of outdated music, duplicate copies of trendy/pop music from more than 10 years ago, and other materials that were just in too bad of shape or too out of date to be useful for me or any teacher after me. Although I was tempted to throw away much more, I am always aware that what I think is too cheesy or in poor taste may be something another teacher will value-
don't throw things away based on personal taste. Sift through the collection based on physical condition, educational value, and stylistic variety.
As I went through all of the sheet music to throw away things I didn't need, I also started sorting it all into categories. I based my categories on what I will need to search for when I'm looking for new material for my choir groups.
Organize sheet music based on the elements you need to search for (genre, difficulty, voicing, theme etc) for your ensemble(s).
For me, this meant primarily organizing by theme. I currently have two choral groups at my school: one for 3rd and 4th grade and one for 5th and 6th. Although I obviously need more challenging music for the older students, for the most part the voicing and difficulty I need are similar for those two groups. However, I currently do 2 concerts a year (I know, it's OK to be shocked): one in December which is generally centered around the winter holidays (without being overly religious) and one in the spring, which has for the last several years been centered on the theme of "around the world". This means I am most often looking for winter/holiday music and music from cultures around the world. I started with those categories and then separated everything else into thematic/genre groupings as well.
Once I had everything in categories, I used a combination of old magazine holders and giant manila envelopes to hold everything within their groups, making sure to label each category. For the categories that didn't have as many pieces, I put them together in one magazine holder, with each category having its own envelope. You can't see the titles from the spines of most sheet music like you can with books, so you're going to have to take things off of the shelf to look at it anyway.
The last step was to add one box that I labeled "current". I use this space to hold music that I've done in previous concerts that I liked (in case I want to re-use them in a few years) and music that I've found that I've considered but haven't used yet. Obviously the music I am currently teaching to my choirs is out with my other teaching materials, but this makes it a whole lot easier when I'm looking for material for the next concert: I already have stuff pulled out that I liked before to look at that fits the themes of my 2 concerts.
Create a separate place to store music you've done in the past with current groups, and music you'd like to consider for future concerts, so you can find new material for your ensembles more quickly.
How do you organize your sheet music? I know many people have much larger collections and juggle a lot more different ensembles and performances, but I hope the ideas behind my organizational system will help you to think through your own systems as well! If you have other ideas that have worked for you, please share them in the comments :)
This post is "part 2" in my series on organizing your classroom closet. If you want to see my first post, which was on organizing small items like composition manipulatives, click below: