Top Five
Top Five Ways to Afford a National Conference

MTNA Business Network

MTNA Business Digest, Volume 3, Issue 1

October 2023

Professional development can be expensive, but well worth the investment in yourself and your career. A national conference is a known expense that can be planned for in advance. The MTNA Business Network members offer the following tips for affording a national conference.

  1. Budget and plan ahead. Estimate the costs involved (including travel, food, registration fee) and build the total amount into your studio budget each year. Be sure your tuition rate covers your total studio budget. Or consider how many additional students you need to accept to cover the conference cost. BONUS tip: Remember that every expense related to a professional development trip is tax deductible. Keep receipts. Most teachers will report their “professional development expense” on Schedule C under “Other Expenses” and directly lower their taxable income.
  2. Plan ahead. Check flights early and often to find the best prices or use an app, such as Google Flights, to compare flights and alert you when prices change. Investigate bus or train alternatives. Check one-way flights and nearby regional airports. Be flexible with your arrival and departure date to take advantage of lower fares on certain days.
  3. Share. Carpool with colleagues. Share a hotel room with one (or more!) colleagues. Collegiate members often investigate hotel alternatives such as hostels, staying with relatives/friends in the area and Airbnb. However, staying at the conference hotel can be more economical in the long run as it saves transportation to and from the conference hotel and parking. BONUS tip: Combine the conference with a family vacation. Spouse and/or children can enjoy vacation activities while you attend conference sessions. Some conferences open their concerts to all. Keep in mind—your expenses (including hotel room, mileage, registration fee) are still deductible as a business expense.
  4. Ten Ways the Butler University MTNA Collegiate Chapter has Raised Funds to Attend the MTNA National Conference:

    1. Student Government Association grant
    2. Indiana Music Teachers Association travel grant
    3. Solicitation letter to local associations
    4. School of Music travel grant; University research grants
    5. MTNA Collegiate Chapter travel grant (deadline early November)
    6. Crowdsourcing (GoFundMe worked best for our Chapter)
    7. Solicitation letters to family/friends and local civic groups
    8. Donation jar at events (Children’s Festival, Member Recital, Practice-a-thon)
    9. Bake sale (“Poptart Friday”), white elephant sale, merchandise with logo, singing Valentines
    10. Ask employer for professional development support (especially if you teach for a local community music school or other arts organization).
  5. Get creative with food expenses. Many conferences offer less expensive “grab-and-go” options for breakfast and lunch. Bring your own non-perishable snacks and breakfast options. Bring dry cereal and buy milk for the mini-fridge. Walk or Uber to less expensive dinner options. Nicola Cantan offers this advice: “My number one tip is to bring a kettle to have in your hotel room. You can get collapsible ones like this that fit in your luggage quite nicely. I’m a coffee person so I always bring my Aeropress as well. It’s not just for coffee, though, as you can make teas, hot water with lemon, instant oatmeal, instant soups, cup noodles, etc.”
  6. Consider location. Many conferences, including the MTNA National Conference, change locations each year. Combine the conference trip with visiting family in the area. Or plan to attend when the conference is within driving distance of your home. The MTNA National Conference will be in Atlanta in 2024, Minneapolis in 2025 and Chicago in 2026.
  7. BONUS tip—Fundraise. The MTNA Teacher Enrichment Grant (deadline early May) supports professional development activities. Check your local arts council, local foundation and state/local MTNA affiliate for grant opportunities. If your state association does not offer professional development grants, propose that they start doing so. Indiana MTA, as well as MTNA, offers travel grants for collegiate members to attend the MTNA National Conference or the MTNA Collegiate Pedagogy Symposium. Be aware that grant programs may require many months to complete the process of reviewing grant applications and disbursing funds, so plan ahead.

Also read Invest in Yourself: The Value of Attending a National Conference  for information about the MTNA Conference and professional development.


Business Network


The MTNA Business Network is a team of successful teachers and business owners dedicated to sharing and promoting best practices for the business of teaching.



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