“So much to see, so little time to see it,” goes the age-old saying. And it’s true: it’s a big world out there, full of opportunity to learn and explore. For school choral groups, there is no single “right” or “wrong” place for an ensemble trip or performance tour. (Actually, there may be a wrong place or two, but there are many, many right places.) Both domestic and abroad, the potential performance venues, eye-popping experiences, cultural learning opportunities, and peer bonding possibilities are limited only by the imagination and planning prowess of those in charge.
To determine the top destinations for vocal music groups both near and far, Choral Director turned to its readership with this recent survey. The votes have been cast and counted, and the results are in. And surprise, surprise N.Y.C. is at the top of the list in the U.S., due surely to Broadway, the host of museums and other sites to be seen, and, of course world-class venues and performance opportunities. And beyond our borders, the birthplace of pasta and opera was voted “il numero uno” among the intrepid choral directors who have ventured beyond the oceans with their students. Read on for the rest of the top destinations at home and abroad, as selected by readers, as well as some comments from vocal music educators on how they choose the best locations for their choral groups’ adventures.
Top 5 Domestic Destinations:
As selected by CD readers
1. New York City
2. Disney World (Orlando, Fla.)
3. Chicago, Ill.
4. Washington D.C.
“New York City is a microcosm of the entire globe, and represents what I consider the cultural center of the world on many levels. It also gives my students a taste of what they have to look forward to as they continue in the arts.”
Ken Ahlberg, Hermantown High School, Hermantown, Minn.
“Disney World is a great trip for all. It is very affordable and the Disney people really work with your group in a very personable manner to make your trip easy. You really don’t even need a travel company!”
Carrie Taylor, Dover Jr/Sr High Schools, Dover, Ark.
“In Chicago, we often do an exchange concert with one of their many fine choral programs in their Public Schools. There’s also lots of great sight-seeing don’t forget to include a visit to Medieval Times while in that area!”
Marshall Butler, Jr., Jesse O. Sanderson High School, Raleigh, N.C.
“There are so many great sites and free things to do and see in Washington DC!”
Lori Temanson, Westfield Area High School, Westfield, Wis.
“Philadelphia is a compact city with arts, history, and so much more.”
Fran Depalma, Caldwell Public Schools, Caldwell, N.J.
Top 5 International Destinations:
As selected by CD readers
“Italy is the birthplace of Western musical traditions.”
Teresa I. Irwin, Ironwood Ridge High School, Tucson, Ariz.
“In London, the language is easy, obviously, and the architecture, cathedrals, focus on music, and West End shows are fantastic.”
Jena Dickey, Young Voices of Colorado, Littleton, Colo.
“In Salzburg, music and Mozart are everywhere!”
Carolyn Henson, Central Davis Junior High, Layton, Utah
“France has strong choral traditions and wonderful concert venues. Also, it has many museums, historic buildings, parks, and cathedrals to visit.”
Sallie Ferrebee, Connecticut Children’s Chorus, West Hartford, Conn.
“There is a lot of culture and music in Canada.”
Annice Benamy, Elizabeth Public Schools, Elizabeth, N.J.
How far do you typically travel with your choral groups?
Which piece of criteria is most important when
selecting a destination?
In-state only – 16%
Nearby states – 38%
Across the country – 27%
Internationally/Overseas – 19%
Which piece of criteria is most important when selecting a destination?
Proximity/cost – 41%
Quality performing venues – 27%
Cultural learning opportunities – 22%
Opportunity to hear/meet other ensembles – 8%
Opportunities to blow off steam have fun – 2%
Do you have any advice on narrowing down the plethora of potential destinations?
“Pick what will work best for your group and your budget. If you have a small group, fundraising can be an issue. Try to find sources of funding outside your normal realm. Businesses are always looking to help out schools when needed.”
Ken Kleager, Jane Addams Middle School, Bolingbrook, Ill.
“Choose a place that you are comfortable taking a group to, and that you think your students will find exciting. Make sure you have something fun planned for them to act like teenagers.”
Beth Massengale, Luella High School, Locust Grove, Ga.
“I always stick to one country. I never country hop (like those London, Paris, Rome trips). I want my students to spend as much time as possible in the country, not on the bus/train/airplane. They respond best to places they have some connection with, a place they have learned about. Italy is always a favorite; the Roman Coliseum, Pompeii they’ve studied these places since elementary school. Normandy Beach and a concentration camp we have been to Dachau and to Terezin have also made huge impacts on my students.”
Elaine Shurley, Marshall County High School, Benton, Ky.
“So what is manageable for you. All of my trips have the same features (concert, clinic, competition, broadway show, shopping). The students care most about having time together, not the destination.”
Dan Brill, Shady Side Academy, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Is there anything to be wary of when deciding where to take a school music group?
“Most of my ‘wary and worry’ have come from the hotels. The hotel location/neighborhood is it safe? Is the hotel clean, well staffed and secure for students? Are there other conventions or events booked when you’re there? What are they, and in what relation to your rooms? This is also where an experienced agent can help. They know what to ask and often have a track record with certain hotels.”
Bryan Marks, Cohasset High School, Cohasset, Mass.
“Student safety is always an issue, but some places people may think are threatening really are not at all once you go and see them for yourself. Looking at the types of experiences students will have when not performing is very, very important, as well. Different places offer different opportunities and some offer many more than others!”
Shawn Lawton, Mona Shores High School, Muskegon, Mich.
“Be sure there are enough activities for the students when they are not rehearsing or singing. We pack our itinerary with walking tours, museum visits, fun activities such as pizza-making, gelato tasting, discos, swimming, horse drawn carriages, and so on to balance our tours between religious activities, musical activities, cultural activities, and recreational activities.”
Brother Joshua DiMauro, OSF, Saint Anthony’s High School, South Huntington, N.Y.
“Be creative. There are so many great venues available if you will take the time to think about it. Singing on the rim of the Grand Canyon can be just as moving as singing in Carnegie Hall. A local chapel may have better acoustics for your group than the stage of a fancy theater miles away. And remember, it isn’t about the destination, it is about the preparation. You can excel at an outdoor amphitheater just as easily as you can crash and burn in a historic hall.”
Joseph Allred, Gunnison Valley High School, Gunnison, Utah
“Traveling with choral groups creates memories that last a lifetime and enriches the lives of every student and parent who participates. The adventure of traveling with your choir is priceless if you prepare, preplan, and preview!”
P. Fulk, Surry Central High School, Dobson, N.C.
“We are a small rural community school and travel only every four years. Music trips are often the only traveling our students may ever make and best of all is the awakening of the student to the outside world and the spark that sets their eyes to a bigger picture and goal.”
Ruth Novak, Seymour High School, Seymour, Mo.