Taking a choral group on the road can be a wonderfully enriching experience. Travel can promote bonding, foster trust, expand horizons, and give students a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, while simultaneously providing motivation for high musical achievement and unique educational opportunities. On the other hand, touring can also be an organizational nightmare – successful trips require immense planning and support – and the financial burden on students, parents, and the schools can often be prohibitive.
Choral Director recently asked our readers about their choirs’ travel habits, and the results are as varied as the topic is broad: we heard about everything from a choral director’s trips to the local mall to one group who made it to St. Peter’s Basilica and performed for the Pope. The common tenets in the responses are threefold: there is no such thing as too much planning and preparation; talk to a director who has traveled before; and only travel with students whom you trust to represent your program with pride and maturity.
Does your choral group travel?
For those that do travel, how far do you journey?
How often do you go on major trips?
“We usually travel every year. I try to alternate venues, so that, over the course of four years, students will not repeat a trip.”
Marshall Butler, Jr.
Sanderson High School
Who arranges your travel plans?
“I used to plan trips on my own until I discovered what an agent can do. I killed myself pasting these things together. I may have saved some money, but lost my sanity. Plus, most agencies offer insurance – something I couldn’t offer.”
Coronado High School
“You can save a lot of money by making the arrangements on your own. A few extra phone calls can mean the difference between hundreds of dollars.”
Trinity High School
Garfield Hts., Ohio
“I have used two different companies and both have been very reliable and do the majority of the paperwork. It is very important to me that I am able to devote most of my energy to preparing the choir for the trip.”
Bixby High School
How are the trips funded?
What is the ideal choral travel destination?
“Creative itinerary and student input are far more important than location. Any location can be ideal.”
Lenape Valley Regional High School
” The [Epcot Center] Candlelight Processional. You learn their music and perform with the Disney performers. As the director, you can sing with the kids or watch the performance. I’ve done this twice now (three years apart) and the kids still talk about it and wish they could do it every year.”
Andrea C. Brumbach
Exeter Township Senior High School
What makes a trip a success?
“Have teacher chaperones who are willing to work 24 hours a day throughout the trip and understand that it is a life-changing experience for their students, but not a vacation for the teachers.”
Brother Joshua DiMauro, O.S.F.
St. Anthony’s High School
South Huntington, N.Y.
“Find excellent parents, give them real jobs that they can do, and let the director be the person in charge of getting the music ready as much as possible. It worked for me.”
Hermantown High School
“We do choral exchanges and my students stay in the homes of the exchange high school and then in return, we host the exchange students at our school. The interaction of the students from both schools really makes the trip a success. We also always do a combined concert with each school singing separately and then we do one or two pieces together. Singing together is a wonderful experience for all of the students. Our goals are always to share our music and make new friends.”
Rye High School
Are there any reasons to not travel?
“Don’t travel just because you think you should. Have a solid and justifiable purpose for the trip.”
E. E. Waddell High School
“The usual argument is that music is not a competition and folks should not compete. We just use the trip as another performance and focus on our own efforts and musical goals.”
Ledyard High School
What advice would you give to a choral director planning his or her ensemble’s first trip?
“Before we leave, I have a parent meeting with a folder of information – permission slips, medical release, rules, et cetera, and I supply notaries to make sure that the documents are signed properly and valid. Also, keep a binder of all contracts with the bus company, et cetera, and secure proof of insurance. Our busses neglected to pick us up in New Orleans following our trip to NYC – a total breach of contract. Luckily I had my contracts and contacts along so the police could contact them for me.”
Lafayette High School
“There are countless reasons to travel. Things happen and are learned while on tour that cannot be recreated in the classroom. The variety and quality of performances and activities are experiences which can’t be replicated. Having the opportunity to sing at Shrewsbury Abbey, St. Paul’s, Chester Cathedral, Notre Dame, or Chartres are once in a lifetime experiences that will stay with the students forever. Spending time together on a bus or airplane can provide a bond that cannot be created in a classroom setting.”
Bruce C. Lengacher
Acalanes High School
“Include some museums or tours of fine arts venues that students might not normally see. Remember, the trip will give many kids an opportunity to visit places and things that they would never see in their life!”
Lakeview Middle School
“Make the activities and rules acceptable for the most conservative of attitudes. You can always ‘lighten up’ along the way if you so choose, but it’s harder to get tougher once you’ve begun ‘loosely.'”
Fox Chapel Area High School
“Make sure that there are sufficient activities planned to keep students busy. If you don’t, they will [keep themselves busy] – and you might not like what they do!”
Viola A. Gilliam
College Park High School
Pleasant Hill, Calif.
“Travel is a great way to get kids involved in choir that might never think about joining your group – publicize the proposed trip the week before registration. It works!”
Gardendale High School