ChoralNet: Planning a tour
Date: Thu, 23 Mar 1995 22:35:09 -0700
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Mark Powell)
Subject: Concert Tour/Festival companies
I am a professional choral singer. I used to live in Europe,
first in the United Kingdom, where I managed the National
Youth Choir of Great Britain, then in Belgium, where I worked
for the International Federation for Choral Music at its
centre in Namur, producing their publication, _International
Choral Bulletin_, among other things. I sang professionally
both in the UK and in Belgium, and I continue to sing in
various professional projects both here in the States and in
What makes this particular thread of immediate interest is
that I currently work for ACFEA Tour Consultants, one of the
many tour companies "out there", but one I happen to think
does an excellent job at what it does. I made sure of its
credentials before I began working for them about a year and
a half ago on my return from Europe. I'm of course delighted
to see on this list not a few directors who have successfully
taken their groups on tour with ACFEA, or who are planning to
do so in the near future!
That aside, as some of you know, there was a special meeting
held by the IFCM at the recent National ACDA convention in
Washington. The Federation invited delgates from all the
tour companies attending the convention to meet and discuss
some of the issues that concern both the concert tour
"industry" and our clients - you, the conductors. It was a
fruitful meeting, and while there is much to be done in the
way of cooperation, specifically between European choral
organisations and tour companies here in the States, I feel
it was a good start to get the dialogue going. And I see
here this dialogue is healthy.
Having worked several years among the "who's who" of choral
life in Europe, and now as one who organises concert tours
from the States, the IFCM Executive Committee appointed me as
the coordinator of a loose working group to address issues
that concern choral directors and their work with tour
I should insert here that Adolf Rabus and his staff of the
extremely reputable Chamber Choir Competition in
Marktoberdorf (Bavaria), Germany, have published in
cooperation with the IFCM a small booklet of reputable,
artistic quality-based competitions and festivals for choirs
(This is by no means meant to be all-inclusive.) The booklet
was available at the IFCM booth at the ACDA convention, but I
imagine it can be obtained directly from them at this
Bayerische Musikakademie Marktoberdorf
Kurfuerstenstrasse, 19 - Schloss
D - 87616 Marktoberdorf, GERMANY
Although recently much of the dialogue here has concerned the
"festival" (on which my company does not really focus, but
rather on customised tours for each individual group), we
have found that the following has proved helpful in making
proper, "apples and apples" comparisons of tour companies and
other, for-lack-of-better-term, "event" companies. I hope
you all find it useful as well.
Deciding how best to spend a considerable sum money on a tour
project is no trivial matter, and is a particularly onerous
task for directors and managers. It is always difficult to
compare one tour company with another; perhaps this list of
important questions can help a little.
Is each company's quotation based on the same specifications?
When making a price comparison, it is vital that you know the
basis on which each tour company is quoting. This information
Total group size
Number of free places
Number and type of performances
Number of nights
Standard of accommodation
Number of meals
Extras included, such as sightseeing and excursions
The last item, air fare, is important. It should generally be
quoted as a separate item, with the terms and conditions
clearly explained, so you can avoid falling for a low
'package' price which turns out to have been based on a
promotional fare which suddenly expires or which has
Are you getting good value for your money?
It is surprising to us how often decisions are made on price
alone. Of course, price is important but, after the tour, are
your participants going to begrudge an extra $50 or $100 if
the tour was a success, or feel better if the tour was not
successful but they saved that amount?
Is the company located close to you?
A custom concert tour requires an enormous interchange of
information and ideas between the director and the tour
company. This is often much better done in person than by
mail or telephone. Find out where the tour company is
located. How willing are they to meet with you on a regular
basis? Will they make a presentation to your group to help
build up enthusiasm? Do they wish to hear a rehearsal or
concert, so as to make a personal *musical* assessment of the
group to suggest the most suitable concert venues? Will they
brief the group before departure on what to expect on tour?
Will they handle the check-in at the airport on departure?
Does the company have musicians on its staff?
You are planning a performance tour, not a vacation. This is
an extremely specialized business, requiring much more
knowledge and experience than a travel agent could be
expected to have. You want to be able to discuss repertoire,
acoustics, instruments etc. with people who speak your
language; in other words, with musicians. Find out not only
about the tour company's travel expertise but also about its
depth of musical knowledge.
Which company would *you* like to work with?
Once you have selected the general area in which you want to
tour, choose the company you would most like to work with,
not the company that happens to have included a particular
city or concert site. You do yourself and your group a
disservice by telling the company you would actually prefer
to work with that you are going with someone else "because
they had Oxford on their itinerary and you had Cambridge". It
happens! Any worthy company will be able to adapt its
itinerary to incorporate the features you would like.
Does the company have offices or representatives in the
countries you are planning to visit?
Does the tour company have offices where you are going, or do
they subcontract? Do musical members of the company's staff
visit the concert sites to check their suitability?
How long has the company been in existence? Will they provide
Ask the tour company for a list of directors in your area
with whom they have worked - especially those with whom they
have worked more than once. Be sure to find out how long each
company has been in business; longevity says much about a
Above all, try to get to know the company before you make the
choice. 'Blind' bids are all very well, but in the effort to
give no one an advantage you will end up with several very
similar-looking pieces of paper - and tour companies are most
certainly not similar! You will be working with whomever you
choose for a year or more, and paying them a great deal of
money; shouldn't you try to get to know them as well as
possible *before* making the decision and find out how
responsive they are to your particular requirements?
Text adapted from materials by
ACFEA Tour Consultants
Performing Arts Tours since 1955
+1 800 886 3355 USA
+44 181 991 2200 UK/Europe
Offices in Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, New York, Atlanta
London, Moscow, St Petersburg, Prague, Venice, Canberra
If there are other questions/concerns that we have not
included I would be happy to entertain suggestions. As one
post noted, the concert tour industry is very competitive;
this competition helps drive our desire to produce the very
best tour for the money: that added value is passed on to
all of our clients, be they directors of choirs, bands,
orchestras or any other musical ensemble whom we serve.
ACFEA Tour Consultants
Seattle, Washington USA
Date: Fri, 24 Mar 1995 00:41:06 -0700
From: Mark Gresham
Subject: Re: Concert Tour/Festival companies
On Thu, 23 Mar 1995, Mark Powell wrote:
> Although recently much of the dialogue here has concerned the
> "festival" (on which my company does not really focus, but
> rather on customised tours for each individual group), we
> have found that the following has proved helpful in making
> proper, "apples and apples" comparisons of tour companies and
> other, for-lack-of-better-term, "event" companies. I hope
> you all find it useful as well.
I find the desire to make distinctions quite useful and helpful. Even
within each broad category of "tour" and "event" there needs to be some
clarification and some statements of what should be expected from a
reputable company of either type.
Since we now appear to be speaking of the "tour" category...
> Is each company's quotation based on the same specifications?
And do you, the buyer, understand what those specifications are, what's
left out, and what you are willing to ask for beyond those specifications?
> When making a price comparison, it is vital that you know the
> basis on which each tour company is quoting. This information
> must include:
> The last item, air fare, is important. It should generally be
> quoted as a separate item,
Absolutely. There are companies who have been very reluctant to do so.
> with the terms and conditions
> clearly explained, so you can avoid falling for a low
> 'package' price which turns out to have been based on a
> promotional fare which suddenly expires or which has
> unacceptable restrictions.
And I highly recommend for U.S. choruses touring abroad to specifically lock
in the prices in U.S. dollars. Watch out for contracts which allow the
price to fluctuate upwards over the months with the changes in
currency exchange rates. (That's for both transportation and
non-transportationn elements of the trip.)
> Are you getting good value for your money?
That's a very important issue. It's not just how much you are spending
as much as are you getting the best value for money spent? Can you get
the same or better value for less money in another way?
> It is surprising to us how often decisions are made on price
Or on hype alone.
> Of course, price is important but, after the tour, are
> your participants going to begrudge an extra $50 or $100 if
> the tour was a success, or feel better if the tour was not
> successful but they saved that amount?
Or if the tour was a succes and they saved money? (Or if the tour was
not successful and they still spent far more?)
> A custom concert tour requires an enormous interchange of
> information and ideas between the director and the tour
There is also an enormous amount of interchange of information in a tour
planned without a tour company. There SHOULD be lots of information
interchange whichever way you plan a tour.
> Do they wish to hear a rehearsal or
> concert, so as to make a personal *musical* assessment of the
> group to suggest the most suitable concert venues?
Essential. But there also has to be clear communication by the tour
company with the venues themselves on this. To place a high-quality
sacred music acappella ensemble in a noontime restaurant venue is dead
wrong; I've seen it happen, and specifically in contradiction to written
> Does the company have musicians on its staff?
More likely than not, whatever the reputation, good or ill.
> You are planning a performance tour, not a vacation.
And that is a major point that distinguishes a reputable company from one
that isn't. That's not to say there's not "vacation" involved, but if
the musical element is merely an excuse for the company to sell you a
vacation with maybe a little singing thrown in at this or that picturesque
site, then you've got the wrong company for sure.
> This is
> an extremely specialized business, requiring much more
> knowledge and experience than a travel agent could be
> expected to have. You want to be able to discuss repertoire,
> acoustics, instruments etc. with people who speak your
> language; in other words, with musicians. Find out not only
> about the tour company's travel expertise but also about its
> depth of musical knowledge.
But also whether that cathedral you're going to sing in is actually
filled with scaffolding, and you're "concert" is during the time the workers
with power tools go off on lunch break.
Of course, there are other sites which are just empty.
> Any worthy company will be able to adapt its
> itinerary to incorporate the features you would like.
Any worthy company should realize it's YOUR itenerary, not theirs!
> You will be working with whomever you
> choose for a year or more, and paying them a great deal of
> money; shouldn't you try to get to know them as well as
> possible *before* making the decision and find out how
> responsive they are to your particular requirements?
Definitely true, but with the added fact that you may well be choosing
not to use a company at all (particularly with domestic touring).
Now, much of the above speaks about issues related to "musical" aspects
of touring, which is indeed where the emphasis should be. However, most
of the abuses lie with the other parts of the trip, which are not
necessarily included in the price of the trip itself. One example which is
typical is the "quaint roadside tavern" ploy, which I believe is covered
in Mr. Baker's article.
We'll get to the "event" companies in another posting.
Date: Sat, 25 Mar 1995 09:55:54 -0500 (EST)
From: Mark Gresham
To: "James D. Feiszli"
Subject: Re: Concert Touring
On Sat, 25 Mar 1995, James D. Feiszli wrote:
[Mark Gresham wrote:]
> > [...] NEVER have I
> > heard of a tour company DROPPING a price because of a favorable change in
> > exchange rates.
> Well, here's one. I have worked with CAPA (Cultural and Performing
> Arts) out of Chicago. And they did that very thing for one of my
> groups. Called up about two weeks prior to departure and said that
> the price had gone down, what did I want to do with the money ..
> use it for some added meal or excursion or refund it?
Applause all around! I am quite happy to hear this. This is the kind of
thing that lends credibility to a tour company. So we can add this
element to the criteria for evaluating a company. (Actually, I have a
travel agent who does exactly the same thing for me on a regular basis,
always checking and bumping down the price for me before the final
lock-in date for an airline ticket. Note that I did not say travel
AGENCY, because other agents and the same agency don't do this (and some
of the agents don't even look for the best deal in the first place).
So here's another point: develop a consistant, reliable personal
contact with an individual at any service company (of any kind, not just
> Actually, I've seen more abuse by music directors in collusion
> with for-profit companies than I have with companies cheating
> directors. I'm speaking of groups that are thrown together specifically
> for the purpose of a tour, drawn from some geographic region such as
> a state (and called the "_____ all-state honors band" or some such thing).
> It turns out that the directors have been approached by the company to
> direct this pickup group in exchange for some bucks and a free trip
> to Europe or elsewhere.
Bingo. Three points for Jim for the accuracy and courage to hit one of
the moving targets. This is a big area where there is a "credibility
gap," whether the venue is an esteemed hall or an amusement park.
What does the company get in return? Well, for one thing the use of
the director's name and professional status to book the event.
Let's take this hypothetical scenario:
Say that I'm not having a hell of a lot of success as a conductor, and
I decide, "Ok, instead of fighting the current system, I'm going into
the business end of the industry." (Fair enough in itself.) "I'm going
to start an 'event' business that brings choruses to a particulary
esteemed concert hall to sing as part of a tour package. This gives me a
fairly large ensemble to conduct myself, but I need some way of
convincing these choirs to participate. At the same time, I want to
charge three times the actual cost of this to make myself a great deal of
money (from the event as well as my travel agency) while creating some
kind of on-paper track record for myself as concert producer and conductor.
How do I do this? The FIRST thing I would want to do is to build some
appearance of credibility; with what? With the credibility of others, so
I'll directly approach people who have been elected to offices in a large
professional music organization and invite them to be featured conductors
etc. on my event series; even better if they will bring their own chorus
along at the full freight price. Use of their names will lend apearance of
credibility, even if I'm otherwise ripping people off with untenably high
fees; even better, if the person in question is having problems with
their own conducting career, they may actively promote my event for
additional conducting stints in the esteemed hall for the on-paper resume
fodder (not to mention possible cash commissions). Once these people get
locked-into this, I have viable use of their name (regardless of what
kind of product I actually deliver the consumer) as someone who has
conducted on my programs--and, more importantly, the titles in said
professional organization attached to the name. Build enough volume
among these people as conductors, and it will look like the organization has
given its de facto blessing, whether or not there is an official endorsement.
After all, genuinely credible tours and events also have many credible
names attached to them in some form or fashion. But with my 'event', the
credibility will end at the name (or the title) of the paid guest. Hype
hard, and use the names to counter testimony of any disgruntled,
dissatisfied customers. And make money hand-over-fist."
Now, the above hypothetical scenario is deliberately painted in a
disgustingly negative manner. But can you see where the issue of
Jim is right on the bull's-eye on director abuse. A director using the
'one free trip per 15 (or 40, or whatever)' is not an issue where the
ensemble is 'real' and the tour value is 'real', since if the organization
is paying rather than individuals the value of the 'free' trip can be
re-distributed internally anyway. But in Jim's example, and the
implications beyond that, there are genuine problems beyond the free trip
and guest conductor's fee.
Besides, the IRS taxes the value of those 'free trips' as INCOME these
days. (How many of you conductors didn't know that?)
> If a director wants to take their group, does their homework on both
> where they want to go and on the various companies themselves; asks
> for bids from at least four different companies; they stand a fairly
> good chance of giving their students a decent experience.
Then go back and re-negotiate with each company for a better deal after
you make comparisons. Hammer out your 'good chance' to a 'better chance'
or 'excellent chance.' Hey, you people ever gone shopping? And always
compare with what it would take to 'do it yourself.' You can't measure
without a yardstick, and a good yardstick is the alternative of not
hiring out the work.
Date: Sat, 25 Mar 1995 11:59:58 -0700
From: Tagger Claude <email@example.com>
Subject: Choral festivals
I am fascinated by the discussion about choral festivals. We, in Europe, have
always had a problem with the american way of doing these things. In our
tradition, all choral music has been made by amateurs, be it choirs or
festivals. And almost all concert tours have been organised by the choirs for
Even before creating the International Federation for Choral Music in 1982, we
were confronted with the american tour organizers. I used to be the Director or
the Europa Cantat Festival (a Festival with about 3000 singers from 30 countries
taking place every 3 years) , and we were very skeptical about selecting
american choirs through commercial operators. Our experiences were essentially
bad, because we wanted choirs coming to take part in 10 days of hard musical
work with our european choirs, and the americans were unprepared for that: they
wanted their own concerts, and tourism.
In 1982, we thought that, maybe, ACDA should help us, on a reciprocal basis.
ACDA created a committee to select choirs for Europa Cantat. It was a total
flop. Almost nobody applied, and anyway nobody in ACDA was prepared to say that
a choir conducted by an ACDA member was "bad". It was mission impossible, and we
never tried again. I think that you may have the same experience if you ask ACDA
(or any other organisation, even IFCM) to select anything for you apart from
But we slowly have to adapt on both sides. Europe, after Japan, begins to have
professional organizers. The movement will not be stopped, because few people
are able to organize on their own. So how do we try and accompany the movement?
We have now launched a "task force" to look at the problems of what I now name
"Professional Choral Organizers", because any other term, like tour operator, is
unsufficient or pejorative. Many of them were present at our first meeting in
Washington during the ACDA Convention, and the response was enthousiastic. We
have agreed to work together, and to try to improve the situation for the
benefit of all our members. Mark Powell, from ACFEA, who has the double
experience of working with us in Europe and with a PCO in America, has been
asked to serve as coordinator of this working group.
What can we achieve?
1. Moralize the profession by fixing standards. It was interesting that somebody
in Washington remarked that there is no specialised grouping of choral
specialists among tour operators.
2. Improve the quality of service by giving the possibility to users to know
what they have to expect. The competition in Arezzo, in Italy, is not exactly
the same as a so-called festival in Disneyland. But we are not there to
devaluate Disneyland. If some choirs want that, so be it.
3. Develop reciprocity. It is surprising to see the lavish brochures about
concerts in Westminster Abbey, in the Kremlin, or in the Vatican. But where are
the european choirmembers who should receive the visiting choirs, and listen to
It should be possible for american and european organizers, and for choral
organizations, to play a better role in reciprocity. There are still very few
non-american choirs visiting the US, and their numbers could only increase if
they find a response from locals.
I do not pretend to know the answers to all questions, even the ones who have
not yet been asked. But IFCM wants to put together all the actors, and let them
work. The dialog begun in Choralist is a very healthy one, and I hope that it
will continue and attract more participants.
Please, Jim Feiszli, do you think that we should create a new forum, sort of
TOURALIST, for all those interested to discuss all this, and get informed about
what happens around the world?
International Federation for Choral Music
Fichthang 22 firstname.lastname@example.org
D-52074 Aachen Tel +49.241.74670
Germany Fax +49.241.706629
Date: Wed, 29 Mar 1995 15:54:09 -0800
From: email@example.com (Mark Powell)
Subject: Concert touring
>For those knowledgeable in the field, could you clear something up?
>Certainly a company that provides a service deserves compensation from
>those who desire that service. Now, I assume that a company which
>specializes in concert tours is licensed (certified, annointed, whatever)
>as a travel agency, and therefore makes its profits from the same discounts
>(read "kickbacks") from air lines and hotels that any travel agency gets.
>First question: is this true? Second question: is it customary to add an
>additional profit margin to the tour prices? Third question: if my
>assumption is correct, what is the recent move by air lines to limit
>agents' commissions going to do?
May I respond to these questions:
1. Not all concert tour companies are licensed and bonded travel
agencies. Some companies sub-contract the air travel arrangements to
outside agencies, but I believe the vast majority organise in house the
air arrangements for all of their groups.
2. You are correct. The way travel agencies (and most tour companies)
profit is mostly through commissions on travel products and services they
sell (vis a vis, air tickets, hotel bookings, etc).
3. Any company providing specialised services will charge a fee over the
cost of the services themselves, in order to compensate those who are
providing them, and to turn a profit. Otherwise no one could indeed be
paid to continue providing these services, and the company in question
would go bust. This is equally true for tour companies. Air commissions
are commensurate compensation for only booking the travel arrangements. A
good concert tour company will be providing *more* than just travel for
its clients, and so it is customary to charge a fee for these additional
services. Also, a good tour company will usually negotiate "net" rates on
behalf of its clients, in which there are no built-in commissions.
4. The recent "caps" on commissions imposed on travel agencies by the
airlines only affect domestic travel, and then only when an individual air
ticket costs more than $500. So, if a group is traveling internationally
there is no effect.
I hope this serves to clear up some of your concerns.
ACFEA Tour Consultants
Date: Fri, 16 Jan 1998 17:17:02 -0400
From: "Matthew P. Fritz"
Subject: To Travel or not... compilation
The original query was as follows:
How many of you "travel" with your high school choruses (a significant
distance) and why? Those who choose not to travel, why not? Thanks for
your input. Your administration's perspective on this question would be
most welcome as well.
You might try calling Martha's Vineyard Regional High School in Oak Bluffs,
Mass. When I went to school there (graduated '72), our select chorus
traveled one week each spring, performing wherever we could. They now
travel worldwide, and I've heard that it's the principal who sets up some of
the overseas trips. Good luck, Becky Luce
I teach in a Fine Arts Magnet High School in Montgomery, Alabama.
I, along with my pair teacher, travel great distances with our choirs. Both of
us will be taking our choirs to sing at Carnegie Hall in New York City in
We, along with the administration, feel that performing is important to choral
students. My pair teacher and I have the full backing of the administration to
travel with the kids to perform and to audition for college scholarships. Our
kids have won scholarships to the New World School of the Arts in Miami,
Julliard, and Manhattan School of Music. Without traveling, these kids would
not have had the chance to get these much needed scholarships.
WE also feel that traveling with the choirs exposes the kids to more culture
than they would get if we just traveled in Alabama. For our students to see
first hand that there are other ways to live is an experience that could not
be learned by watching videos or reading books.
The kids must raise the money for these trips. They (we) do this by charging
for our performances for civic organizations in town. The school has a Board
that subsidizes our expenses when we travel with the kids. There have been
times when this board has helped pay for the kids to travel also.
I feel very fortunate that I am able to teach in an environment that
understands the need to perform and travel.
From: Toh Ban Sheng
Hi, just thought I would share my experience with you. I'm working in
Ministry of Education in Singapore in ECA Branch as a Choral Project
Officer. There are 3 choirs under my charge and all three are of Choral
Excellence standard, a programme started by selecting top 10 choirs in
Singapore in 1988 to promote choral singing. Biennielly, there'll be
a choral competition with $30,000 as top prize. Thus, it's very competitive!
Youngsters in SIngapore are not very exposed to choral singing as it's
not apparent in our culture. Thus, to motivate my choirs to excel besides
performing locally, I always plan overseas performance trip once every 2
years as a target for them to work towards. Only 40 members out of the
100-strong choir get to go. So, besides being finacially able they also
have to prove that they have been improving while singing in choir.
DUring selection, I'll make them sing a set piece in quartet or
whichever combination you like. They really need to learn to be
independent singers. Amazingly, after each trip they will imporve by
leaps adn bounds besides getting to know each other better on the tour
which, of course, strengthen the choir ties alot.
Hi, my name is Jamie Spillane. I am director of Music at Ledyard
in Ledyard, Connecticut. We have a music program which includes over 450
students in performing ensembles. We travel each year. We travel to compete
in national festivals, do exchange concerts (as we did with Melbourne High
School in 1994 when my friend Scott Buchanan was choral director) and we
travel abroad every 4 years.
We have traveled with approximately 300 music students for the past few
years. This includes about 225 choral members and about 100 band members (we
have about 25 cross overs). We compete with three bands and 6 choirs.
We travel for many reasons. Most important is to see how our program
compares on a national level. We participate in such festivals as Musicfest
Orlando and Fiesta-Val, Festivals of Music etc.
We also travel because it is a good recruiting tool. Since we have
our program has grown to its present size and stayed very strong.
It is also a very strong team building tool. Nothing makes a group
than spending 24 hours together especially in the name of making music.
We also have traveled to Europe (with the small ensembles) and it
in many ways. Performing at Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Salisbury
Cathedral etc. is a memory not soon forgotten. Some of the kids who went
with us had never flown before. It is a big jump to not flying, to flying to
England and staying for 2 weeks.
From: Art Serating
I have chosen NOT to travel with my groups over the years for a variety
of reasons. There is the constant problem of other staff refusing to
give "permission" for students to miss their classes. There is the
problem with a few students who don't understand the meaning of
acceptable behavior. There is the looming threat of legal action from
parents of injured students or businesses involved with students on
trips. While I applaud the effort of directors who expose their groups
to "the outside world," I will remain safe and secure at school. Just
MHO. Art Serating
I travel with my choirs every year. My select choir does about 35 concerts a
My trips range from one day festivals at local amusement parks to European
tours. I have also taken them on a Bahamas cruise, 5 tays in Quebec and
aweekend in Virginia.
My administration is very supportive of our travel. When we take long trips we
travel during school breaks.
From: Michael Dye
I saw you posting on the ChoralNet regarding travel.
We are way up here in the Florida panhandle and any kind of travel
within Florida is a major deal for us. We are over 3 hours from
Tallahassee and at least 6 from Gainesville. Last year I brought kids
to the ACDA there in Melbourne and it took us almost allday for travel.
But, back to the subject, travel. Our administration allows us to
travel, within reason. Everything must be educationally sound and
everything must be well chaperoned. My principal lets us do the Stetson
Invitational and the ACDA state convention each fall. I took 17 singers
to all-state last week. My school combines with the other district
schools and we charter buses and do our hotel rooms as a group. We took
over 80 singers from Okaloosa County this year, pooled our chaperones
and reservered around 40 rooms are the Marriott. We do district
festival and state festival each spring. State festival for us is a
major undertaking. We usually are out of school for three days with 150
kids (2200 enrollment at Niceville H.S.). Jacksonville will take 7
hours for travel and then we will be traveling to Tampa after the
festival. That is a pretty lengthy trip both in terms of time (5 full
days) and miles. We will spend over $20,000 which the chorus and kids
We have traveled to New York twice in the last 5 years with groups
of under 25. We were poised to go to Europe for 13 days this summer but
that fell through due to finacing and numbers. We have traveled to San
Antonio for a festival and had approval for a trip to Russia in 1992
when the government went under. Our band traveled to Hawaii the same
year we went to San Antonio. That caused a stir because the band took
over $250,000 out of the community to get there.
The key to our travel is that we take full responsibility for money
and that we make sure our business is taken care of at home. The
principal wants no liability due to our negligence. He likes detailed
itineraries and contact points. He also wants the teachers happy here
at home when we take kids away. So, we work all year to keep relations
solid and communication intact. We sell everything we do as something
that will in the short-term make the principal, school and community
look good. If we arrange for finance, supervision, make good plans and
show him that everything is going to work, he usually has no problems.
All of out-of-state trip must have school board approval, usually a
- I travel with my large advanced choir only in the state.
- With my Chamber Singers on a 4 day tour maybe to the next state.
- I have never gone more than $300 per student.
- The trips are completely student paid.
- I don't trust my younger choirs to go across the street much let over night
- Our distict has a policy that any school can travel more than one state away
only once in four years. (Thus, if the band travels to Canada this year, I
can't travel to Hawaii until 2002.)
- I think it is importent for my students to experience something besides
their own home town. For those who have not traveled much, it is eye opening.
Even the kids who have traveled can learn something.
- It is also very important for the bonding of the group. I have had groups
that didn't even like each other until they have to spend four days together.
New friendships are formed. Old cliques are broken away. It is thrilling.
- I usually only take the kids out of school for one or two days and being
student paid, may administration has never had a problem.
- However, I do know of a school that travels every year to China, or Japan,
New Zeland, Europe, etc. at $2000 per student per year. I think he is insane.
Our choir tours every summer, generally in June after school gets out, for
1 to 2 weeks. We are currently on a 3 year cycle, with 1 year being an
in-state tour, the next being a regional US tour and the 3rd being an
international tour. While we have always set up our own tours for in-state
and US tours, we have always used a tour company for overseas trips. We
have not been all that delighted with our various tour operators and are
considering setting up our own for the next overseas trip, which won't be
until the summer of 2000.
Our group ranges from 26 to 35 boys, ages 9 to 14. We try to make the
tours educational as well as musical. Our overseas trips are generally
14-16 days, including travel days. Home stays are a very important part of
the educational experience and we have always had at least 2. All the time
needs to be planned. Unlike older groups, we can't just send them off for
a few hours and tell them to meet back at such and such a time. Nor can we
just tell them to find some lunch on their own. So there is a lot of
detail involved when working with choirs this age.
A few of the other important details with boys this age would include
things like: 1) having parks picked out ahead of time during longer bus
rides for an hour of running, kicking/throwing balls, frisbees, etc.; 2)
eating places that are palatable for the boys (though preferably, from my
point of view, NOT MacDonalds, etc :-) 3) balancing sightseeing with
performing (We generally do a 7-9 concerts in 14 days); 4) Teaming up
with other boy/childrens choirs in the areas of the tour; 5) Having a
local "expert" who can bring the history of an area to life. ie, a good
The current thought is to send the executive director to the area a year
ahead of the tour, (after having made some initial contacts via the
Internet, etc.) to check out places for performances and recreation, as
well as eating establishments, historically important sites, etc. ,etc.
I am looking for any words of wisdom about setting up your own overseas
tours. Conversely, if any of you have had outstanding results with a tour
company, would you please share them also. If we decide to go ahead with
this on our own, we will probably make our first foray of self-led touring
to an English speaking country or countries, probably Ireland and/or
And now, the REST of the story...
It seems that most support the "travel" concept provided (of course) there
is much planning before the trip. I've had the opportunity to spend MANY
hours on busses with my students and have been thankful for all the
pre-trip planning that occured.
When all is said and done, most respondents cited the value of the
"out-of-community" experience (not a 'la Shirley McClaine) as outweighing
the hassles involved.