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First Choir tour - All singers or not at all?

I founded my Children's Choir 5 seasons ago. I believe we are now ready to take the step of a choir tour. There are a few families who I know will not be able to afford such a venture. (My wonderful choir manager being one of those families) It is a small choir, and many singers are siblings, so I am concerned parents will not go for it because it will be too expensive.  I am not sure I want to only take the ones who can afford it, I feel that would be divisive for the choir, not to mention the disappointment of those who would not attend. Our choir is very close knit, and leaving some behind for our tour is something I would like to avoid. 

I would like to propose to the parents that fundraising be done to help cover all singers, so that no one is left out due to financial restrictions. I am interested to see what other community choirs have done to help offset the cost of those who are not in a financial position to afford sending their child on tour. How do you organize the fundraising so that balance is maintained, and that organizing, fundraising for, and undertaking the tour is an inclusive event for the choir.  
 
Thanks in advance for your input.
 
Diane
 
 
 
 
on May 26, 2011 10:15am
Hello Diane,
 
How grand of a tour are you thinking?  Another country?  Another state?  Another county?
 
In a situation like this, it would pay to think "small"!  Instead of going for a week or two-week long tour in another part of the country, try a day trip or a three-day weekend to some of the cities closest to you.  Touring close to home can help you save big time.  Get in touch with other choir directors with whom you might be able to do a joint concert next fall or spring.  See if you can arrange two or three concerts in your state (but in areas you don't normally perform)
 
Even if you only manage to arrange just one out-of-town show, it can be a great experience for the kids.  Combine it with a trip to a theme park, an overnight stay in a church, and you've got an instant mini choir-tour/retreat.  Maybe you can even arrange a short clinic with your host conductor!
 
And of course, bounce all your ideas off the parents.  Fundraising together can actually help bring the choir together.
 
Good luck!
on May 31, 2011 5:36pm
Hi, Diane,
 
I agree with Christian to  start small--something that everyone can afford with just a bit of fundraising.  We aimed to far for our first trip, and only five families were even interested in fundraising for it, so it's back to the drawing board for us.  Live and learn!
 
Best to you and your choir!
on June 3, 2011 9:06am
Hi Diane,
 
Traveling together is an amazing unifying experience in group bonding. Once you take your first step into touring, you will find that it greatly increases your singers' ties to the group and to each other and challenges them to greater musical heights. 
 
I agree completely with Tresa:  Keep costs down by doing the work yourself (but, note:  it can be daunting!). Include all costs for singers (meals, entrance to sites, in Hungary you even have to pay to go to the bathroom!). Also include a couple of tour t-shirts in the cost--they are cheap, fun and great for group bonding. Parents want to know in advance that there will be no hidden costs to surprise them later. (The only money needed should be for souvenirs and occasional snacks.)
 
Establish a modest plan for touring and announce it far in advance. (Many groups tour every other year.) Give parents a 2-year window to fund the trip. Establish a payment plan starting 18 months in advance, and remind parents of their fixed amount due each month. (This way, you can make the deposits you need to make.) Give them fundraising options along the way--both for the group as a whole and for them as individuals. Make sure you have a simple contract that states your drop-out policy. (Financial penalties are a must!)
 
Consider a domestic festival for your first venture. There are several children's choirs in the country that host their own festivals, offering fabulous value for the money. (We have Sing A Mile High, and there are also festivals sponsored by New Orleans, Cincinnati and Appalachian Children's Choruses, among others.) Festivals are especially good if you are unsure about the ability of your choir to sustain a "solo tour" and/or provide a full concert themselves. (There's safety in numbers!) I love the fact that choirs can perform bigger and more difficult works in a festival, when a director may not be able to attempt these works alone. Also, there is tremendous growth when a "young" choir performs with a more seasoned group and the kids are inspired by a greater skill level than their own.
 
Go to some community choir websites and see what they (directors, singers, parents) report about their tours, and you will soon be hooked. Make sure you share this information with board members and parents, as well, so that they understand your multi-faceted motivation and support your plan.
 
Best of luck!
Jena Dickey, Young Voices of Colorado
 
 
on June 3, 2011 9:10am
And...for fundraising...yes, it is great to include fundraising for the entire group, but you will learn that some families will participate fully and others will (unfortunately) do nothing. That's why the individual component is so important and so successful. 
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