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How do you pay for tours?

As a 14-year-old independent 35-voice women's chorus, we are developing an interest in out-of-state and out-of-country tours to expand our choral experience. However, with the still-fragile state of the economy, the majority of our members would find the per-person costs prohibitive. Those of you without school connections, how do you manage to go on European and other tours? When do you start preparing? Do you use some form of dedicated fundraising? It's time for me to find out how it's done!
Bill Paisner
Director, Southwest Women's Chorus
Temecula, California
Replies (8): Threaded | Chronological
on August 27, 2013 6:23pm
As we're members of Chorus America, my ensemble (the Nashville Singers) gets all kinds of invitations to participate in various tours.
I may have a distorted view on the "supposed" allure of touring to exotic destinations to perform with a singing group at prestigious venues and music festivals. Over the last 23 years, I've been blessed to be able to perform with my quartet ACOUSTIX in 11 countries around the globe. As a rule, the four of us have accepted invitations to perform overseas only if the four of us we were paid a fee plus expenses. If the contractor agreed to cover expenses for the four of us, plus our wives, we waive our usual fee.
Because I believe in the value created by exellent performances, know how much work goes into to preparing for such endeavors, and precisely what it takes to execute these trips while performing at a high level, I've never understood why any ensemble would PAY someone to perform somewhere and create a financial burden for the ensemble and/or its members in the process.
The real winners in such an arrangement seem to the tour/travel plannners, not the choirs. Many directors likely get behind the idea and act as inside sales reps for thr tour folks because their travel is comped based on signing up XYZ choir members.
My chorus is a very mission-driven organization. Our mission is to enrich lives through singing and the support of music education. We've awarded $5,000 in music education grants and scholarship in the last three years, impacting 160 students and seven area schools and 60 other program participants. When I tell my singers the usual details about these kinds of offers, the consensus response is usually something like this.... "If given the choice between spending thousands of dollars on some tour or funding more grants and scholarships, philanthropy get nod every time."
Mission aside, we'd also likely have greater ROI if those resources were used...
1) to hire someone to do fund development work (increase donations, conduct an annual campaign, or to cultivate legacy gifts),
2) provide professional development for our board members,
3) produce a professional studio recording, or
4) to hire a well-known headliner act to perform on our annual concert and put more "butts in the seats."
Then there are other optionss like
5) new costuming or
6) allocating the money to our contingency fund.
Spending money to participate in a tour would be way down on our list of priorities.
Bill, thank you for posing the question. I'd love to hear some opinions (from others) that contradict what I have proposed above.
Executive Director
Director of Music
Nashville Singers, Inc.
615-852-SING (7464) office
615-669-TODD (8633) cell
615-523-TODD (8633) fax
Online Store:
Please support our mission to enrich lives though singing and the support of music education.
on August 27, 2013 6:32pm
Hi Bill - I founded The Fort Bend Boys Choir of Texas, a 200+ treble boys choir near Houston and we are in our 32nd year.  We have taken 11 Europe tours and 26 US tours and have always used a 'tour agency' to set these up.  Only my Tour Choir [the most advanced ensemble of about 35 boys] takes these tours.  We have used many tour agencies . . . some great, some good and some awful!  I can say that we will be taking our 6th tour this June with Witte Travel and Tours which is a great touring company!  I urge you to contact Jane Larson and use my name.  She is the manager of the Touring division.  This is the first step I would take to 'get the ball rolling'.  They have many great venue contacts and hotels and sightseeing . . . the list is endless.  They will give you a per-person charge after you tell them some things and will design a custom tour just for you and your group.  Obviously all touring companies do this - - some just do it better than others!
I have always pro-rated the actual charge of the tour, so that the parents don't have to pay it all.  The amount of pro-rate depends on how successful our fund rasing and grant efforts have been.  I typically use a 2/3 parents pay to 1/3 we pay ratio.  Our last international tour was on our 30th anniversary year and we went to France for 2+ weeks.
We fund raise all year long and apply for many grants.  We also charge each boy in all choirs a tuition charge per semester.
This is a very capsulated reply and I would be happy to talk with you in person should you so desire.  My email is
Good luck and much continued success with your chorus as you endevor to get abroad for the first time - - it is a thrilling experience for all!
Bill Adams
Founder/Artistic Director
Fort Bend Boys Choir
on August 31, 2013 9:59am
Thanks so much to both of you for replying. Unfortunately, one of you is a quartet and the other a children's chorus, neither of which really fit our situation, especially as far as grants go. I would love to hear from some adult community choruses. Please see if you can help us out.
Bill Paisner
on August 31, 2013 1:01pm
Hello! I conduct an adult commmunity choir in Australia, Wayfarers Australia. We tour every year - inside and outside Australia. We tour overseas quite often - last year I took 20 members around the world for 11 months of performing and running choral workshops; next year I will be taking 25 Australians to join up with about 35 Taiwanese singers, as well as some from other countries, to perform in Taiwan and Japan for 4 weeks. The way we do it is: everyone finds their own basic air fare, as well as an extra $500 for emergency food / accommodation; then we approach schools, churches, community choirs etc etc in the towns /countries where we hope to go, and see which of them are interested in hosting us for a week or less in return for an intense period of workshops and performances. This works extremely well - we have been touring around Australia and the world in this way since our foundation in 1997. We have to be prepared for anything ie we have to accept whatever sort of bed or mattress on a floor we are given, and eat whatever sort of meals we are given - but 99% of the time we are treated like royalty! Of course it helps enormously if a place / group we approach has a personal contact with one of us, or if there is an extremely keen director of music who loves our repertoire!
on August 31, 2013 1:07pm
Sorry, I forgot to sign my comments above about Wayfarers Australia - my name is Judith Clingan. i am a composer and conductor - in the past I also taught music in schools; nowadays I tend to teach teachers in Australia and elsewhere how to set up choirs, run music programs etc. For my first 25 years of adult life I worked with whoever I could; for the last 25 years I have been workng predominantly with Steiner / Waldorf schools and communities, where the sort of music I love is really appreciated. You can look at my website:
on September 1, 2013 7:12am
The Nashville Singers, Inc. "IS" an adult community choir. My original reply simply stated that we (as an adult communuity choir) do not see the value/ROI in touring; if doing so involves assuming individual/corporate financial burdens that take focus/resources away from so many other mission-driven priorities.
Todd Wilson
The Nashville Singers, Inc.
on September 1, 2013 10:13am
Sorry. I got hung up on the fact that your actual touring was with the quartet and didn't pay enough attention to your main message. Although you make some very good points that I am not going to forget, I still feel that there is benefit to the chorus in touring -- it expands the viewpoint of the singers when they travel in terms of getting their mindset out of "local". I feel having tours in our CV will also help attract singers who are looking for a broader experience. I believe this because our mission is more toward providing singing opportunities and not primarily toward charitable & community-based educational goals, although we certainly do some. Perhaps it's time to rethink our mission, but that's a whole other thread <grin>.
Bill Paisner
Southwest Women's Chorus
Applauded by an audience of 2
on September 27, 2013 6:01am
My unauditioned community choir of about 160 members is based in London England. We tour to a European country once every two years if we can.
The cost of our tours is borne personally by each member going on the tour - as a matter of principle we don't ask the main choir to subsidise those who are lucky enough to be able to go on a tour. The cost per person is generally around £200-£280 per head for a three-day tour with two concert performances, plus the travel cost - travel to Europe is relatively inexpensive from the UK. We have found it far better for members to travel independently to the tour destination - this allows them to choose mode of travel (fly/train/coach/drive), take advantage of discounted flights not available for group bookings, use early or last-minute bookings to cut costs still further if they are young enouigh to stand the strain! and so on.
Average total cost to a member is probably around £400-£500. Not cheap I realise, but very few members say they can't afford to go, and one or two members who are in sheltered accomodation or similar circumstances have found they are able to request funding for the trips due to their cultural value.
We have found that the tours are extraorinarily effective at building relationships and bonding within the choir; almost everyone who has been on a tour continues to go on subsequent trips, and we have little difficulty achieving the 60-or so minimum needed to make a tour financially viable. Incidentally our mission is very similar to yours in that the primary emphasis is on providing as many people as possible with the opportunity to sing beautiful music well.
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