It's Not Where....It's WHY. Performance Tour Philosophy.

I was 16 years old, it was my first year as drum major, and this high school band trip to Washington, D.C. was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me.

Little did I realize at the time how this was the first step in a journey that has taken me thousands of miles to see amazing locations, introduced me to countless incredible people (including my wife), and given me the opportunity to experience once in a lifetime events.sometimes even more than once!

This initial spark led to ten years as a high school band director and a masters degree in conducting. Upon leaving the podium, I spent another decade as a tour consultant for one of the most successful and well-respected organizations in the performance travel field. That led to a role as a concert developer for an organization that produces and promotes collaborative concerts in some of the most famous concert venues in the U.S.among them Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Orchestra Hall in Chicago. And now finally here to Festivals of Music, creating a series of educational adjudicated festivals across the county.

It is through that lens of experience that I offer these thoughts. Within all these roles in my life, the constant has been the sameto provide musicians the kinds of life-altering opportunities that I had the good fortune to enjoy. Because I understand first-hand where that can lead. And as music educators, it is an enormous responsibility that demands thoughtful consideration of the why to include a performance tour as part of your program.

Begin With The End In Mind

With full credit to Steven Covey and his Seven Habits, this is perhaps the most important (and effective) thought that needs to be addressed when you begin the planning process. How do you ultimately want this to impact your musicians and your program?

This will be different for every program, and you as the director have the opportunity and responsibility to set that course. Speaking for myself as a music educator, I would want my student musicians to have a performance opportunity that is high quality and meaningful, a chance to improve their musicianship by working with a skilled conductor/educator, and the ability to hear a remarkable professional level performance.all while having a fun and memorable experience.

Fun, incidentally, doesnt necessarily mean time on a roller coaster. Ive seen adult and student musicians having the time of their lives in rehearsals and clinics, experiencing those "bonding" moments with an outstanding teacher. You can clearly see that on their faces! The Boy Scouts have a mantra of fun with a purpose; that line of thinking applies here.


I would even take this a step further, beyond a single tour experience, and think in terms of a multi-year plan. This is especially true if the group has no established history of performance travel. Since I used to live in Colorado, here's the metaphor I use: each hike should have a "mountaintop" moment....but you don't have to climb a Fourteener every time out!


Often times Ive advised groups to start small to test the watersfind out how well the students travel, what the financial thresholds are and how to reach them, and give yourself the opportunity to set the tone for your goals. Biting off more than you can chew, simply to generate a lot of excitement or interest and get lots of students involved, will often lead to disaster. Which leads to my next point.


Big Does Not Equal Distance


This is a concept in need of redefinition. So often we hear groups say that this is a big trip year.meaning a destination like New York, Orlando, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Europe, etc. as opposed to something more regionally based. Usually this is a connotation attached to the amount of distance that it takes to get there, and consequently the time and financial resources to make that happen. 


Over the years Ive seen groups put in enormous resources just to get to the destination, and then be limited to their time at the location or ability to experience the location in depth. I once saw a group drive over 20 hours to New York City, spend one night with two partial days in the city and drive back home..all for the sake of being able to say they visited New York City. While certainly there can be merit to wanting to expose students to a place they might not otherwise experience, wouldnt it be more rewarding to stay closer to home but give them something with depth and meaning that could be a truly life changing experience?


What if a big trip was instead defined as a big experience”….something out of the ordinary that could be a game changer for both your program and your musicians? Perhaps youre only traveling 4-8 hours down the road from home, but instead of the cost for a bus or plane to take you farther you use that budget to participate in an experience that is remarkable and more in-depth. Something with qualities that they will remember and make a true difference in their lives and in your program.


This relates to my next point, "Make It Meaningful," which we'll begin with in the next post.




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