In the previous post, we discussed two critical points related to
performance tour philosophy--developing your overall goals and determining the
scope of your experience. In this post, we'll address how depth of experience
is more important than quantity.
Make It Meaningful
So often I see groups doing the same things in any given city, almost
to the point of predictability. And while every city certainly has their “must see”
items….so much of the itinerary content I see are attraction experiences
that are no different than what a tourist walking up to the admission window
will receive. (Much of this, sadly, has been driven by the “bid process”
trend of school districts…where
multiple travel planners have to design a tour to the common denominator, and
the low bid wins. A topic for another time.)
This could take many forms—it might be
a hands-on workshop at a museum, an extended behind the scenes clinic
experience with a performance organization or show, a multi-day collaboration
with a leading conductor, a walking tour that incorporates the history of the
area, or even something as simple as having the budget to see both a Broadway show and a symphony concert
(rather than only choosing one). The possibilities are as endless as your
creativity and asking the question, “what if?”
For example: a good friend in the Los Angeles group travel industry has an incredible
program where groups have a private screening of a movie in a historic theater,
followed by a Q & A with a star from the film. Twice I've had groups who met
an Oscar-winning actor from a legendary film (who brought his statue to show
the students!). Yes, these experiences are often higher cost—but they
are also tremendously higher value, because they are not experiences they can
have on a family vacation.
This ties into the redefinition of the "big" tour concept
that was discussed in the first part of this series. Less resources towards
distance traveled gives you more to work with once you're at the location.
The side bonus to this: content of this type will likely be easier to
justify to administration and school boards, especially in this day and age of
ever-increasing scrutiny of time away from school (and ever-prevalent testing).
This type of experience places less emphasis on “sightseeing”
and more on educational and musical value….which
might help them see beyond the price tag.
This is not a reference to a suitcase, but rather to schedule.
As directors of music ensembles (and I was guilty of the same), we
have a tendency of thought that reads “fill every
minute of the tour—idle time only means teens getting into trouble.”
The other reasoning is the concept of “getting our
money’s worth,” meaning that we’ve come all
this distance so we need to see and do as much as humanly possible from breakfast
Unfortunately, what we see so many times as a result of this are
students too exhausted to appreciate where they are and what they are
experiencing. It’s a shame to see kids falling asleep in the middle of a Broadway show
or a philharmonic concert….not only a waste of an expensive ticket, but more painfully a lost
cultural opportunity. Even worse is seeing them sluggish during a clinic or
rehearsal with a great conductor/educator, or during their performance—times when
we all want them at their very best. Pacing is everything.
Quite simply, it’s the old concept of quality vs. quantity. Do you look at the
experience as a one-shot opportunity, or a way to whet the appetite of your
musicians for future experiences?
This comes back to my own personal experience in high school band and
that trip to Washington, D.C. We saw a lot….but didn’t see everything.
What it did though was open the eyes of a kid from rural Iowa to a much bigger
world, and motivated him to strive in life to achieve success and be able to
experience things like this time and time again. (And when he was finally
conducting a band of his own, guess where he took them on his first tour?)
the next installment, we'll discuss having the vision of the performance
experience you desire for your ensemble.