SBO Survey: Travel Destinations

SBO Staff • Travel/Festivals • June 23, 2011

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Whether as an end-of-year vacation or a strict performance tour, many music programs take their students on adventures far beyond their school auditorium walls.  But where, exactly, is the best place to go?  At SBOheadquarters, we had some ideas about where the top destinations are for instrumental school music groups, but you, the SBO readers, are the experts, not us, so we recently put the question out to you.  We have asked, you have answered, and the votes have been tallied.

The top U.S. destinations for school music groups, it turns out, are primarily along the East Coast. Orlando, Florida – home of Walt Disney World, Universal Theme Park, and a host of other attractions – narrowly edged out Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Broadway, and the multitude of other world-class sites and venues found in New York City for the top spot in this survey.  Washington D.C., Chicago, and Boston round out the top five, with Dallas, Anaheim, Hawaii, and several sites in Virginia among the other locations also earning considerable votes.

Internationally, the top two destinations were both English-speaking countries: England and Canada – yeah, yeah, we know, Quebec, nous savons – were selected for their accessibility, cost, and fantastic performing opportunities.  A trio of classic Continental countries – Germany, Italy, and France – also made it into the top five destinations abroad, although it is worth mentioning that several Asian countries – notably China, Korea, and Japan – also garnered significant tallies.

Top 5 Domestic Destinations

As selected by SBO readers.

  1. Orlando, Fla.
  2. New York City, N.Y.
  3. Washington, D.C.
  4. Chicago, Ill.
  5. Boston, Mass.

“In Orlando, Disney & Universal Studios are incredibly fun and they offer great performance venues.”

Steve Olsen

Rosemount High School

Rosemount, Minn.

“New York City’s Carnegie Hall!  We teach our students the historical significance of Carnegie Hall and it is a really sweet thing to watch their faces as they walk on stage for the first time.”

Bingiee Shiu
Memorial High School
Houston, Texas

“Washington, D.C. – The history and the opportunities to explore in a place the student have seen so many times on TV and studied blows the kids away. Being able to experience the monuments or the national archives first-hand is life changing for some.”

Brian Toney
Grovetown High School
Grovetown, Ga.

“Chicago has lots of options from symphonies, to theme parks, to museums, to great restaurants, and more.”

Kathy McCullough
Cathedral High School
Indianapolis, Ind.

“Boston has so many historical places to visit.”

Rick Cox
Flinthills USD 492
Rosalia, Kan.

Top 5  International Destinations

As selected by SBO readers.

  1. England

  2. Canada

  3. Germany

  4. Italy

  5. France

“England has so much history.  It’s our mother country. And there is no language barrier!”

Bill Thomas
Shawnee Mission West High School
Shawnee Mission, Kan.

“Toronto is clean and has great musical experiences for the kids.  There are many things for the students to do, too.  Plus there’s a great stop on the way in Niagara Falls.”

Kathy McCullough
Cathedral High School
Indianapolis, Ind.

“Germany has so much in the way of historical culture and tradition – it makes for a great learning experience.”

Patrick Doerr
Sweetwater High School
National City, Calif.

“Italy is the home of many music masters.”

Sparky Koerner
College of the Mainland
Texas City, Texas

“France offers the cultural history to Western music tradition, as well as beautiful performance spaces that enable us to connect with composers of the music we perform.”

B. Weiland
Centennial High School
Circle Pines, Minn.


How far do you typically travel with your school music groups?

In state only:14%

Nearby states: 49%

Across the country: 27%

Internationally/Overseas: 10%

Do you have any advice on narrowing down the plethora of potential destinations for school music travel?

“I have a two-tiered process: 1) I spend one class period with students, discussing performance and locations and educational opportunities.  These are always at the forefront for our planning; 2) I take the top three choices to our parent booster group to discuss financial feasibility and fundraiser planning.  The adults weigh the options then return the presentation to kids.  So far, I’ve had four, soon to be five, successful trips using this plan.”

Jason Lowe
Beal City Schools
Mt Pleasant, Mich.

“Determine if the trip will incorporate a lesson in culture. Many students do not understand how life functions outside of their immediate area unless they are well traveled.”

Patrick Doerr
Sweetwater High School
National City, Calif.

“Look for good/cross-curricular educational opportunities for the students as well as great performance opportunities.  For example: I always look for a well attended, competitive parade for the marching band performance.”

David Lyncheski
Brick Township High School
Brick, N.J.

Is there anything to be wary of when selecting a destination?

“Be prepared for what makes each destination different from your hometown.  I took a group to Chinatown in Toronto once and three kids sat in the Burger King for two hours because things were so different that it scared them.”

Rick Brimmer
Lake Local Schools
Millbury, Ohio

“I would advise to look into any large happenings that may coincide with your travel dates.  While you may be able to avoid running into the events themselves, you cannot guarantee that your hotel will be isolated from those participating.”

Larry Petersen
Huron High School
Huron, S.D.

“Choose places that are most likely to be politically stable.  One of our trips encountered a national flight controllers strike on the day we were to fly in to that country. Our trip was cancelled en route, and it was one of the worst experiences of my 30 years of teaching.”

Conrad Miska
Eagan High School
Eagan, Minn.

Additional thoughts on the best destinations for instrumental school music groups?

“Our best trips have been when our students have built relationships with the people on the tour.  That means that the specific destination may not even matter so much.”

Peter Klemp
Concordia Jr/Sr High School
Omaha, Neb.

“Affordability and cultural interest coupled with outstanding adjudication or clinicians make for a great trip.”

K. Hartse
Shadle Park High School
Spokane, Wash.

“We have shared performances with local schools on each of our concert tours.  Our marching band trips are to venues with a parade, and lots of possibilities for our students to be exposed to the local sights and culture – China, Canada, England.”

Steven Accatino
Ygnacio Valley High School
Concord, Calif.

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