Teacher Prep: Travel Planning 101

Eric Matzat • Travel/Festivals • October 1, 2003

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During my first several years of teaching, I would jump from my bed in the middle of the night and write down another item on my “to-do” list. My mind would work overtime, trying to distinguish between what needed to be focused on and what would take care of itself. There was that nagging feeling that I was always forgetting something. It did not take long for that to happen.

We arrived at our first marching festival of the year during my first year of teaching. A freshman trombone player strolled up to me and asked, “Mr. Matzat, did you load my trombone?” Later on that same trip, we realized that our quint player left his drum carrier at home.

On our next trip, the buses became separated on the highway and the second bus driver (who had no directions, map or communication with the lead bus) was lost for hours and nearly missed the performance altogether. One year, I forgot to bring blank judges’ tapes for our state concert band festival.

These things happen to new and experienced directors alike. I found that once I made myself a checklist, trips ran smoothly and nothing was forgotten. I could finally relax and enjoy the trip because I mastered the ability to plan.

Getting Organized

When you have decided on the trip or festival you plan to attend, make a file folder for that festival and label it with the festival name and date. Make a copy of the festival checklist and staple it to the inside cover of the file for quick access. Our band tends to attend the same group festivals each season, so I prepare all of these trip files during the summer to save time during the year. As I receive mailings, festival applications and invoices, I already have my trip files ready so that nothing is lost or misplaced.

Start planning for your festival well in advance so that you can feel organized, on top of things and ready to go. You will be able to clear your mind knowing that all of the loose ends are taken care of.

How Can the Parents Help?

When things are well planned and organized, parents are much more likely to get involved. When they are given specific jobs to do, they are much more likely to stay involved. Instead of saying, “We need lots of parent help this weekend for our marching trip,” I say, “I need five parents to be in charge of the pit equipment. I need 10 parents to be in charge of organizing, fixing and serving lunch. I need five parents to serve as bus chaperones.” If the jobs are clearly defined, there is a much better chance that the parents will become involved and do the job correctly.

How Can the Students Help?

Many directors become frustrated upon returning home from a trip (usually late into the night) when the students scurry for their cars, leaving the director and those same few students to unload and put everything away. This scenario can be avoided if students, like the parents, are given specific jobs. Create a checklist of equipment that needs to go on your trip. Divide the list into sections and assign responsible students to go over the list before loading, at the festival site, and again upon the return home. Assign two students per bus to be the last ones off at every stop to check for trash on the floor, or equipment left in the seats. Assign horn line students to specific pieces of pit equipment so that they will help the percussionists. The more students who have jobs, the better. Not only will everything get done, but they will learn responsibility, teamwork and pride.

The travel checklist is available online in printable PDF format on the Branson High School Band Web site at: www.bransonbands.com/checklist.pdf.

Eric Matzat has been the director of bands for Branson High School in Missouri for the past eight years.


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