• Top Travel Destinations

    SBO Staff | June 21, 2013

    SBO readers weigh in on the latest trends in band and orchestra travel.

    What’s your first choice when you think of the perfect destination for your school music group? In this recent SBO survey, readers made it clear that the top travel spot for school ensembles is an adjudicated festival. Nearly 60 percent of responding band and orchestra directors marked such festivals as the number one destination for indoor ensembles, with 34 percent agreeing that it is the best destination for marching bands, too.

    Looking at broader trends, the results of this survey indicate that school music groups are likely to be traveling less far and spending less money in the coming years, which makes sense given rising costs of travel, as well as the economic challenges still facing many parts of the country. On the other hand, a healthy proportion of respondents (45 percent) declared that they’d be taking their bands “wherever they want, wherever that is,” which seems like a nod to a spirit of adventure that is undeterred by economic woes.

    Read on for more insight into the latest trends in school music travel topics like budgets, participation, destinations, and more.

  • Planning the Best Trip for Your Band or Orchestra

    SBO Staff | June 21, 2013

    During my days as a high school band member, one of my favorite events was the annual spring trip. Everything about it, from the big announcement about where we were going that year to being exhausted at school the Monday morning after it was over, was part of the experience. My high school’s fall marching program was non-competitive, electing instead to attend local band exhibition festivals. The spring trip, however, was another story. We would typically compete in concert band, parade band, field show, indoor drumline, and indoor guard, often choosing to attend events offered by North American Music Festivals in locations like Myrtle Beach, Nashville, and Toronto. Waiting for the spring to compete gave our band a chance to mature over the school year and to involve our indoor programs. While we typically fared well in competition, we still learned some tough lessons from going up against a band program whose competitive emphasis was more focused on their Fall [marching] band program than ours was.

    The experiences I had on those trips were invaluable. It was a goal to shoot for, a chance to travel to new places, a gigantic four-day slumber party with 100 of my closest friends, and some of the most memorable musical performances of my high school career. Venturing away from the daily high school environment as a band allowed us to bond and to exist as a performing ensemble without outside influences or distractions.

  • Roundtable: Maximizing the Festival Experience

    SBO Staff | June 21, 2013

    While a band festival can take many different forms, in every case, both students and educators should feel rewarded for having participated in these events. Deciding on the best festival in which to participate, properly preparing students musically, selecting appropriate repertoire, and knowing what to expect are just some of the keys to a successful festival experience.

    SBO recently caught up with three educators who each have decades of festival experience for this roundtable-style discussion on preparing for and measuring success, choosing the right festival, and the latest trends in school band festivals.

  • SBO Survey: Festivals

    SBO Staff | May 10, 2012

    In the microcosm of an instrumental music program, participation in a music festival is typically one of the primary highlights of the year.  When else do music students have the opportunity to show off the fruits of a year’s worth of labor to a peer audience, receive feedback from professional adjudicators, and bond with each other and members of other school ensembles?

    This recent SBO educator survey uncorks the latest trends on these events – what directors are looking for when selecting a festival, tips on performance, another chapter in the old competitive versus non-competitive debate, and much more.

  • SBO Survey: Travel Destinations

    SBO Staff | June 23, 2011

    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.

  • Creating an Inspired Musical Experience: 21 Tips for Success at Festival

    Mike Lawson | June 1, 2009

    Performing at concert festival is an inspiring musical experience for both music students and conductors. Concert festival is more than an assessment event, it is an opportunity to challenge students to achieve at their highest level. In addition to the learning experience, it is an occasion that helps clarify goals for a student, ensemble, or program. Festivals have contributed much to improve the quality of groups and the musicianship of students over the last 70 years. As thoughtful music educators, it is a topic worthy of our deepest consideration.

    Following is a collection of tips for enhancing the festival experience. This advice focuses primarily on the actual day, not the musical preparation. Many of these tips are subjective opinions, some of which evoke various levels of agreement among professionals. Consider these tips first, then imagine the event as you want it to create the inspired musical experience your students deserve.

    Stage Presence

  • Travel On a Shoe String

    SBO Staff | June 1, 2009

    Travel affords music students and educators the opportunity to venture beyond familiar walls and familial audiences, to gain new experiences while testing young musicians' mettle. Whether on a sightseeing performance tour, playing a world-famous concert hall, or competing against distant musical peers, there is no substitute for taking an ensemble on the road. However, due to events beyond most of our control, many schools and programs are currently being reduced to only those elements that may be considered "essential."

    To gauge the true nature of how school music programs are tackling the challenges related to travel in these trying times, SBO took the question to our readers. Results indicate that perhaps the situation is not so dire: over half of the respondents state that their travel plans remain unaffected by national economic difficulties, and many readers were able to provide cost-saving tips for group travel on a shoestring.

    Do you deem travel for performance or attending festivals to be an essential part of your music program?

  • Traveling Through a State of Fear

    SYTA | June 1, 2009

    It seems like our country has gone from one crisis to the next during the past ten years, from terrorism fears after 9/11 to the economic turmoil on Wall Street, and even the recent panic about the swine flu. Unfortunately, each of these events has made it more difficult to arrange student band trips. Parents, administrators, students, and teachers have a very real concern that their trip be safe, as well as educational and fun. While travel has ebbed and flowed throughout these periods, the desire of many programs to provide students with a travel experience has remained constant. After all, high school students only have a short window of opportunity to experience a trip with their school band, and these trips will no doubt be remembered for the rest of their lives.

    A recent article in Our Children The PTA National Magazine, April/May 2009 edition made a very effective case for considering a tour operator that has handled many successful school music trips as they are the most likely to be capable to handle contingencies, last minute changes, hotel and airline problems or other emergency situations. Many experienced companies are up-to-date on the latest travel restrictions and intricacies which are constantly changing due to government regulation. Although many schools have planned and executed their own travel quite efficiently, this often leaves little room for error or problems that may be encountered.

    References are extremely important should you choose to arrange your travel with a tour operator. We have heard instances of "fly by night" tour operators who have absconded with bands' travel funds after significant effort at raising the money for a trip. A reputable company, however, will be happy to provide quality references in addition to information regarding their company history, professional associations, insurance policies, and risk management plans. Of course, everything that the travel company offers should be requested in writing. This will also help alleviate any possibilities for miscommunication that could affect your trip.

  • Travel Preparation: Planning a Successful Trip

    Mike Lawson | October 21, 2006

    By Amy M. Knopps and Tim Greenwell

    Traveling together and making music is an outstanding combination to offer your ensemble. The decision to take a major trip can provide your students with the opportunity of a lifetime. This opportunity includes performing music at a high level, traveling to far-away destinations, staying in hotels, swimming in pools, shopping and sightseeing - all while creating long-lasting memories that will be cherished forever. No matter how much our students love playing their instruments and being a part of our ensemble, once we uttered the words, "Holiday Bowl" and " San Diego," students immediately asked, "When do we leave?"

    Planning for a successful trip is no easy task. It involves countless hours of work and dedication through many challenges. It can, however, be a much more rewarding experience if the trip is well thought out in advance collectively by your staff, parent organization and students. In this article, we will share our journey to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, Calif., and identify elements needed to plan a successful trip with your ensemble.

  • Inside the National Concert Band Festival

    Mike Lawson | October 21, 2006

    To be quite honest, the idea of performing at the Bands of America National Concert Band Festival (NCBF) did not appeal to me much at first. I admit that I did not readily associate BOA with anything but marching band competitions, and I thought it might perhaps be in our better interests to do more “local” performances, such as a Southern Division MENC or CBDNA convention. These types of performances would prepare us for our ultimate goal: Performing at the Midwest Band & Orchestra Clinic in Chicago.

    Neil (Jenkins, also Director of Bands at J.P. Taravella) and I debated this issue back and forth. He espoused the positive points; I was hung up on some of the negatives. To be fair, I began to do some research on the festival and, after consulting with several directors who had previously attended the NCBF, I capitulated. It did not appear to be anything like a marching band competition – in fact, it wasn’t a competition at all. There would be no scores nor ratings, only the pleasure of performing for some of the most respected music educators in the field, and the privilege of playing in front of like-minded band members and their directors. It sounded like a great time, and I was convinced.

  • Festivals and Travel: 20 Destinations for Bands and Orchestras

    Mike Lawson | October 21, 2006

    Every year, your mailbox teems with brochures for music tours and festivals offering the most exciting experiences of your students' lives: unique performance opportunities, educational clinics, high-stakes competitions, spectacular attractions and entertainment. But which is the right destination for your ensemble?

    Well, SBO cannot answer that question for you, but we can offer a peek at some of the top tried-and-true options throughout the travel and festival industry. These destinations offer both educationally valuable aspects as well as the all-important "fun factors" that both students and directors are looking for.


  • SBOSurvey: Travel Planning

    SBO Staff | October 19, 2006

    Traveling to an exciting destination in order to perform and/or compete can be an incredibly rewarding experience for both music students and their instructors. In addition to providing opportunities for growth as musicians and basic “tourist fun,” these trips allow children and young adults to gain a greater understanding of the world and their place in it. However, arranging a tour, regardless of scope, means wrestling with a number of logistics and sometimes even the best-laid plans go awry.

    SBO surveyed over 1,500 of our readers to fi nd out how many music programs incorporate travel plans into their academic year and of what sort. We asked educators to describe the types of trips which they fi nd to be most successful and to offer advice and feedback on what perils to be on the lookout for when organizing student travel.

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