• On the Road Again: A Return to Travel

    Mike Lawson | May 4, 2021As the percentage of Americans who have received Covid-19 vaccines continues to climb, SBO reached out again to travel company Worldstrides to learn more about the current status of student travel. Read More...
  • Who Says You Can’t Attend a Festival This School Year?

    Mike Lawson | April 6, 2021In the year of virtual-everything, Worldstrides pivots with virtual festivals. Their virtual festival series can help your students not miss out on these important ways they show off their work. Read More...
  • ’But it’s a theme park…’ – Justifying a performance trip to the Walt Disney World Resort

    Todd Rogers | September 15, 2015

    It doesn’t look like much on paper, and if you have never been there with a student group, explaining that a trip to a theme park is educational can be quite a challenge. We know that the terms “fun” and “educational” are not mutually exclusive, but you may encounter an administrator, parent or school board member who sees your endeavor as a waste of resources. This couldn’t be further from the truth, especially if your plans are taking you to the Walt Disney World® Resort. Here’s what you should know to help you justify a performance trip to The Most Magical Place on Earth:

    First, it’s important to remember that every performance trip has educational value. Whether you choose some of the world’s most beloved theme parks in Central Florida, a regional park closer to home, or a trip which doesn’t include theme parks at all, your students will come away with life experiences that can’t be delivered in the classroom. Performing in a new, unfamiliar venue shows your students how to adapt to changes and deliver results. The experience fosters a sense of teamwork and camaraderie within your members.

    Taking your students “out of the bubble” of their day-to-day lives expands their horizons beyond what is familiar to them, encourages them to build stronger bonds with peers (and with you, their educator), and exposes them to a performance audience beyond the doting families to which they are accustomed. The responsibility of showing up on time, remembering black socks, and managing one’s own souvenir or meal money is a significant step toward the independence your students will need in their adult life.

    While nearly every destination – across the country or around the world – provides these learning experiences, there are certainly destinations which deliver a top-quality educational travel experience consistently. Topping my list: the Walt Disney World® Resort.

  • On the Road: Destination Cuba

    SBO Staff | December 9, 2014

    In the Plaza de Armas in Old Havana, Cuba, student musicians perspired in the tropical humidity combined with the heat of performance. 120 members of the band, which consists of three concert bands and two jazz ensembles, along with twenty parents and teachers, departed for Havana via Miami on April 10th, 2014 and returned on April 16th. What we saw, heard, and learned on our trip gave us a remarkable perspective on a corner of the world that is controversially regarded by the international community.On our first full day in Havana, we visited an elementary/middle school designed for students who want to pursue music. Applicants to the school go through a rigorous musical aptitude audition process. The students take music classes for half the day and academic classes for half the day, heavily focusing on music beginning at a very young age.

  • UpFront Q&A: Andrew Yaracs

    SBO Staff | June 17, 2014

    A conversation with the author of Travel 101: A band director's guide for planning student travel

    Andrew Yaracs recently retired after a 39-year career as a music educator, band director, percussion arranger, and music instructor. During a prolific 15-year stint running the Butler Senior High School Golden Tornado Marching Band in Butler, Pennsylvania between 1997 and 2012, Yaracs boosted the ensemble and program into the national spotlight, in large part due to his determination that he would take the entire 350-member band on a trip every year. Alternating between major excursions and more economical ones, the Golden Tornado Marching Band represented the town of Butler, the high school, and their community at such notable events as the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade (in 2000 and 2007), the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (in 1997 and 2002), and the Fort McDowell Fiesta Bowl Parade in Phoenix, Arizona (in 2004 and 2010), among others.

    Yaracs cites the genesis of this ambitious travel schedule as his time performing with and then managing a drum corps. “That experience of getting out there, performing in different venues and meeting new people taught me a lot about life and growing up,” he says. “That was something that I always felt was a great incentive. I marched and graduated from the high school that I later taught at. When I was in the band in late ‘60s, we only had 90 members in the band and all we did was go to football games and one or two local parades. I had always hoped that someday I would become a band director and thought that if I did, I would do something for those kids.”

    Drawing upon his vast and varied experiences on the road, Andrew Yaracs recently published Travel 101: A Band Director’s Guide for Planning Student Travel, a book chock full of anecdotes, sample forms and checklists, and advice and best practices. In this conversation with SBO, Yaracs speaks about his philosophy regarding band travel, fundraising, and some tips and tricks for having a successful and rewarding experience.

  • Guest Editorial: Offbeat Travel Destinations

    Mike Lawson | June 17, 2014

    Maximizing the Educational Travel Experience for Your Performing Ensemble

    Traveling abroad is a highly educational experience, especially when it comes to influencing young people. It is imperative for younger generations to explore the world and to learn about different cultures so that they may grow up showing compassion for others.

    Many school music groups today are traveling to common destinations in Europe, such as London, Paris, and Vienna, which offer a long-standing musical heritage and can be very educational for students. However, there are many other destinations in South America, Africa, and Asia that are often overlooked, even though they can provide unique performance opportunities for the group, as well as a greater impact on the educational objectives for the tour. These locations offer unexpected surprises and can leave students with a new sense of cultural awareness and a truly unforgettable experience.

  • New SBO Feature: On the Road

    Mike Lawson | April 9, 2014

    Travel experiences from school band and orchestra directors

    Have you taken your school music groups on the road in the past year or two? How did it go? What did you and/or your students learn from the experience? What was the best part? The good, the bad, the funny, the life-affirming, and the death-defying, SBO wants to hear about it! Share your travel experience in 250 words or less for the chance to be included in an exciting new feature that will be debuting in an upcoming issue of SBO magazine.


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    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.


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    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?


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    Weighing In on Summer Music Camps

    Mike Lawson | March 12, 2009

    For many, the end of the school year marks the beginning of a period of rest, relaxation, travel, summer jobs, or other unique opportunities that are incompatible with the rigid schedule of the school day. For the dedicated music student, however, summer may provide that unique opportunity to convene with likeminded, dedicated students in a milieu of support, structure, and excellence, a chance to meet and learn from some of the most accomplished and driven student musicians in a given area.

    While I could continue to wax poetic about the potential benefits of the summer music camp experience, in response to this recent SBO survey, reader John Iyoki, of Pearl City, Hawaii, succinctly notes: "Just having the students playing on their instruments rather than not playing for two months is extremely beneficial." Read on for more on what your peers have to say about the ins and outs of summer music camps.

    Do your students attend summer music camps?

    Do your students attend summer music camps?


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    To Educate and to Entertain

    Mike Lawson | December 12, 2008

    Colonel Michael J. Colburn and "The President's Own"

    The United States Marine Band has been in continuous existence since 1798. Established in that year by an Act of Congress, their primary responsibility is to perform for the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corp and for the President of the United States of America, a distinction that has earned the ensemble the moniker, "The President's Own." Today, this unique band performs over 300 times each year at the White House, covering functions both official and private.


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    Testing and Gas Prices and Wall Street…Oh My!

    Mike Lawson | October 6, 2008

    Eight years ago, I wrote an article called "The Perfect Storm" about the impact of the collapse in the stock market and the pending implementation of NCLB. Five years ago, I revisited this article with the second installment, entitled "The View from the Eye of the Perfect Storm," where I further delved into the issue and the strategies needed to move us through the storm. I am currently working on the third installment, "Surviving the Wake of the Perfect Storm," in which I will explore all of these issues and the impact a new federal administration will have on music and arts education. However, recent events demanded I share some of my thoughts with you even before the election.

    There are a lot of converging forces that has everyone everyone in this country becoming more fearful of what the future may hold. Just like Dorothy and her posse in the Wizard of Oz were concerned about all of the evil that lurked in that dark forest certain to bring them doom, the refrain "Lions and Tigers and Bears... Oh My" has come to be a metaphor for those things looming just beyond the horizon that we do not control and in many cases do not understand. In today's circumstances, most of us have very little feel for where all this may be going.

    Our lions and tigers and bears both as citizens and as music educators come to us in the form of the increasing emphasis on testing, the impact of increasing gas and oil prices, and now the near melt down of Wall Street.

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