Travel in Hard Times

SBO Staff • ChoralMarch 2009Survey • March 24, 2009

In tight economic times, travel is one of the first areas businesses, schools, and even families look to cut back on. However, for many vocal music programs, venturing out on performance tours and attending festivals or competitions is an integral part of the experience. These trips are often the culmination of a year of hard work, a reward for months of dedication and focused preparation, and they provide an unparalleled opportunity for both community building and personal student growth.

With an eye towards the effects wrought by a turbulent economic era, Choral Director asked our readers about their own travel habits, tips, and thoughts on the future in this recent survey.

Do you go on significant trips with your ensembles?

Do you go on significant trips with your ensembles?

If so, what percentage of your students usually goes?

If so, what percentage of your students usually goes?

Have you ever traveled overseas with your ensembles?

Have you ever traveled overseas with your ensembles?

Have you ever taken your choral group out of state?

Have you ever taken your choral group out of state?

When is the best time to take a major trip with a choral group?

When is the best time to take a major trip with a choral group?

“Since our singers come from many towns with different vacation schedules summer is the best time for an extended trip. We have taken four-day trips, usually in April or May.”

Sallie Ferrebee
Connecticut Children’s Chorus
West Hartford, Conn.

Have recent economic events impacted your travel plans in the near future?

“We only take one spring trip to a destination that is not too far away. Due to budget issues, the administration is telling me not to bother to plan a trip next year. I am not allowed to fund-raise, and they are not allowing me to charge the students for the trip. The thought is that students pay such a high tuition already, I cannot ask them to pay more for a trip.”

Kay Maddox
Flint Hill School
Oakton, Va.

“We will be traveling closer to our state. We will still be able to go out of state, though. We were planning to go to Europe this spring, but too many students were not able to raise the necessary funds.”

Connie S. Coleman
Bixby High School
Bixby, Okla.

“Our school board is setting limits on travel due to the economy.”

Joel Karn
Heritage High School
Vancouver, Wash.

What is the ideal destination for choral groups?

What is the ideal destination for choral groups?

“I’m not sure if there is an ideal destination, but I really enjoy tours that have a significant educational component. I always do exchanges with other schools which the kids love and I try to arrange a performance in a church or other public venue. I also like to visit the nearest university with a fine program and arrange master classes for the students.”

David Martin
Aragon High School
San Mateo, Calif.

“Somewhere where the students can have some quality concert experiences. Theme parks usually just end up being a concert for three judges. Students should have the opportunity to sing in some church or concert venues that give them some perspective on their music, perhaps how it sounded originally, et cetera. Singing for a large, appreciative audience is a good thing, if you can arrange it.”

Kirk Jackson
Herculaneum High School
Herculanuem, Mo.

“The best activity is one that is performance based, giving students an opportunity to learn masterworks of the literature and to perform with noted conductors in recognized halls. Especially true when it does not require a large student cost to a festival company!”

David Hinck
Madison High School
Rexburg, Idaho

“The ideal destination is one that has good site-seeing and cultural opportunities, and provides an artistically worthy experience for the singers.”

Bruce C. Lengacher
Acalanes High School
Lafayette, Calif.

What is the most important element to taking a successful trip with choral groups?

“Know your plan and be consistent. If a student violates a serious code of conduct, even if they are a section leader, do not hesitate to send them home at their own expense. Make sure the parent and child have signed off on these rules and consequences prior to the trip. It is better to send the message to all students that you mean business than to have the students continually try to test your limits. This is a message that will resonate for years. Do not show cowardice on this rule leave no room for second thoughts. If you do, you will regret it that’s a promise.”

Darrell Crowther
Coronado High School
Henderson, Nev.

“We always include an adjudication festival to get important feedback on our development from one year to the next. This is the carrot that I can dangle in front of my students for that added incentive to be part of the group and to continue to improve vocally.”

Charles Bateman
Susquenita High School
Duncannon, Pa.

“The obvious answer seems to be the performance opportunities. Additionally, it is also important to be very organized with all of the details, to communicate clear expectations to your students, to provide great non-musical opportunities, and to run the trip in a way that brings your department together. Music trips are important musically, but they are also important in providing terrific life and educational experiences for your students, as well as bringing your music department together as one community.”

Russell Hammond
Ledyard High School
Ledyard, Conn.

Is there anything, other than obvious safety and logistical concerns, that teachers and directors should be wary of when planning trips?

“Sometimes the adult chaperones are a bigger issue on the trip than the students. Meet with chaperones beforehand and make sure they know you will be making the major decisions and they need to back you. Remind them that everyone needs to be flexible.”

Michelle Danielson
Roosevelt Park High School
Fergus Falls, Minn.

“Directors need to check out tour companies and make sure that they know exactly what they are getting. If they don’t use a tour company, they have lots of homework to make sure they get the best price for everything and think of everything that has to be done!”

Kathleen Wood
Noble High School
Noble, Okla.

“Be sure to keep payment due dates for your students well ahead of the dates when payments to the vendors and travel companies must be made. Students will be late with payments, and you do not want that to result in the group’s payments to be delayed. A group’s performance can be put in jeopardy if an there is an outstanding bill.”

Victor Izzo
Minisink Valley High School
Slate Hill, N.Y.

“Having chaperons who are truly chaperons is such a concern. I have had chaperons take students out for a smoke or drinking trying to make their trip more fun, or call rooms to check students in for the night instead of actually going to the room to make sure all the kids are in there.”

Susan F. Durham
Durant High School
Plant City, Fla.

Additional thoughts on travel?

“I find that travel is a helpful ‘carrot’ to get kids in chorus. Some students, especially guys, seem to need such an excuse. They’ll tell friends they’re in chorus for the trip if they need to guard their ‘cool.’ I also find it can help in correcting behavior (for example, I can say, ‘If you plan on going on this trip, that behavior has got to go and now!’). It also can be a great time for group bonding.”

Bryan Marks
Cohasset Middle-High School
Cohasset, Mass.

“Traveling with a musical ensemble is exciting. It is exciting to share the musicians’ artistry with new audiences. It is exciting to offer young people a safe, educational, artistic, and fun experience that they might not otherwise have.”

Dr. Sandra L. Mathias
Columbus Children’s Choir
Columbus, Ohio

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