“Taking the Show on the Road.” How to Travel with your Musical Ensemble
Part 1 of the Series
By Dan Schwartz
Traveling with your ensemble can be one of the most difficult – and most rewarding – endeavors you can undertake as a music director.
There is nothing like “taking the show on the road.” We all know that the music room is the place to be, the place where lifetime friendships are forged. Strengthen those bonds that unite your ensemble members by taking them on an overnight trip.
Where to start?
You have to seek out the best opportunity for your ensemble and your students. Not the best opportunity for the ensemble down the street (or even across the hall!), but the best one for you. For some, this is a trip to see great musicians perform great music. For some, it’s an extension of the classroom and access to new clinicians and master classes in a festival or private environment. For some, it’s performing on stage at Carnegie Hall. You need to assess what you are ready for, what your ensemble is ready for, and what your community is ready for.
The possibilities seem endless and can be overwhelming. Some key questions to ask yourself and your close advisors are:
- How many nights are we ready to travel together?
- Domestic or international?
- If domestic, by bus or by plane?
- If international, how long of a plane ride is doable, and are you interested in countries with familiar languages or less familiar languages?
- How much free time will you allow on the trip, if any?
- How intense do you want the performing to be? Daily? Every other day? Once or twice on the trip, total?
- What character of performance would you like? Festival, competition, joint performances, large venues, solo concerts, something no one else has ever thought of?
Once you’ve determined where it is that you would like to go, and what performance opportunity you would like to have there, step back and view the experience through the lenses of you, your ensemble, and your community.
Keys to success
Your community – from your parents to the school board to the boosters to local businesses and the chamber of commerce – is where you are going to turn for support for your trip. I’ve seen trips cancelled when the individual parents support it, but the booster club leadership doesn’t. I’ve seen the school board step in days before travel and threaten to cancel trips if they found that proper approval procedures were glossed over. Do you have a good handle on what price point the community can handle, either directly from the parents or with the aid of sponsorships?
Line up support from your key stakeholders to ensure that they will be great advocates for your decision and do everything they can to make the trip a reality.
Your ensemble plays a key role in this process. In a way, choosing and presenting a tour experience to them is a bit like choosing and passing out concert literature. You will have considered many different options, chosen what you think is the best for their character and ability, and hope that they will be enthusiastic about it from the first downbeat. Social buy-in is a huge component of this process. You want to excite your ensemble so that they excite each other and go home and excite their family about the wonderful experience you are offering them.
Lastly, you yourself play the most important part of this process. Aside from gauging the interest of the community and aside from knowing what’s best for your ensemble, the success of the tour lies mostly in your hands. You have to be excited and enthusiastic about the destination and experience. Your attitude on the conductor’s podium shapes what your students do musically; your attitude when it comes to promoting the tour, leading fundraisers, and keeping enthusiasm and interest high will inspire everyone involved in the tour.
Stay tuned for Part 2 in this series: “It Takes a Village“
Part 4: “Your Moment of Zen“
About the author:
Dan Schwartz has 17 years of experience in music travel and event management, having planned part of almost 2000 tours and produced over 50 festivals at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Vienna Konzerthaus and many others. He currently heads the Classic Performances division of Corporate Travel Service and can be reached at email@example.com.
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