How to Travel with a Music Ensemble, Part 2

“It Takes a Village.” Your Next Steps to a Successful Tour.

Part 2 of the series

By Dan Schwartz


Ensemble directors are great leaders. They marshal dozens of individuals to work in synchrony toward a common goal: the command performance. A director’s nuanced use of pressure and praise brings out the best in his or her performers.

But an ensemble director is also a master delegator. After all, it isn’t the director who pushes the right key on the clarinet, or hits the right harmony in the tenor voice. The director, at some point, entrusts the musicians to perform their part in making a great ensemble.

In part one of this series, I suggested ways to determine the proper trip for your ensemble. Especially for ensembles new to travel, the tour had to be big enough to feel worth the effort that will be expended, small enough to be achievable, and exciting enough to interest the ensemble members, their parents, and the community-at-large.




Don’t Try to Do This Alone

Once you’ve found that proper balance and picked the perfect tour for your ensemble, it’s tempting to feel like you are ready to tackle all aspects of the trip . . . all by yourself.


Sure, you’ve seen a superhuman-like colleague or two who seem able to tackle anything that comes their way, and if they can run a tour by themselves, why can’t you? Because virtually no one actually does this alone. Trip planning, like directing, needs a leader and a delegator. Someone with the vision, and a team to help bring it to life.

…if the ensemble is looking to fundraise some or all of the tour costs, a fundraising chair is very valuable.

The first person a director generally thinks of is someone to help keep track of the money. A parent who is an accountant is invaluable here. So is anyone with bookkeeping or small business management experience. This person needs to be trustworthy, accountable, and completely reliable. Tours cost money, and the money needs to be well-stewarded. I feel fortunate never to have been involved in a situation where the ensemble was harmed by malfeasance, but surely that’s happened to some ensemble, somewhere. Choose this person wisely, and make sure they can be trusted.

Next, if the ensemble is looking to fundraise some or all of the tour costs, a fundraising chair is very valuable. This can be someone with any sort of fundraising experience, professional or volunteer, or can simply be someone with a lot of creative ideas.

In any case, signing up for and promoting profit sharing nights at local restaurants takes time and effort. Working with a fund raising company, if you choose to, takes time and effort. Organizing a raffle or an auction (I’m more partial to raffles, myself) takes time and effort. It all adds up to a lot of time and effort, and an enthusiastic fundraising chair can lighten your workload while filling your coffers!








Fundraising Helps, Social Media Generates Interest

Fundraising involves a great deal of promotion, and promotion requires getting the ensemble’s cause out in the public. Ten years ago, I would have said that you need a press person. You still do, but nowadays you would be wise to also have a social media manager. Traditional press can be elusive, but they are sometimes only a phone call (or two . . . or three . . . or four away). News cycles ebb and flow, but the time newscasts and morning shows need to fill remain the same day in and day out.

Social media allows you to be your own press.

Find and keep in touch with your local television station’s bookers, and if you were successful in picking a tour or event that will engage the community, be ready for them to say “yes” . . . at some point. A kind but persistent person will be valuable in keeping all of the traditional press aware of what you are doing.

Social media allows you to be your own press. Write a short article about your ensemble and what it is working toward, and post it to your social media channels. Take pictures at band camp, or videos of rehearsals and post them frequently. Ask your ensemble members to regularly share your social media manager’s posts.

The more activity you have, the more buzz you can generate. And then when the local news or newspaper features you, blast that out to the audience you’ve been growing online and let them see how the community-at-large is getting behind your endeavors. This isn’t an exact science, but with some energetic people steering it, you will soon see success.


TongRo Images/TongRo Images/Thinkstock


Keep an Eye on the Paperwork (with Help Of Course!)

Posting photos on Instagram is the fun part of the tour planning, but don’t forget the mountains of paperwork that will be generated by the tour. Passport photos, applications, and copies, if you are traveling internationally. Rosters of food allergies. Medical releases. Emergency contact forms. The list of paperwork goes on and on. Because some of the information on these forms may be private or sensitive, check with your administrator to see if you can ask a parent to track and manage all of these forms. If you are permitted to delegate this task, do it as fast as possible. Remember that the only thing worse than collecting a pile of paperwork is trying to collect it all in the three days prior to travel because you ignored it for the last three months.

The opportunities to find help and delegate tasks are endless, and should be commensurate with the size and complexity of the tour. Don’t build too big of a team – it can be unwieldy to manage – but involve as many people as you are comfortable managing and keeping interested.

How about someone to help design your presentation to the school board? Or a social chair? A parent who likes to entertain guests could help organize your team’s meetings and make them interesting and rewarding rather than cold and mundane.

Finally, after cultivating this team and working together to ensure a successful tour, be sure to show sincere appreciation for everything they have done. Endeavors like this are exhausting for everyone involved. As the leader, you’ve been applying great pressure to ensure all obligations are completed as agreed. At the end of the process, it’s time to switch from pressure to praise and heap it upon every single person who helped make the tour a great success . . . so you can do it all again next year!

Part 1: Taking the Show on the Road.

Part 3:‘Later’ always comes . . . with a vengeance.

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

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Brendan McAloon, Marketing and Events Coordinator, July 2, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (