Traveling with a group is always challenging, but the rewards far outweigh the work involved. This is especially true when traveling with a school music group. Taking a music group on the road offers your students wonderful opportunities to play in some of the best venues in the world and have that once-in–a-lifetime performance experience. To make sure your students are given the optimal chance to perform their best, work with your travel partner in advance to ensure they know exactly what you need. Here are some important questions to ask:
Where are your performing sites (i.e. public spaces, concert halls, landmarks, etc.)? Most companies offer many options and can tailor your performance site to your educational goals. Decide what you want your students to experience and convey that to your travel partner.
Do the sites fit the size of the group, the volume of the group, the planned musical literature, and the musical and educational goals of the group? Not all sites work equally well for the type of ensemble or the type of music you will be performing. For example, "Louie, Louie" is inappropriate for Pearl Harbor; churches and cathedrals often have strict guidelines on choirs performing non-secular works.
Will there be an audience and what kind of concert promotion can be expected? If you are planning a formal concert, then it’s important that someone is working to let the local people know you will be performing.
Are the performances adjudicated and, if so, what are the performance requirements? If you are performing for a rated festival or contest, you need to know in advance if there are special performance requirements. You want to put your best foot forward and knowing the details in advance will help you do that.
Will there be recordings made and, if so, what’s the cost? Most festivals provide a recording as part of their package. Professional concert halls probably make recordings available but they are often an added expense on top of hall rental. Informal venues or churches may not have recording capabilities. If you want a recording, you will need to have a recording engineer come out.
Is there a piano on stage and has it been tuned recently? Is there one in the warm-up area?Again, most formal concert halls will have a piano available but sometimes there is an additional fee for using it. Other venues may not have one or will have it located in a place that will not work for your needs. If you are using a piano on site, make sure it has been tuned recently as these pianos generally get a lot of use and go out of tune quickly.
Is there an adequate warm-up area or can we warm-up on stage? Most formal concert venues will have a warm-up area but you need to check to see if it’s large enough to do a whole-group warm-up. If you are playing in an informal venue or non-traditional concert setting, such as a park, historic site or church, they may not have an area at all. You need to know in advance so you and your travel partner can make alternate plans for a good warm-up.
Are there chairs, stands and/or risers available in both the warm-up area and the stage? Knowing in advance the availability of these items will let you plan your set-up, warm-up and will let you know if you should bring wire stands with you.
Are tuners and metronomes available? If you will need these tools during your warm-up, you need to know if they are already there. Since they can be expensive, you would rather use the venue's so you don’t have to put yours under a bus.
Are there adequate toilets easily available? Regardless of how far the journey is to the performance site, you will always have students who need to go when you get there and before you leave. Plan ahead, especially if you’re performing in a non-traditional venue. Some sites have very limited access to restrooms.
By working with your travel partner on these and other details, you will be more prepared for your trip. This will help ensure that when your students step on stage they (and you) can focus on giving that once-in-a-lifetime performance.
Paul Sikes owns and opperates School Travel Online.