Sunday, November 24, 2013

Choir Chatter: Planning a Balanced Tour

My most defining personal experiences have been through travel, and I consider myself fortunate to have traveled to a couple great places through my membership in various musical ensembles.  The music programs I’ve observed with an established tour seem to be stronger and have more pride.  I wanted to give my small-town Montana students the opportunity for a life experience outside of the choir room.  

So, I came off maternity leave last Fall and planned a choir tour to our closest big city, Seattle.  I knew I couldn't go with a canned experience, so I planned it from scratch.  Some notes:

Choose Your Destination
Nothing caught my eye in the constant influx of travel mail from different educational companies, but Seattle kept coming to mind.  I’ve traveled there many times, most recently with Dolce Canto to perform in the NW ACDA Conference in 2010.  The drive is one I know well, and I feel comfortable with the layout and culture of the city.  Plus, my friend Rachel lives and teaches choir out there, and I think a student-exchange is a key part of a successful tour.    

Choose Your Date
Ideally, a tour date would be chosen at least a year in advance.  We chose this date in the Fall based on the school calendar- right at the end of the school year, but no conflicts with sports. Check with administration, and the rest of the faculty before you set your date.  

Start browsing, pinning, and bookmarking.  As you're finding info and places that you are interested in, make sure you bookmark for later. Get a sample itinerary going, keep making changes. During this phase, I was thinking about what a well-rounded trip meant for me as a singer.  I came up with this criteria:

-Performing in unique venues.
-Taking in performances by others.
-Visiting other schools and meeting new people.
-Learning about a new culture, sharing yours.

Learn to love spreadsheets 
I used Google Drive for everything because it automatically updates between home and school, or have a parent inputting information for me. Housing, fundraising, bills. It all goes in.

Really, we were always fundraising.  When I started in Florence, I told them all we would be going on tour at some point, so their profits from fundraising were saved in accounts labeled for them. I'm SO glad I did that, because some students who worked really hard were able to almost pay for their trip just from previous fundraising!  

My two favorite fundraisers are: MT Fruit Guy and City Brew fundraiser coffee. We also made wreaths, performed Singing Valentines, pumped gas and washed windows, held bake sales, ran concessions.

Communicate with parents, ask for help!
I held two parent meetings to give information, both of those, I had an updated itinerary, fundraising info, and student balances handy. Choose chaperones wisely.  I drafted an application, because you want to reserve the right to say no to anyone who isn't a good fit.  Fortunately, all three chaperones that applied were perfect for the job. Once we were on the trip, I gave the chaperones a good deal of responsibility- they were each responsible for a third of the group. That way, I was able to focus on my music and making the rounds with all my kids.

Oyster shooter with my chaperones ;)

Keep your perspective.
Executing a tour is not for the faint of heart.  Not only was it difficult and time consuming to plan, the tour magnified my time management struggles in the classroom.  Announcements, fundraising, etc, ate up many, many minutes of our lives in the choir room.  I’d be lying if I said otherwise.  My teaching colleague noticed I was feeling crunched around Christmas, organizing wreath-making, caroling, and trying to deal with the usual Holiday Concert stress.  She said, “I think it will help you if you just tell yourself, ‘I’m going to feel like this all year’” 

I was constantly behind last year, there never seemed to be enough time!  I can say that it was worth it, but I'm glad to have my first one behind me, and I'm still recovering.  If you are planning a tour, please ask if you have questions!  I would be happy to help more if I can! 

Our Six-Day Itinerary: 


  • Travel to Coeur D'Alene Mission and perform.  
  • Continue to Eastern Washington University and work with Choral professor.  
  • Dinner, stay at hotel. 

  • Continue to Seattle, tour the Experience Music Project and take Guitar 101 class. 
  • Dinner at Hard Rock Cafe.  
  • Swim at Hotel.

  • Pike's Place Market Scavenger Hunt!
  • Lunch/shopping freedom
  • Get dressed up!
  • Fancy sushi dinner at Dragonfish Cafe
  • See Fela! at the Paramount Theater

Happy, tired, choir teachers!
  • Go to Olympia
  • Rehearse with choirs there
  • Beach afternoon
  • Choir bonding dinner/games/karaoke
  • Homestays
  • More rehearsals
  • Afternoon with host families
  • Collaborative Concert!
  • Return home.  

Other notes:  
*We had a required bag check before leaving.  I was very clear that any student who broke the rules on the course of the tour would be left with law enforcement and have to pay their way home. 
*We also taped hotel doors every night at curfew, and I woke early to check the doors.  
Setting strict expectations of the students turned out to be great- they impressed me in every way over the trip!  

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...