by Howard Clemens
Educational Travel Consultants has an excellent relationship with many schools across the United States that have been traveling with us for well over a decade. Susan Grooms is a Music Specialist for Meramec Elementary Choir in Clayton, Missouri, and a suburb of Saint Louis. She has been taking her choir to Washington D.C. every other year with Educational Travel Consultants for the past 14 years.
The following interview with Susan captures the essence of the Educational Travel Consultants’ student tour experience from the perspective of a music teacher.
Q. What are some of the most important logistics for a music teacher when taking a performance group to a major venue in Washington D.C.?
A. The most important thing for me is to have all of the details in line for the performance with the venue before the group sings. Most of the venues in Washington D.C. are overseen by the government. An Educational Travel Consultant staff member takes care of everything in advance, by contacting the appropriate official and obtaining clearance for our group. We arrive, set up and sing.
Q. What is most important aspect of touring to a student performer? visiting Washington D.C.
A. I would say my students love seeing the monuments and performing at them. It??s just very inspiring to stand at the Lincoln Memorial and sing. I pointed out last Tuesday to our choir that we sang exactly where Barack Obama took his oath of office. The performance trip to Washington D.C. really comes to life for my students when they see it on television — then they’re actually there.
Q. How long have you peen taking performance groups up to Washington D.C. with ETC?
A. I have been going to Washington D.C. with ETC for 14 years. One year we went to Nashville instead. This year we are going to Kansas City. With my teaching schedule, I just don’t have time to attend to all these details. I insist on using ETC because they know what I want and they are experts at working out all the particulars. I am confident ETC will make a great trip for the choir, no matter what the destination.
Q. Do you take the choir or are there other types of instrumental groups that attend these student trips?
A. All I’ve ever done is accompany the choir to Washington D.C. and other destinations. I teach General Music from K-5th Grade and the choir is an extra-curricular activity for me.
Q. Where in Washington D.C. have your groups been able to perform?
A. We performed four times at the Old Post Office. It has a wonderful indoor stage. The group has also performed on the steps of Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, The Capitol, and the new Roosevelt Monument.
Q. Are there complementary activities that you prefer to schedule with your groups after performances are over and touring begins?
A. We attempt to keep costs low, so public performances are not on the itinerary. We usually do a pool party one evening and the early evening ride around the monuments in the busses. The student group always stops at the statue of Einstein, gets out, and we take fabulous pictures there. Other activities that are low cost are a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. It’s exciting for students to watch the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. Last time we visited Arlington, we got to present a wreath for our school. This was very special. Six hundred schools applied and there were only 10 wreaths presented that day.
The choir also visits Mount Vernon. Periodically, we visit the Capitol Building. But sometimes we can??t fit it into our schedule. Students love a visit to the FBI Museum as well.
Q. What is it like for students to perform at the monuments, or anywhere else in Washington D.C.?
A. Crowds can be big or small. It’s a walk-by crowd. But if the choir starts singing the public tends to pay attention. I prefer to schedule student performances in the middle of the day. A lunchtime crowd is nice. My favorite place to perform is the Old Post Office. Once we were performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and the President’s office buzzed us. We waved flags. We had 80 kids waving red white and blue. They just wanted to see what was happening.
Q. What aspects of touring with ETC do you like?
A. I do not have to worry about details. If something happens during the middle of a trip, and we need to make a change the tour guide is accommodating and makes changes right on the spot. One night a pool party rained out and they were able to obtain restaurant reservations for our large group. Tour guides know the city. They help us solve problems. When you travel with a large student group, things happen that are unpredictable. I just would not travel without a tour guide or a travel agent. ETC is very resourceful and reliable.
In addition to scheduling a performance tour to Washington D.C. every other year, Susan Grooms is also bringing her choir to some other cities, such as Kansas City and Nashville. She says she would not tour with any other company — because she knows she can expect personal service, flexibility, and excellent planning and execution of performance tours with Educational Travel Consultants. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or request a quote for a student trip to Washington D.C.