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Taking Student Performance Trips to Washington D.C. with ETC

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 info@educationaltravelconsultants.com or request a quote for a student trip to Washington D.C.

Performance Tour Venues in Washington D.C.

For band directors, music teachers, and those involved with education and musical performance groups, Washington D.C. is a great choice for a performance tour. The city offers a rich array of public performance venues open to student groups. In order to book a successful student performance tour, make sure to partner with a qualified educational travel consultant with experience in booking student travel groups with a performance emphasis. The selected travel company should already have organized and executed performance tours for large groups at major destinations and have qualified staff that specializes in working with musicians.
Select an Educational Travel Company With Experience in Performance Tours
Student performance groups have special requirements when traveling that must be accommodated in order for a tour to run smoothly. For example, many musicians will need to bring their instruments and they must be secure during travel between locations and on the airplane. For the best possible outcome on performance tour, travel with experienced tour guides and bus drivers used to working with performance groups. Some locations in Washington D.C. will not allow chairs, or electricity or sound systems. And, due to security regulations in Washington D.C., bus drivers must know where to park or drop off. Experienced tour personnel are essential.
Choose a Washington D.C. Performance Venue
Scheduling a performance at one of the main venues in Washington D.C. is no easy task, and requires at least three months advance notice. If possible, make sure to give at least 6 months to one year advance notice prior to a performance tour so that a music group or high school band or orchestra can be assured they will perform at their chosen venue.
Here is a short list of possible performance spaces in Washington D.C. that offers great exposure for a musical group: White House Ellipse, U.S Capitol (Upper Senate Park and West Front on Weekends), The Lincoln Memorial, The Jefferson Memorial and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. There are two additional venues with special requirements: Old Post Office Pavilion (under 40 performers) and the U.S. Naval Memorial (for bands only).
Planning the Program for the Performance Tour
For the student travel organizer with so many different staging areas to choose from — it may seem overwhelming. Once the logistics are planned and the location selected a public performance in downtown Washington D.C. becomes a reality and students get excited. Groups will need to prepare and rehearse a program that lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour, depending upon the location chosen.
Suggested Activities for Performance Tours
Performance tours to Washington D.C. also include other fun activities, and may last 3 to 4 days or longer, depending upon the group. Choose from a variety of exciting destinations such as the Kennedy Center to see professionals perform. Or, take a student group to visit the Crime and Punishment Museum that just opened. It features the America’s Most Wanted Studio on the second Floor. Complement these student tour activities with a visit to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner one evening for a glimpse of rock-n-roll history — always a popular choice among student groups but even more popular with a high school band, orchestra, or ensemble. Round out the student trip with some of the most popular destinations in Washington D.C. such as the White House and Capitol or portions of the Smithsonian Museum to complete the educational tour experience.
With so many different destinations to choose from in the Washington D.C. area, it is easy to create a performance tour that is fun, interesting, and educational and includes a chance for the group to perform at a desirable venue.

To book a performance tour to Washington D.C. fill out this short questionnaire, or contact an Educational Travel consultant.

What Does a Music Director Require for a Successful Group Performance Tour?

Public performance is an important component to many disciplines, but especially music. Delighting a crowd with musical expertise is something any student in the high school choir, high school orchestra, high school band, or jazz ensemble will find appealing. Special performance tours are designed for this group of young travelers. These tours culminate with a pubic performance – the ultimate learning experience. Music Directors need to balance the needs of administration, teachers and chaperones, and students in order to create a unique learning experience through the performance tour.

Gaining Approval from Administration for Performance Tours

On many occasions, Music Directors must obtain permission to travel from the Board of Education and/or school administration and the superintendent. In order to be approved as an educational tour the trip must meet certain criteria. A performance tour must contain a musical component. Scheduling a performance at the Lincoln Memorial or U.S. Capital is a good example of this. Music Directors are aware that the administration is looking for a performance opportunity at a well-respected venue. An educational travel company with good credentials can help reserve the best possible venue for a student travel group.

Another important educational aspect to the performance tour is incorporating a visit to a world-class musical performance into the tour. Student travel groups may see the Washington Symphony, attend a Musical Dinner Theater, or during certain times of year, watch the U.S. Navy Band or U.S. Marine Band perform while in Washington D.C. Crafting the performance tour in this way makes it very appealing to the administration and Board of Education as an active learning experience.

Destination Matters for Student Travel with Performance

Various destinations offer an assortment of travel experiences that include workshops and performance venues. Orlando, Florida, Washington D.C. and New York City all offer great venues for students on performance tour.

Planning and Itinerary
The planning for a performance tour must be done well in advance, with a qualified educational travel consultant who understands the needs of musicians and/or singers, and knows how to execute a well-coordinated performance. The itinerary for the performance tour must also include other fun and educational destinations for the student travel group to enjoy, such as theme parks, shopping and historical districts, museums, and more.

Expertise of Travel Staff Trained for Performance Tours
The travel coordinator must be able to manage large(r) groups of students and instruments and be familiar with audio equipment such as amplifiers, microphones, and speakers. Chairs and music stands must be provided by the venue, as well. The educational travel staff must work closely with the music director to ensure the performance area is prepared prior to the student travel group’s arrival. The travel professional must also have some foundational knowledge of transferring large numbers of musical instruments in light of new FAA rules. A travel coordinator must be familiar enough with an area to be able to direct the bus driver to the best location for unloading equipment and students.

Active Learning on Performance Tour
Performance tours include interaction with the destination in a unique way. Student travel groups can immerse themselves in the culture and community of the area they visit. Sometimes student travel groups are introduced to local performers and other people of interest. This can enrich the performance experience and create even more excitement.

Bring a Musical Choir, Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, or Band on Performance Tour
In the music profession, collaboration and bringing work to new audiences is key to success. Students on performance tour have the opportunity to acquire new experiences that will enrich their musical craft. A performance tour can achieve all of this and more for the student whose passion is music.

Performing to Diverse Audiences
Some students rarely have a chance to travel afar and perform in front of diverse audiences. In U.S. cities such as New York, Washington D.C. and Orlando the opportunity to perform in front of an international and diverse crowd is a welcome change from the norm.

Concert Attire
On performance tour to special locations, uniformity in the selection of concert attire is often best. When a student choir, orchestra, band, or jazz ensemble is dressed the same, it presents a more cohesive picture of the group. The public is watching, so it is important to look sharp. Some advance planning about concert dress is recommended.

The Music Director has a great deal to coordinate with a large performance tour. This is why it is essential that the proper educational travel company is selected to plan the tour. For information about performance tours to various destination cities in the United States, visit http://www.educationaltravelconsultants.com.

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Performance Tours for Student Travel Groups

At Educational Travel Consultants, our tour guides are specially trained to take performance groups on tour. We take pride in the fact that our tour guides are trained for performance groups. When my full time profession was education, part of my duties included oversight of a student choral group. This is where I first got to know these types of students very well.

After 24 years of coordinating and executing student travel tours, I can say that the musical and performance group tours are some of the most exciting, and complex tours we produce.

A performance group has different needs than a regular student travel group. At Educational Travel Consultants, we cater to this need. First of all, many are taking instruments along on tour with them. These instruments need to be accounted for prior to arrival at the airport. A list of carrying cases, instruments, and unusual dimensions must be collected by the tour guide prior to the trip in order for instruments to travel well and reach their intended destination.

A tour guide assigned to a performance group must have special skills. Not all tour guides possess these skills. But, it is my belief that a tour guide must be trained well, in order for the trip to go smoothly. When hiring tour guides for performance tours, Educational Travel Consultants looks for the following skills, or trains tour guides with aptitudes for these duties. These include: coordinating the set up of the performance group, an assessment of the room allocated, electrical, instrument, amplifier, and microphone placement, and the position of keyboards and larger instruments on stage. The tour guide must also be trained in how to work directly with the bus driver, so he or she can make certain that the parking and unloading location selected is appropriate for movement of instruments, equipment and students.

Educational Travel Consultants brings these value added services to our student travel groups because we know that assigning selected staff and providing proper training are key to the success we have with student performance tours.

Email info@educationaltravelconsultants.com if you would like more specific information on ETC performance tours.