Everything you need to know about planning a school music tour.
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Director of Music at The Peterborough School
Helena McKillop Director of Music at The Peterborough School and music touring veteran shares some of her school’s music tour experiences and offers some tips for first time tour leaders.
Why do you tour and what do you think are the main benefits for music leaders and students?
For the leader it is a way of getting to know your pupils outside the classroom. When we are away the pupils are taught the importance of performing in a professional environment and ensuring that their performances are always of the highest standard.
Touring is a very good PR exercise too - the reputation of your school goes beyond your town/city, you would be surprised how much people enjoy seeing children perform and may well ask you back.
In your experience do tours help motivate ensembles?
Absolutely. It’s something to work towards each year. Success will breed success. Make sure you take photos. Do a collage when you get back so everyone can see what a great time everyone had.
How did you find your music tour operator?
I did a lot of research prior to my first tour and in fact started with a weekend trip to Disneyland Paris. I have been touring with them now for nearly 20 years! For me it's important to work with a group of people who listen to your requirements and provide you with high quality performing experiences and good accommodation. Club Europe's experience and advice was very valuable.
What have been the highlights of your many music tours?
There were so many. Mostly I remember the smiles, the laughter and the experience our youngsters got from performing in the most beautiful locations.
Helena’s top ten tips for first time leaders
- Work with your team of staff, don't do everything on your own.
- Consider what type of tour you want and what country/region/town would best suit your needs.
- You may well need to sell your idea to your SMT. It took me three years to convince one school that this was a good idea. Don't give up, it's worth every minute of your time, the rewards go way beyond the classroom.
- Find a tour company that works for you and offers you a top quality experience - Club Europe have always been excellent. Bear in mind a cheaper tour may not always mean better value for money.
- Go and visit the place you will be staying in and look at the venues. Remember to take different plugs! Visiting the place you are due to visit will help you write a more realistic risk assessment and be more informed when talking to parents.
- Make the most of your tour manager. Having someone being able to speak the language is invaluable.
- Always put the safety and welfare of the pupils first. This may mean having to be forthright with people.
- Do room checks and make it fun, turn it into a competition.
- Think very carefully about rooming - split the boys and girls onto different floors if you can - if not make sure that members of staff are located in the rooms in between. Spread the teachers' rooms out, if possible.
- We have always stayed in places where there is no tv/phone in the rooms. This encouraged us all to sit together and entertain ourselves and organise games. The students love it!