The Five “C’s” of Student Travel

You’re thinking about including travel in your curriculum this year.  Good for you.  It’s a big step, but very worthwhile in your students’ educational journey.  As you start exploring this idea, consider the five “c’s” of student travel.


This is what you are already doing – thinking it over to see how it will work.

  • Are my students mature enough to travel away from home for an overnight trip?
  • Are my students’ families motivated to raise enough funds for the trip?
  • Will administration support the trip? To make a case, show studies that youth who travel have better grades, higher graduation rates from high school and college, and greater income than students who do not travel.
  • Why should my students take this trip? What should my students learn that is part of the curriculum?  What will my students learn that is over and above the curriculum?  (Character-building, organization, tolerance, independence, self-control, appreciation for their own situation, to mention only a few.)


Now, you need to put together a firm plan.  A student travel planner can help design an itinerary for your group with the following factors.

  • Balance education with fun. Can educational events be fun?  You bet, but incorporating some downtime for the group allows for relaxation and group harmony.
  • Understand your school’s policies. Recognize your district’s guidelines and expectations for handling finances and including elements of the core curriculum.  The earlier the better to ensure approvals and smooth planning.
  • Involve your students. Everyone will have a better trip, learn more, and be engaged if students have input.  Successful student travel always includes student involvement and ownership.
  • Make the trip an experience, not just a “sit-down and listen” kind of trip. Today’s students need to touch, feel, and participate.  Hands-on and first-hand experiences are not necessarily part of classroom learning.
  • Be realistic in your expectations for the group. Acknowledge the financial demographic in your school.  Tons of inexpensive things to do exist. Determining a budget that is practical for your group will make the dream trip for your group a reality.
    Finances are only a part of deciding what is appropriate for your group.   For performance groups, how does your ensemble’s ability fit in the activity you’ve planned?  For example, if your students have never participated in a competitive festival or are composed of novice music students, maybe a big league competition wouldn’t be suitable.  Instead, include an activity where students feel positive about the experience.  Set them up for success.
  • Plan your fundraising. Just because your students are from lower income homes, travel is not out of the question.  Multi-layered fundraising includes donations from local businesses, several fundraising events, family contributions, and other creative ideas.  Involving families to help fundraise will increase your success rate, i.e. spaghetti dinners where families join in, gift basket auctions with contributed items, restaurant nights where eating out benefits your program, etc.  Parents and students not only raise money, they have fun doing it and become engaged.  Your travel planner will be able to set up a flexible payment plan to coordinate with fundraisers.


How many times have we, as travel planners, heard “I have to change my date because testing, prom, other trips (fill in the blank here) was already scheduled.”

  • When you have a date, put it on your school’s master calendar.
  • If you are booking your own bus, get travel dates on the calendar.
  • Give parents travel dates early.  Families need a chance to block the dates before sporting events, a trip to Grandma’s, or a family birthday party gets first dibs.


Once you’ve decided that a trip is an achievable option, your job is to be your trip’s cheerleader.  Promote it in your classroom, on parent newsletters, at Back-to-School night, on your classroom website, on the answering machine – wherever.  Make a learning schedule so students are ready to focus on the experience.  For a performance group, create a chart for learning their music.  Your own enthusiasm speaks volumes to your students and their families.  Once you take that first trip, large or small, your students will understand the value of an out-of-classroom experience.  The next excursion will be easier to promote.


Let your students see you enjoying the trip.  Your enthusiasm in executing the trip has a direct result on its outcome.  After the trip, let your students reflect on and enjoy their memories.  Share suggestions together for future trips.  Have them write a mass thank you note or video to administration or to contributors.


For some students, this trip may have been the first time they ever got out of town.  Trips level the playing field for disadvantaged students, according to Carylann Assante, executive director for Student & Youth Travel Association.  “Field trips give diverse and financially-in-need students equal opportunity to experience things outside classroom that their families may not be able to afford.” 

According to Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, “There’s a reason people say I need to get away and recharge my batteries – there’s truth to it.”   That’s true if you’re fifteen or fifty – we all need a fresh perspective and an opportunity to learn something new.

The Benefits of Booking Early

At this time of year, travel planners are probably encouraging you to book your 2019 student trip now.  Take note – booking before the end of the school year definitely has benefits for your trip.

With early planning…

  1. Your current and potential students get a glimmer of what’s ahead! Excitement builds and recruits students!
  2. More time for fundraising and more time for your students’ families to budget for the trip means higher participation.
  3. Your travel planner has more leverage to book hotels, buses, and attractions at a lower rate. Waiting till closer to your travel date makes fewer choices available and can increase your trip costs.
  4. Your group has a better shot in reserving the attractions that you want. For example, Disney Performing Arts offers wonderful workshops and performances in the parks, but many of the popular dates fill up a year in advance.
  5. Your performing group has more rehearsal time and more time to prepare.
  6. You get your first choice date and destination.

Start planning and talking up the trip with your students now!  You have everything to win and nothing to lose!  Give us a call at 1-888-763-6786 to discuss ideas and destinations.  Let’s get started on a memorable trip for your program! 

Ten Things You Should Never Say to Your Music Teacher

There’s been a volley of comments on the NAfME Music Educator Central Q&A’s.  If you haven’t already joined this community, you might consider checking it out.  It’s a great resource for music teachers to share ideas and solve problems.  Go to, and then click on Amplify to join the all-member community.  I’m sure many of you could add some interesting comments you’ve heard from students. Here are some of the responses.

  1. Are we playing today?
  2. I forgot my instrument.
  3. This piece is dumb.
  4. Do I have to practice?
  5. My parents bought me this cool purple (insert instrument here)!
  6. I can’t make it to the concert. I’ve got (insert sport here)
  7. I can’t play this.
  8. That’s not how (previous music teacher) did it.
  9. I couldn’t practice this week because my family went shopping on Saturday.
  10. I want my child to play drums, after all it’s just banging and anyone can do that.

Al-righty then – anyone care to add their own?  Keep your sense of humor and keep moving forward!

The Fine Art of Chaperoning

Selecting chaperones is serious business. The right chaperones support you and your students in terms of safety, appropriate behavior, and promoting the goals of the trip. The wrong chaperones assume this is an adult getaway, undermine the trip’s objectives, and are late, rude, and pretty much useless. Let’s vote for the first group of chaperones. How about a couple of tips?
Knowledge is Power
Always check first with your administration regarding requirements for adult chaperones. Do chaperones need to be over a certain age? Are fingerprinting or medical clearances required? What chaperone-to-student ratios need to be met? Find out early before you seek out your chaperones. Once you understand the parameters set by the school district, you’re ready to move forward.
Recruiting Chaperones
Notify all the parents early so you’ll get a big pool of chaperones from which to choose.  These folks may have to take off work, arrange for alternate childcare, or re-arrange their schedules, so details about times and dates are important before a parent can agree to volunteer.  Once you have a good list of willing parents, it’s time to select your chaperones.  Now is not the time to worry about hurt feelings.  Chaperone choice is based on who would make the best chaperone, not which chaperone is the nicest or gave you the best holiday cookies or has the best trumpet player.  You’ll be thankful you selected responsible parents with positive attitudes who are dedicated to make the experience safe and enjoyable for all.
Just When You Think You’ve Seen It All…
Don’t assume that all parents know what to do in every circumstance. Prepping your adults before the trip will go a long way to a safe and enjoyable experience for your students.  Let them know what MIGHT happen so they can prepare.
Scheduling and Calendaring
Have a meeting to distribute a schedule of events with important times and locations.  Include meal information, meeting times, departure times, and performance times. Emphasize punctuality.  Now’s a great time for parents to ask questions.
Assign Students to Chaperones
After matching students to chaperones, provide chaperones with parent’s phone numbers, emergency medical forms, lists of medications, potential allergies, or any other tidbits of information that will assist the adult to look after their charges. It seems pretty obvious, but be sure every chaperone on the trip has a phone number for every other chaperone, the group leader, the hotel, the bus driver, and each student’s cell phone number.
Be specific about what the chaperone should do in case of illness or injury.  Have a plan in place and your chaperone will follow it.
No Alcohol or Tobacco
Tell chaperones that this is not a time to enjoy a little toddy in the evening.  They are on duty day and night.  And they are setting an example for students.  Make it clear when they sign up, so there’s no confusion later on.  Consider having a signed agreement for the chaperones.
Younger Siblings – Yes or No?  
Decide whether you will accept younger siblings on the trip.  They can be a distraction for your chaperones and the trip really is designed for the students, not for little brother or sister.  This is your call and should be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Dress Code and Language 
Here’s a biggie and you need to address it.  Chaperones should wear appropriate and modest clothing. You may need to be specific about exactly what that means. And it should go without saying that chaperones should always use acceptable language.
What if Students Don’t Mind Their P’s and Q’s?  
Chaperones need to know what you’d like them to do if students are not following directions or showing disrespect to adults or fellow student travelers.  Most group leaders will want you to refer the matter to them.  Above all, chaperones shouldn’t lose their cool with any student, including their own.  Calm and serenity are the keywords here.
Night Time Procedures
Do you want chaperones to check student rooms?  Are you “taping the door” at the hotel?  You might consider hiring a local security firm to monitor the rooms.  Just make it clear to the adults on your trip what your expectations are for them at night.
It’s Not About You
Although the trip will likely be enjoyable for everyone, adults are there to be helpful to the students, spend quality time with their child, and to promote the trip’s objectives.  Oh, one more thing – the adults are their chaperones, not their besties.  Being cool and bending the rules or favoring a son or daughter’s best friend over other students is unfair, possibly dangerous, and embarrassing when the group leaders calls out the chaperone in front of the group.
And the Big Finale…
You can’t create this memorable experience for your students without chaperones.  So, saying thank you to these important people is a big deal. Ideas abound for properly thanking your chaperones and I’ll bet your students could come up with more.  But rewarding your chaperones with a simple thank you goes a long way to let them know that their contribution was a vital part of the whole educational experience.

Story of Our Beginning

I was recently listening to a podcast about a well known clothing company which included the story of their beginning and the development of not only their product, but also their philosophy about the footprint that the founder wished to leave on the world.

It made me pause to think about Forum Festivals’ early development. The company was founded twenty-three years ago by three music educators, who had created successful music programs at the high school and college level, gone on to carve out successes as festival producers and adjudicators.  It was my privilege to work for and learn from these three. Since 2008, I’ve had the great good fortune to lead this company and continue the good work started 22 years ago.

Listening to the podcast and others like it, I came to the conclusion that many thriving companies begin because a specific need is not filled out there in the world. (Call me brilliant on that one.)

Here’s what the “guys” were trying to achieve:

  1. Although each had highly competitive ensembles, they recognized that, in the trenches, what directors really need is for young musicians to be encouraged in their efforts.
  2. Some festivals just don’t provide appropriate venues for performances. Students (and their teachers) simply work too hard to be let down by playing in a school cafeteria or in a gymnasium, so their mission was to use only suitable venues – theatres, auditoriums, recital halls.
  3. Music study is hard work, but it should also be fun. After all, having fun keeps students engaged, allows them to build friendships, and makes recruitment for the music director a little easier.

When you call our office, you don’t reach a call center nor do you need to explain who you are each and every time you phone. We remember you. There are bigger companies with larger staffs, and they have their place. But you are more than another number to us. You are a valued client and, potentially, a friend.

Three simple goals – we’re still striving to ensure that we are meeting our founder’s missions.  How’re we doing?

At this joyous time of the year…

At this joyous time of the year, we are reflecting on the opportunity we’ve had to work with music educators and students.  It’s an honor and an inspiration to work with you and others who make dreams come true for students of all ages, abilities, and circumstances.  The staff at Forum Music Festivals wishes you a new year that is filled with happiness, hope, and peace.  We hope you’ll take some time to rest and enjoy your holiday with family and friends.

Our office will be in holiday mode from December 23 through January 2, although we will be picking up phone messages and answering email.  Don’t hesitate to contact us and we will get back to you right away.    Thank you for your continued support for our company.  We look forward to our 23rd year of producing music festivals.  Our best to you and yours…Happy Holidays!

Free or Nearly Free

Filling open time with your student group is easy to do, but staying within the budget can present a challenge.  Take heart!  FREE activities can be included in your itinerary that both interest your students AND keep you within budget.  Here’s a list of the top 8… feel free to add your own.

  1. Volunteer to perform at a retirement home, assisted living facility, or a preschool.
  2. Block some time for walking around. Check out San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, Chinatown, or Fisherman’s Wharf.  Explore San Diego’s Seaport Village, historic Old Town or beautiful Balboa Park.   Or stroll through Los Angeles’s famous Farmers Market, a self-guided tour of the Walt Disney Concert Hall or Downtown L.A.
  3. Head to the beach. Plan a beach bonfire or check out tide pools at La Jolla (San Diego) or Corona del Mar or Crystal Cove in Newport Beach.  What a great bonding opportunity for your students!
  4. Arrange a group picnic at Griffith Park in L.A. or the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. San Diego is full of parks and beach communities that welcome picnickers.
  5. Museums are great treasures, and many offer free or very low cost admission including…
    1. Los Angeles/Anaheim areas
      1. California Science Center
      2. The Getty Center
      3. Hollywood Bowl Museum
      4. The Huntington Library & Botanical Gardens (selected dates)
      5. Los Angeles County Museum of Art
      6. Norton Simon Museum
      7. The Bowers Museum in Santa Ana (performance opportunity here as well)
    2. San Francisco
      1. Asian Art Museum – free first Sunday of every month
      2. Cable Car Museum
      3. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
      4. Wells Fargo History Museum
      5. The Presidio
  1. Presidential Libraries – California boasts two Presidential Libraries and both include many points of historical interest. Not always free, but discounted student prices are available as well as performance opportunities. The Nixon Library in Yorba Linda (Anaheim area) has a low admission price, but offers free educational tours.  The Reagan Library (Simi Valley – north of Los Angeles) features permanent and temporary exhibits including a close-up look of Air Force One at discounted pricing.
  2. Plan a scenic drive. Drive through San Diego’s 59-mile scenic drive or through the neighborhoods of San Francisco or along Pacific Coast Highway in L.A.  Include a step-on guide on your bus for a small fee and give your students a greater appreciation of the beauty of each city.
  3. Take them out to the ball game. Not exactly free, but tickets to a professional ball game are inexpensive and a treat for students.  Check out the L.A. Dodgers, Anaheim Angels, San Diego Padres, or San Francisco Giants.  Many teams also offer all-you-can-eat student packages.

We’d love to hear from you about other free or nearly free activities that you’ve included in your student travels.  Post some ideas on our Facebook page. Great ideas are definitely worth sharing!

Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #4) – San Diego

Let’s face it – It’s hard to argue that San Diego doesn’t have one of the country’s great climates.    Attractions and activities for students, both indoor and outdoor, are endless and diverse. It’s just simply an awesome destination for student groups.

  • The Beaches – Ranked among the top in the nation, San Diego offers 17 miles of coastline with an ample array of beaches.  With a little creativity, groups can enjoy sandcastle-building, surfing, picnicking, and bonfires.  Mission Beach with Belmont Park (a nearby boardwalk amusement park) has a youthful, fun vibe.  Beach bonfires are a possibility at Coronado Beach, La Jolla Shores, Ocean Beach, and Mission Beach.   Imagine your group enjoying a group picnic with sand games, great food, and singing by a beach bonfire!
  • Seaport Village combines souvenir shopping with on-your-own dining (including budget-friendly meal vouchers), and an option for performing.
  • Old Town San Diego invites visitors to meander through its historic buildings and discover not-to-be-missed Mexican cuisine. Affordable and convenient, Old Town is just a few minutes from Mission Valley.
  • Balboa Park offers 15 museums, spectacular gardens, public organ concerts on Sundays, and the famous San Diego Zoo. The San Diego Air & Space Museum, the Model Railroad Museum, Museum of Man, Museum of Art, and the Natural History Museum among many others contribute to Balboa Park being referred to as the “Smithsonian of the West.”
  • The USS Midway Museum is a retired aircraft carrier and floating museum. One of San Diego’s most popular attractions, the USS Midway was the 20th Century’s longest-serving US Navy aircraft carrier.  The museum also offers limited performing opportunities on deck.
  • SeaWorld San Diego is a popular marine-life park on Mission Bay. Enjoy shows, experience thrill rides, and explore aquariums to learn about amazing animals.
  • San Diego Zoo Safari Parklocated in nearby Escondido, is a hands-on safari experience where animals are free to roam in their natural habitat. Close encounters with the animals include exploring walking trails, riding in a caravan truck, cart, and even a zip line.
  • San Diego Symphonygreat music to be found here featuring world-class musicians at student-friendly pricing. Copley Symphony Hall opened in 1929 and provides a beautiful backdrop to some of the world’s greatest music.
  • Hornblower Cruises – Take a 2-hour Bay Cruise around the famous landmarks of San Diego or enjoy a dinner cruises as a finale salute to a great weekend.
  • San Diego Padres is a great option for student groups, Enjoy the game at Petco Park. Including a ball game in your itinerary is an easy way to corral your group for a fun experience, feed them all, and enjoy America’s pastime.
  • Museum of Making Music – Located north of San Diego proper in Carlsbad, the Museum of Making Music (also known as the NAMM museum), has unique exhibits, live performances, and creative educational programs.

If you’re considering a relaxed trip for your group, San Diego encompasses historic, cultural, and fun experiences for your student.  Two and a half hours south of L.A./Orange County area, a customized itinerary will showcase options hand-selected to interest your group and budget.  Contact us at to start the ball rolling for another great city to explore with your students.

Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #1) – Los Angeles.

Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #2) – San Francisco.

Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #3) – Outside and Beyond San Francisco Bay Area.

Adjudicators and Adjudication

We’re really proud of the guest music educators that adjudicate your groups each year.  Because Forum Festivals was founded by music educators, the individuals who “judge” your ensembles are very important to us and should be important to you and your students.

Adjudicators are selected based on several key criteria:

  1. Experience
    Members of our adjudication team possess a solid history of successful music programs. Many have college-level experience, but they worked their way up through younger grades to the college level.  They know what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a middle school or high school director.
  2. Attitude.
    Forum Music Festivals is a supportive festival company.  Judges are required to provide constructive feedback.   If an adjudicator feels something isn’t right, he or she should tell the director how to fix the problem.  Being positive and affirming is key!  We are trying to encourage young musicians, not discourage their efforts.
  3. Written and digital recordings.
    Judges should write comments that reflect the major points made on the digital recording. Recordings are used in the classroom as a teaching tools, so comments should address both the director AND the students.
  4. National music standards.
    Adjudication is based on national music standards, but adjudicators want to know about unusual circumstances, disadvantages, or situations that can shape your performance.  For example, does your class meet daily or once or twice per week?  Is your program in a “building” year with fewer returning than new students?  Are there funds for an accompanist or to purchase music scores & instruments, or to finance instrument repair?  Have significant changes occurred with directors or students? The ensemble is still adjudicated according to proper standards for their grade and age, but knowing your situation allows the adjudicator to offer ideas based on your group’s budget or needs.
  5. Collaboration.
    Adjudicators on our festival team confer with each other to provide the best feedback designed for your group’s growth.  By collaborating, they select students or sections from each ensemble for the Outstanding Musicianship Award. The judges select these students as beneficiaries of an unbiased assessment based on the performance itself.  Directors usually appreciate having this role shifted to the judges.

Our goal is to partner with you to provide a little inspired motivation to keep kids in music!  And we’re inspired by the professionals who not only learned something along their own musical journey, but also wish to share their expertise and encouragement with young music students and directors.

Do I Need a Travel Planner?

Well, the obvious answer is YES! 

Sure, you can book a bus and book a hotel.  And you can think of things for your students to do, to eat, to learn.  But don’t discount what a travel planner has to offer your group:  on-the-ground experience, safety concerns, and financial security.

Do what you do best: teach music! Booster parents can be useful, but they come and go.  Establishing a relationship with a trusted travel planner lightens the load for you, both time-wise and stress-wise.  Working with someone who knows your school community, understands your travel history, and can design a trip that excites your students to learn is simply invaluable.

Get real about your personal time limitations.  While you’re researching hotels and charter bus companies, you aren’t prepping for or teaching your classes,  rehearsing for your concerts, returning phone calls and emails, repairing instruments on-the-fly, selecting music, or any of the myriad number of other details you’re required to do.   To plan a successful trip, you must devote some serious time to planning and implementing trip details.  A travel planner manages those details with experience and expertise.   Connected with many contacts in the travel industry, we get results for competitive hotel rates, insider tips for attractions, and pricing discounts that reflect the business that we generate.   Just as you wouldn’t ask someone who can sing “Happy Birthday” at a birthday party to teach students to sing or play an instrument, you wouldn’t expect a music teacher to replace a travel professional whose career is devoted to organizing student group trips.

How does a travel planner ensure that my trip will be as safe as possible? We regularly inspect hotels and attractions, so we can steer groups away from problematic accommodations and activities. Our standards for hotels means you can count on a clean, secure, and comfortable night’s sleep. Our itineraries are designed to comply with laws regarding driver’s hours of service.  We’ve developed relationships with motor coach companies whose focus is safety.    24/7 phone support is always available, if emergencies arise.  Our goal is to continually meet and exceed professional standards and offer the best service possible for student groups.

First things first, right?  The basics are important, but a travel planner focuses on more than the basics.  Logistics, transportation timelines (how long does it take to get from A to B?), budgetary concerns (what can we do within our budget), suggestions for group meals (meal vouchers, student-friendly restaurants, hotels with complimentary evening socials, breakfast options, etc.), suggestions for performing, suggestions for curriculum-led activities – all are part and parcel of overseeing an itinerary that allows your group to enjoy a fantastic trip of a lifetime.

Professional memberships do count! The pre-eminent organization that promotes safe, professional student travel is SYTA –Student Youth Travel Association.  In order to join, tour operators must agree to follow a code of ethics that includes honesty and integrity, truth in advertising, commitment to satisfaction, professional conduct, and compliance with the law.  In addition, several states require tour operators to register and be certified as sellers of travel.  There are financial requirements that must be met.  We are also proud to be members of Nafme (National Association for Music Education), the String Industry Council of ASTA (American String Teachers Association), and ACDA (American Choral Directors Association).   All of these organizations promote and encourage business partnerships that advance music education including a learning environment where travel plays a part.

You need a logistics-expert that strikes a balance between the needs of your group, stays within your budget, and provides support from the first phone call to the end of the trip.  You need a travel planner that incorporates fun AND education.  You need a travel planner who is dedicated to delivering a smooth and worry-free trip. So, do you need a travel planner?  The answer is a resounding YES!  And we want to help you plan a trip of a lifetime!

Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #3) – Outside and Beyond San Francisco Bay Area

Head one hour north, south, or east of the City by the Bay, and you’ll find destinations with fascinating student attractions.  San Jose, Santa Cruz, and Santa Clara, home to Silicon Valley attractions, are easily reachable south of San Francisco.  Heading north to Sonoma County, you’ll find Santa Rosa, Muir Valley, and beyond where student visitors find some unique and amazing attractions.  And on the yonder side of the Bay (and north) you’ll discover another excellent theme park and other educational options.  Check out these possibilities…

  • Visit California’s Great America, one of Northern California’s most treasured theme parks, for a day of shows and thrill rides. Educational days (Math/Science/Physics) are offered on closed-to-the-public days, but our groups are welcome to join in. Student groups can also perform in the park.  For more scoop, email us at
  • Discover the much talked-about Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. Built by rifle heiress, Sarah Winchester, it is endlessly fascinating to student groups for both its beauty as well as its mysterious curiosities.
  • The Tech Museum of Innovation in downtown San Jose is an intriguing, budget-friendly museum showcasing exhibits, workshops, and experiences to inspire even the most serious future innovator. Incorporating hands-on vibe, the museum includes an IMAX theatre, exhibits in biotechnology, cyber safety, robotics, health care, and so much more!
  • The Symphony Silicon Valley offers classic programs with a professional symphony orchestra composed of musicians who are recognized as among the best in the Bay Area.
  • Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, one of the last great seaside amusement parks, treasures its amazing history since its opening in 1907. Two of its rides are designated National Historic Landmarks.  About 1 1/2 hours south of San Francisco, the park includes boardwalk food delights; indoor arcades, a 2-story miniature golf course, as well as thrill rides. It lies on a pristine span of beach along the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
  • Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, located in Vallejo (north of San Francisco), boasts thrill rides, family rides, animal attractions, and entertainment. Six Flags also welcomes student entertainers who want to perform in the park.
  • Chabot Space & Science Center, located in East Bay’s Oakland, was founded as an observatory in 1883, but now includes interactive exhibits, workshops, plus Planetarium shows that explore the mysteries of space as well as the equally mysterious planet Earth. The museum stands as a leading center for informal science education.
  • Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center – Who doesn’t know Charlie Brown? Visit his understated creator’s museum to learn about the man behind Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Linus, and the rest of the gang.   School tours are available along with hands-on cartooning classes, viewing collections, and workshops of many topics of interest. The museum resides in Sonoma County in the City of Santa Rosa, about 1 ½ hour north of San Francisco.
  • Muir Woods National Monument is an old grove redwood forest located in Mill Valley. Though parking is quite restricted, tour companies do bring groups to Muir Woods.    With 6 miles of trails including a ½ hour loop, a 1 hour loop, and a 1 ½ hour loop, Muir Woods also offers educational programs as well as a short program with a park ranger.  Because there’s no cell service or WiFi at Muir Woods, there’s a chance your students will encounter nature with no distraction.

Possibilities abound for customizing a trip that appeals to both your group’s interests and budget.   Linking one or more of these options along with a day in the City offers your students a great mix of adventure, education, and culture.  We’re here to suggest some great options for your next itinerary.  Email us at

Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #1) – Los Angeles.

Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #2) – San Francisco.

Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #4) – San Diego.

Explaining Copyright

If you have performed with us in the past, you know that original conductor’s scores are required for the adjudicators.  Following your performance, the scores are immediately returned to you.  As artists and educators, you should know and understand why original music is necessary at festival.

Respecting creativity is at the center of copyright law.  Music educators are obligated to follow US copyright laws, but they also have the opportunity to teach students about what intellectual property means.  Students can learn about copyright by understanding how creative people make a living and what it means when their own creative work is respected and recognized.   Kids tend to appreciate fairness, perhaps more than many adults.  Copyright doesn’t just extend to the music industry, but the broader creative community can include literature, art, legal documents, technology, and so much more!  Suggested lesson plans can be found at

NAfME explains on their website at some great depth the ins and outs of copyright owner’s rights and how this impacts music educators.  (

Reproducing music scores is expressly prohibited in the following circumstances:

  1. Copying to avoid purchasing.
  2. Copying music for any performance (emergency exceptions may apply)
  3. Copying without including a copyright notice
  4. Copying to create compilations
  5. Copying materials meant to be consumable – (workbooks, answer sheets, tests).

We are often asked about music that is out of print.  Copying out of print works is not permissible without a letter from the publisher.   You can find a sample form on the NAfME website that you can use to request permission to reproduce the piece for the group’s usage.

Do yourself and your program a favor – take a moment to educate yourself about copyright law.  NAfME (National Association for Music Education) as well as the government site – are two places to start.   ASCAP also has extensive information on copyright.

As an educator AND a musician, you’re providing a good example by recognizing both the spirit and the letter of the law.  And teaching your students to do the same encourages them to be aware of the value of creative endeavor – their own and others.

Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #2) – San Francisco

Without a doubt, San Francisco is one of the world’s most beautiful and interesting cities. Attractions, food, and student activities flourish in an atmosphere rich in abundant cultures and traditions.

Among the most desired cities for student travelers to explore, it’s not difficult to fill your itinerary with interesting and educational pursuits. Discover what each of the city’s unique neighborhoods and districts offer.

Fisherman’s Wharf – just the name is so renowned that you don’t even need to identify the city. Souvenir shops, delicious chowder served in sourdough bowls, harbor cruises, and don’t forget sea lions – all enjoyed as part of this wonderful waterfront attraction.

  • Pier 39 features include dining, entertainment, shopping, plus a picture-postcard backdrop of the skyline. Bubba Gump’s, Hard Rock Café, and more group-friendly restaurants are located here.
  • Alcatraz started out as the first lighthouse on the Pacific Coast. It became a federal prison for the infamous and notorious in 1934. Self-guided tours available. Night-time tours book quickly. Operated by the National Park Service, Forum Festivals is a valued partner tour operator.

Chinatown – San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest and one of the largest in the United States. The 24 blocks of this incredibly culturally-rich district is best explored on foot. “Dragon’s Gate,” the entrance to Chinatown, sits at Grant Avenue and Bush Street. Unique shopping, a Fortune Cookie Factory (tours available) plus incredible cuisine awaits the traveler. Talk to us about booking an authentic Chinese meal in a group-friendly restaurant in this don’t-miss neighborhood.

North Beach – Just as Chinatown is a city within a city, so is North Beach. San Francisco’s beloved Little Italy features delicious Italian cuisine, gelato, pizza (that’s Italian, right?).

  • Nearby Coit Tower offers stunning 360 views of the City and a chance to see the restored murals painted by a group of 26 Depression-era muralists The artists were hired by the Public Works of Art Project (pre-cursor to WPA) to represent the San Francisco life of that day.

The Golden Gate Park – Miles of beautiful green lawns, thousands of flowers, and many great experiences await. Included in this 1,017 acre park are museums, gardens, windmills, and, yes, buffalo.

  • The de Young Museum features an amazing permanent collection of American art, plus exhibits of modern art, textiles, photography as well as a ninth-floor Observation Level with breath-taking City and Ocean views.
  • California Academy of Sciences include an aquarium, a planetarium, and natural history museum under one roof. A 4-story living rainforest and fascinating planetarium shows make this a popular destination for student travelers. Tours available.
  • The Park includes many other experiences and attractions including:
    • Spreckels Lake or Stow Lake
    • Dutch and Murphy Windmills (February or March is tulip time)
    • Buffalo Paddock (Yep – real buffalo live here)
    • the National AIDS Memorial Grove
    • San Francisco Botanical Garden, the Japanese Tea Garden, and the Conservatory of Flowers
    • Music Concourse – Located in the center of the museum area, there are free performances on Sundays from April through October.

Music! Music! Music! – No question that San Francisco and surroundings offer music students opportunities to enjoy and perform!

  • San Francisco Symphony – With a distinguished standard of excellence, the San Francisco Symphony offers an impressive array of prestigious conductors and artists, including current music director, Michael Tilson Thomas. Committed to music education, the Symphony offers family-friendly concerts and welcomes student groups throughout their season.
  • SF Jazz Center offers school day concerts with curriculum to connect students to jazz. Classes, performance opportunities, and more reinforce their commitment to jazz education.
  • San Francisco Conservatory of Music – Just a 3-minute walk from Davies Hall, the SFCM offers a full calendar of musical events and pre-arranged campus tours.
  • Singing in San Francisco – The City is full of so many options for choirs and singers. Check many of them out at

Other Points of Interest:

  • Golden Gate Bridge – Can a trip to San Francisco be complete without seeing the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge? Built in 1937, it was considered the “bridge that couldn’t be built.” Famously rising through the legendary San Francisco Fog, the best way for a group to experience the bridge is on a bus. Parking is very limited, but there’s a welcome center, outdoor exhibits, free walking tours twice-weekly (Thursdays and Sundays).
  • Grace Cathedral – Located in historic Nob Hill, Grace Cathedral is renowned for works by Jan Henryk De Rosen, as well as two labyrinths, stained glass windows, and the historic Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys. (Their 10:15 AM Sunday rehearsals are open to visitors). Student choirs are welcomed in a “Singing for Pleasure” program – contact us for guidelines.
  • The Embarcadero/Financial District –The Ferry Building houses a public area with a food hall, restaurants, and a farmer’s market. Just a few steps down at Pier 15 is the Exploratorium, an interactive museum with hands-on educational exhibits. A perfect outing on San Francisco’s cold, rainy days, activities abound for all age groups.

Options for student travel in San Francisco are endless! Talk to us about what interests your group and works within your budget. We’ve got the ins and outs of getting around the city plus the performance options that are available. We are hosting Forum Festivals around the city on nine spring dates in 2018. Don’t miss the chance to introduce your students to an amazing and beautiful city!

Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #1) – Los Angeles.

Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #3) – Outside and Beyond San Francisco Bay Area.

Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #4) – San Diego.

Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #1) – Los Angeles

What’s not to love in L.A.?
  The weather is fabulous and there is no shortage of student-friendly activities!

Educational activities abound in and around Los Angeles!  Incorporate a cross-cultural or cross-discipline activity during your trip and get even more bang for your buck!

Cultural and musical events –Los Angeles is home to many options for the music student including the Walt Disney Concert Hall which hosts the L.A. Philharmonic among other performing groups, the Pantages Theatre and the Ahmanson Theatre which showcase touring groups of the latest Broadway musicals.  Further south is the Segerstrom Theatre in Costa Mesa which provides an outstanding venue for the Pacific Symphony, Pacific Chorale, Broadway musicals, and visiting artists.   Local or college theatrical productions can also be an economical, yet entertaining option.

Museums include the L.A. County Museum of Art, the Norton Simon Museum, the Pasadena Huntington Library (where Pinkie and Blue Boy reside), the Getty Center, the Autry Museum of the American West, and two Presidential Libraries.

Science centers are terrific cross-disciplinary options.  Check out the California Science Center (where the space shuttle Endeavour currently resides), the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, the famous Griffiths Observatory, the Natural History Museum (love dinosaurs?  You’ll love it here.)

Movie History buffs?  This is the place!  Combine your interest in old architecture with movie madness.  Explore the famous footprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.  Take a walking tour of Hollywood theatres or buildings used in famous movies.  Take a Starline bus tour of famous homes or spots.  Enjoy studio tours at Sony Studios, Warner Bros., or Paramount Pictures.

Theme Parks R Us!  Need it be said that the greater L.A. area hosts the most amazing theme parks?  Universal Studios Hollywood boasts a great dining & shopping district at Universal Citywalk plus a large, spotless park featuring The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Plan a full day to enjoy Knott’s Berry Farm’s quaint western charm & thrill rides or Disneyland Resort’s two iconic parks with America’s best-loved characters.  Further north, visit Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia for roller coasters galore.

Beaches – So many beaches, so little time!  A trip to L.A. wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of its famous beaches.

  • At the end of Route 66, you’ll find the Santa Monica Pier and beaches! The Pier is a step back in time with a carnival-like atmosphere and fun.
  • The L.A. beach culture includes a stroll at Venice Beach and Boardwalk. Street musicians and entertainers flourish here.
  • South of L.A. are the pristine beaches of Orange County including Huntington Beach (Surf City) which features a beautiful pier. Also, don’t miss Newport Beach, Corona del Mar, Seal Beach, Crystal Cove State Park, and many, many more.

Points of Interests and historical landmarks – California history is fascinating and varied.  Learn about it by enjoying some of L.A.’s most popular sightseeing destinations.

Olvera Street – the oldest street in L.A. – think Old Mexico Marketplace.  Plan on enjoying some delicious food and cruising through some sweet, little shops.

Farmer’s Market – located in the Fairfax area, this is the original Farmer’s Market and is a great place to grab a bite and stroll along the food vendors.  Situated right next to The Grove, an upscale shopping area, it is a great place for a group to be able to cut loose a bit of on-your-own dining.

Central to California’s history are the 21 missions established by the Franciscan order on behalf of the Spanish king during the late 18th century and early 19th century.  Though controversial for the treatment of Native Americans, the establishment of the missions remains a unique staple of California history studied by all California elementary students.  The missions still stand dotting the California landscape and welcoming explorers and history buffs.

Colleges & universities tours – what a win/win for a student group!  Most (if not all) colleges and universities welcome student groups for campus tours.  The list is endless.  Consult us for specific suggestions that would cater to your group’s interests and itinerary.  Combining a tour with a clinic or educational workshop makes this an even more appealing activity for students, parents, and administrators!

Just a sample bite from the huge menu of options in Southern California, let us help you put together a customized trip that your students will never forget.  Email us directly at and let’s get the planning started!

Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #2) – San Francisco.

Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #3) – Outside and Beyond San Francisco Bay Area.

Read Great Cities to Explore with Students (Series #4) – San Diego.

20 Facts about Forum Festivals

  1. We were founded by 3 music educators.
  2. Our original name was Forum Funtastic Festivals!
  3. We started out only offering Anaheim festivals.
  4. The scholarship program has been part of our operation since Year 1.
  5. Most of our performing halls are on college campuses or community theatres.
  6. We opened a San Francisco Bay Area festival in 2000.
  7. Charter bus transportation is always a value-added option.
  8. Tour and Travel opportunities are our specialty!
  9. Adjudicators are hired for their expertise, constructive feedback, and positive attitude.
  10. Forum Festivals was named for a theatre in Yorba Linda, California.
  11. Besides traditional bands, orchestras and choirs, we’ve also welcomed mariachi, traditional jazz (Dixie), hand bell ensembles, rock bands (okay, maybe only 1), dance teams, show choirs, marching bands, and more!
  12. You only pay for those who play!
  13. We offer packages with theme parks.
  14. We offer packages without theme parks.
  15. We believe in spoken and written adjudication.
  16. Music education and encouragement are foundational in our mission.
  17. Our awards ceremony is held at the performance venue.
  18. Judges’ Invitational is an annual competition for gold-rated ensembles.
  19. A flexible payment policy makes it easy to coordinate with your fundraising.
  20. Our new venture, Forum Educational Travel, offers student travel to out-of-California destinations.

Bigger Than Ourselves

I admit, I get a little woo-ey this time of the year.

As we wrap up and put the cherry on top of on our 2017 festival season, I am reminded of the many fine folks that you, our customer, encounter at festival. Just looking at the sheer numbers of students who share their music at festival reminds me of the potential impact that our staff has. Fact is, lots of people work at festivals or in our office who simply want to make a positive impact on you, your students, and music education.

In 1961, President John Kennedy was touring NASA when he came upon a janitor mopping the floor. The President asked the janitor what he did at NASA. The janitor replied, “Well, Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon!”

So, that’s kind of how we feel – like that NASA janitor. We’re partnering with you to make an impact in your students’ musical education and, hopefully, in their lives. Without getting too mired in the details, we’re trying to focus on the bigger picture.

Thank you to an incredible team of adjudicators, announcers, festival managers, runners, front desk staffers, and a very dedicated team in the Forum office. But, I hope you also give yourself permission to recognize your importance to something that is bigger than all of us. You, the music teacher, are making a difference – right now – to an ideal, to a student, to a leader, and to a follower. Here’s a big salute to you for sharing your talents as you contribute to the big picture.


Let’s talk about clinics…

Clinics sound so diagnostic and medicinal, don’t they? (Reference: medical students walking around in white lab coats). But music clinics add another valuable tool for earnest music ensembles who want even more feedback and advice.

  1. Consider arranging a clinic before the festival.  Why not bring your best performance to the festival?  Before you leave home, arrange for a college clinician or a respected colleague in your district to come to your classroom and give your ensemble a few pointers.  You and your students can ask more questions, plan more time, and then work with the feedback as you approach your festival performance.
  2. Take advantage of Music Education conferences. Clinics and workshops at state and national music conferences offer dedicated content about all aspects of teaching music.  Practical tips, a Q&A session, rehearsal sessions, and camaraderie with other directors who walk your same path make these opportunities well-deserving of your notice.
  3. Let us help you arrange a clinic during your festival weekend. Mini-clinics offered by other festival companies usually only allot 5 minutes of face time for one of the judges to come onstage to speak to your group.  We don’t offer this at Forum, but we do have terrific resources for a longer, more expanded one-on-one time with a clinician.  Ask us about it – we’re happy to share our resources with you or discuss other options.
  4. Forum Select – let me introduce you! Forum Select began three years ago to provide an expanded post-performance clinic on selected Forum Festival dates. From the performance stage, the group is escorted to a separate room to work with a clinician for 20 to 30 minutes following the performance.  The added expense is minimal, but all reports have been very positive.    When you look at dates on our website, it will indicate whether that date has a Forum Select clinic available.  Email us at for more detail and dates.

Clinicians love to share their own passion – which happens to be teaching music!  Objectivity is a great leveler and teacher.  If you and your students are open and objective, you’ll likely find support for what you’ve been trying to teach your students all year.  Somehow, the same words coming out of someone else’s mouth is easier heard than those that have been coming out of yours.  I hope you’ll consider adding Forum Select to your festival next season.  We’re putting our best foot forward to help your students do the same!

Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 3

Contributed by Don Gunderson

Jr. High/Middle School kids need to see the face of the High School director frequently. Visit, guest conduct on a concert, clinic the festival music. Invite the JH/MS director to guest conduct. Make it a “continuous” program where the students expected to “automatically” continue until graduation. It is a 6 year program.

The upper level students need to have some experiences the younger musicians don’t get.  Save some activities until HS.

Invite the  students onto the HS campus frequently throughout the year (Band Night at a FB game, pre-festival concert, combined concerts, etc.) . This is something the “academic” classes are unable to do in terms of recruiting.

Make the councilors aware of ALL the advantages that kids receive by being part of a quality music program. Collect data re: grade point averages, students in AP classes, quality colleges eager to recruit (and financially support) “band kids” and other distinguishing factors. Point to successful alumni of your program – and NOT just professional musicians, but others who carried their music experiences into other fields.

You must promote your own program. No one else will.

Read Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 1.
Read Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 2.

Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 2

Contributed by Orrin Cross

In 1973 I came to a school with no music program, little District money and no parental support. We had some old instruments. I approached this problem by making the music students visible to everyone. I advertised that we would have a marching band and march at football games. The first year I had some students marching who didn’t play an instrument, using rag-a-tag old uniforms and musical instruments, many of which barely worked. I opened the band room doors before school, at lunch, and after school, even finding some old athletic lockers we put in the band room. This was the place for my students. It was home away from home – a safe haven and our “special place.” I ended up 35 in the marching band that first year. They received publicity in the local newspaper, acknowledgement by the student body, and support from parents and the school board. That was 38 years ago. Each year the program grew: adding a jazz band, symphonic band, wind ensemble, and many other ensembles. That program now has 3 concert type bands, two jazz bands, and a marching band of over 200. That band has played at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, in London, and this year in Rome. Needless to say they have the full support of the community, school board, parents, and the school.

It is OK to start small, make it matter to the students, and watch it grow. It’s worth it.

Read Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 1.
Read Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 3.

Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 1

Contributions by Dr. David Betancourt and Peter Fournier

Each year around this time, as we are neck deep in Festivals across the state, we realize that you also are neck deep – in festivals, performances, exams, and prepping for your next school year.  Recruitment is a vital part of your prep each year and programs falter and fail without proper investment in recruitment.  We thought it might be helpful to get some advice on recruiting for your music program from experienced music educators – the people who are adjudicating for you at our festivals. We’ve compiled these thoughts and will offer a short blog series over the next few weeks.

  • Collaborate and work with your sister schools and across the grades
    • Start in the fall with inviting the middle school band to attend a home football game at the local or home stadium. Late Oct./Nov. may be the best time for the high school to perform their field show in a special performance for them at half time. Prior to the start of the game or following the field show, the middle school band joins the high school playing the “Fight Song” and/or pep piece for the parents, administrators , etc
    • Take a few student leaders to the JHS and show the video of their performance, followed up later in December (before they start signing up for their HS courses) and have the high school students talk about the band camp, the field show, travel opportunities, performing while marching down Main St. at Disneyland, in parades, and often at various community festivals.
  • Organize concerts between elementary, middle school, and high schools in your district
    • Invite the middle school students to visit your campus by inviting them to perform at your pre-festival concert, spring concert, or host an ensemble or solo festival.
    • If your high school has an orientation assembly, make sure to take the Jazz Ensemble and small ensemble to talk to and play for all the incoming 8th graders.
  • Guest conduct each other’s bands (within your district)
  • Switch roles for a day (with admin permission)

Watch our blog for additional recruiting suggestions from additional outstanding music professionals.

Read Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 2.
Read Recruiting for Your Music Program – Part 3.