Pardon me, I’m new at this. Where do I start?

Everyone has to start somewhere so pat yourself on the back for taking the first step in arranging a festival for your band, orchestra or choir!

We hear from newbie directors quite a bit who want to stick their toes in the “festival waters” and need a little extra hand-holding to get there.  And we’re happy to hold that hand!  How about some tips to get the ball rolling?

  1. Consult the school calendar – what dates are available?  Check on testing dates, prom or other important school activities, plus other school trips that may or may not be on the calendar.  (This means you have to talk to other “trip takers.”)
  2. Talk to administration. Make your case and find out what is needed for approval.  Make them be specific so you can take all the proper steps.
  3. Decide on the trip type. Are your students ready for an overnight trip or should your first venture be an all-in-one-day trip? Do you have parental support or a brilliant fundraising idea?  You know your students – are they ready and can they support an overnight trip?
  4. Know where you are headed. If this is an overnight trip, you should ask for a specific itinerary.  If this is a day trip, the financials are a little easier, but you will need to add your bus costs to the whole package. Make sure this is a trip that your students WANT to take.
  5. Talk to your students EARLY. Tell them (and boosters, parents, school administration) that you’d like to take the next step with your ensemble by taking them to a music festival with judges.  Point out that they will have the opportunity to perform in a new hall for a new audience.  And mention the chance this offers students to see and hear other student performances.  Be sure to lay out your musical expectations to your students!
  6. Get a handle on the financials. Find out all the costs – we can help with that.  And determine the due dates.   This will really help with your fundraising plans.   It’s always best to get some kind of early financial commitment from parents, so give them a schedule of due dates.  We strongly suggest that you ask for a modest deposit from parents.
  7. Book your bus. Does your district require that you book the bus from an approved list? Acquaint yourself with laws regarding how many hours a driver can be on duty. We can provide a bus quote, but keep us in the loop about your district requirements.
  8. Fundraising – You will likely need to plan some type of fundraising to make the trip happen. You’re better off to over-estimate your costs, just to prepare for the unforeseen.  There are countless numbers of ways to raise funds.  Brainstorm with your boosters or exchange ideas with your district colleagues.
  9. Deadlines are the name of the game! Make note of payment schedule and allow your students’ families plenty of time before that due date to get their money to you.  You can make decisions about the trip once you have an idea of who exactly is coming, i.e. instrumentation and seating charts, music selection, and rooming lists.
  10. Musical deadlines are also important.  Once you’ve selected your music, give your students musical deadlines to learn the music.  One director made a big chart creating a “race” to learn their music.  Peer pressure is a great musical motivator!
  11. Emphasize grades and enlist support from the other teachers. Using an enrichment opportunity such as performing at a festival can be motivation for teachers and students to encourage performing students to keep up those grades!
  12. Ask questions! Don’t be afraid to ask us questions along the way – we are here to help whether you’re doing a one-day package or custom overnight trip.

Please know that there’s a lot of support for you!  We work with so many directors who are bringing students to an adjudicated festival for the first time.  We’re happy to make this happen for young musicians.  And, there is nothing like a successful experience for your students.  Chances are … it will linger as a wonderful memory of their school days.