If you’re in a high school band or orchestra, sponsored trips to other cities or other countries are easily one of the most exciting experiences of your life thus far.
It’s not often that you are able to experience new places outside your comfort zone, and – just like professional musicians – you are taking your act on the road and showing off your skills.
As these trips are a pretty big undertaking, it’s easy to understand that being prepared in the best way possible is absolutely essential to ensure success on your trip.
I’ve put together a list of eight ways you can prepare for your upcoming trip, with a focus on both domestic and international excursions.
Do Your Research
Where are you going? Is it another country, or another city? Where are you going to be playing?
All these questions are answered by the trip itself, but once you know where you’re going or playing, you can start to investigate it as much as possible.
For instance, playing in another country will put you in direct contact with another culture. Do you know how to say “Hello!” or “Thank You!” in their native tongue?
On top of just being polite, going to new and unfamiliar destinations is a great way to learn more about the world. What kind of history does the city or country have? Think about this research as a type of immersive sociology lesson, and you can ensure you’ll get the most out of this trip you possibly can.
Pack Extra Supplies and Get a Tune-up
Are you a clarinet player? Bring extra reeds. Are you a guitar player? Stock up on strings. Are you a percussionist? Bring more mallets.
You never know what is available to you in your new destination in terms of supplies. It’s difficult to know – especially in international destinations – if there is a music supply store nearby. Also, it’s most likely that your trip is planned down to the minute, so you may not have the flexibility in your schedule required to run off to replace a missing or broken piece of your instrument.
Additionally, right before a music trip is the best time to get your instruments tuned up. If you’re a guitar player, get an expert set-up that includes intonation. Get your saxophone or trumpet cleaned, and make sure everything is in perfect working order – finding out your instrument is not up to par before a performance is one of the most anxiety-inducing experiences that directly impact your playing.
You’ll obviously need clothing for each day of the trip. But, there are a few questions to consider.
Are you able to do laundry? If so, that means you may not need to pack as many clothes. Yet, as these trips are often tightly scheduled, some students won’t have time at all to do laundry, so you’ll have to pack for every single day.
Also, if it’s an international trip, you’ll need your passport and travel documents. These should be stored in a secure location in your luggage – if possible, a separate compartment is ideal.
And remember – your instrument is the most important part of your travel belongings. Do you have a hardshell case for that trumpet or guitar? It’s highly suggested that you use that instead of cheaper fabric solutions. Imagine having to check in your baggage at the airport and finding out that your saxophone is dented from mishandling?
It’s one thing to have your itinerary on hand. It’s another thing to know the details of your trip by heart.
Understanding your itinerary means you can also plan your sleep schedule. We all know that a good night’s sleep is essential to a good performance the next day, so know exactly when you’re leaving and arriving back at the hotel.
Get Your Affairs in Order
You’re going away on a music trip, but what about everything else you need to do?
Homework is a constant task, and one that may not let up when you’re gone. If you know you’ll have homework to do while you’re away, try and do as much as you can ahead of time. This will allow you to truly enjoy your trip, and reduce the stress of managing too much while you’re away.
As with all performances, you’ll want to be at the top of your game when you’re performing.
These trips are a chance to show your talents, so practicing like it’s your professional debut will ensure you show your best face in front of audiences.
As a member of the school band, you are representing not only your school but the work you’ve put in thus far. Take any extra time you have to sharpen your skills – you may want to talk to your band director to find out if you have any specific areas where you can improve.
Also, with itinerary in hand, you have the chance to schedule any practice you’ll need while on your trip – the more, the better!
Permission Slips and Paperwork
Is there a permission slip you need signed before you leave? Are there immunizations you need done?
Work with your parents, band director, and school administration to find out what additional permissions or paperwork you may need before you leave.
It’s crucial to get all of this extra work done far before you leave – in fact, getting this done as soon as possible will make the time leading up to the trip less stressful as you try to fit in extra practice, extra homework time, and packing.
Get to Know Your Fellow Musicians
While your band director is the leader of your music trip, your support system will be the musicians you are traveling and working with.
These trips tend to bring students closer together. You never know where you will find your next best friend or bandmate, and getting to know your fellow players is a sure way of making your trip more fun, more fulfilling, and a more valuable experience for your playing career!
Steve Lipman is founder of Inside Music Schools, a music school admissions consultancy based near Boston, MA. He has experience counseling aspiring professional musicians from performance and songwriting to music production and music business. Having spent more than 40 years at Berklee College of Music as Director of Admissions, Assistant Dean of Students, and as Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, he is one of the country’s leading experts on contemporary music education and college admissions.