A Master Gardener's Advice on Growing Your Music Ensemble

April 23, 2019 Ward Dilmore

Music Directors are gardeners. They carefully cultivate their ensemble by planting the seed of promise. They skillfully nurture their ensemble's growth and reap a bountiful harvest as their ideas blossom.

Here are four secrets for cultivating a strong music program from Erick Crow, Director of Choral Activities and Drama at the Cardinal Gibbons Catholic High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Eric is a leader who has patiently led his growing number of students down the garden path by awakening the imagination that yearns to grow in every high school student. He’s discovered that the early steps in the process of building your ensemble may not always be a bed of roses, but he’s certainly not afraid to get his hands dirty.

Hands holding a plant.

Erick began growing his ensemble by giving his students a reason to practice. With this, he taught them a memorable lesson: you reap what you sow. He offered his musicians a challenge that turned over a new leaf as he took them beyond the classroom walls with an Encore Tour of New York City. Six brave souls rose to the challenge. When they returned, transformed from their expedition, the word circulated through the grapevine that Mr. Crow was a dedicated and compassionate teacher. On his second tour, Washington, DC was the destination challenge. By now, his touring ensemble had grown to nearly four times the travelers, all reaping the coping skills and the benefits of digging deep to find the courage that nurtures self-confidence.

Here are four essential tools that Erick Crow relies on when he plants the seeds of an Encore performance tour:

1. When building a tour, think of your ensemble members and build-in unique events that you are confident will excite your musicians and present a memorable challenge. Work with your Encore representative and they’ll share some great suggestions. You’ll help to develop your students’ self-confidence and they’ll bond as a musical family. For my group traveling to DC, I chose to have them attend an inspirational performance at the Kennedy Center and to present their own concert at the Armed Forces Retirement Home. You want your kids to feel that you’ve created a unique tour tailored just for them. Encore Tours works with you to build a great trip that is specifically designed to showcase your ensemble’s special characteristics at a good price point. 

2. When you’re presenting a performance tour to your students and families, be flexible. I didn’t have the exact numbers I needed for a perfectly-balanced ensemble, but I was able to make it work. Never let a less-than-ideal balance of voices or instrumentation be a reason to abandon a trip. You’ll be viewed as a failure and there’s a very good chance you’ll never be able to present another tour in the future. Reward the kids who want to go, and they’ll brag to those late bloomers who didn’t attend. When you return home, everyone will be in suspended curiosity as they wonder what the next touring opportunity will be. 

3. Plan early so students can take advantage of the Encore payment plan and think of fundraising ideas. Trips like these take a year to plan. And with Encore’s Fabulous Fundraiser, everyone has a chance to earn their way.

4. The Encore Tour Managers make the difference. Our Tour Manager in DC, Rebecca from Encore, was incredible and worked with me 24/7 to make my trip special and fun. We explored exciting and secret places that no other travelers ever have a chance to discover.

So, whether you’re just beginning to dream of your first tour, or you’re a seasoned touring ensemble director, the time is ripe for an Encore performance tour. You’ll strengthen the bonds within your group, add to their sense of purpose, cultivate self-confidence, and come up smelling like a rose. 


Inspired to take your ensemble on a performance tour? Get a quote today!

Members of a band, a choir, and an orchestra. Text: Contact us to learn more. Get a quote.

About the Author

Ward Dilmore

Ward Dilmore is a recently retired music teacher from Wilmington High School, MA where he grew his string orchestra from 12 students to over 450, in large part due to his incorporation of foreign travel into the program. Ward initially traveled with other companies, but once he found Encore, he never looked back. He has taken his ‘Strings Attached’ orchestra overseas with Encore 7 times, in total taking over 1,200 students abroad during his years at Wilmington.

More Content by Ward Dilmore
Previous Article
10 Online Groups & Forums for Music Directors
10 Online Groups & Forums for Music Directors

Online social media groups and forums can be supportive spaces for music directors to ask questions about t...

Next Article
Encore Tours/ACIS Travel Scholarships
Encore Tours/ACIS Travel Scholarships

Encore Tours/ACIS' Travel Scholarships offer both teachers and students the chance to be rewarded for their...