Going on a performance tour with your band? Awesome! Having nightmares about what to program and equipment logistics? Fear not! It can be done, and it can be done well! Here are some tips to consider when programming for your band tour.
Director Lauren Haley and her band pose in Christchurch in Dublin, Ireland after a performance
Stick to Standard Instrumentation
Thinking of a percussion feature? As awesome as that sounds, you will need a pretty hefty budget to support it. Sticking to standard instrumentation is your most cost-effective option. Every instrument you need will have to be brought with you or rented at your destination. Either way, this can get expensive quickly. Checking large instruments on a plane can come with oversized item fees or overweight charges. Renting is a great option for large instruments, but be sure to compare the cost of the rental with the cost (and risk!) of checking your instrument.
Reduce your logistical hassle by slimming down on percussion parts as much as possible. A great way to do this is to spend some time studying your scores. Often, mallet parts will be doubled with the upper woodwinds and you can get away with not having the mallet part. Depending on your level of comfort, some parts could be omitted altogether. For example, you may decide the chime part isn’t prominent enough to warrant the expense of renting a set of chimes. While not ideal from a musical standpoint, these types of decisions need to be considered because they could save you money and extra effort when traveling.
Lauren conducting her group at a joint concert in Dungaravan, Ireland
Fitting Tour Music Into Your Yearly Repertoire
Okay, now that you know what you want to play on tour, how do you fit that in with your repertoire for the rest of the year? This can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! Start by deciding if you are going to repeat repertoire. Some directors don’t want to play a piece more than once for their home audience and other directors don’t mind. If you don’t want to repeat repertoire over the course of the year, timing is everything.
Plan out your whole year of music in advance and spread out your tour music. Place some tour pieces on your first concert and a few on your second. If your tour is in the spring, save one piece to work on behind the scenes that can be performed on your tour and then revealed for the first time for your home audience in your final concert. Winter tours require more front loading, but spreading out your repertoire also allows directors to offer some balance with non-tour music for those musicians who may not be going on your trip.
One of the best ways to enhance the cultural education aspect of your trip is to incorporate music from your travel destination into your program. This could mean programming a piece by a composer from your destination, a traditional folk song, or music influenced by the cultural style. Studying music with strong ties to your destination creates deep and meaningful connections for your musicians.
Introducing aspects of culture before departure is incredibly rewarding. Those moments of excitement when your musicians see something in a foreign country that they have learned about, or hear a folk song they’ve been rehearsing being played by a street performer, are ones they’ll treasure forever. These authentic moments of discovery are one of the many reasons why travel is so important to a musical education.
Lauren posing with members of the Dungarvan Brass Band after a joint concert
Programming music for your performance tour can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Start planning early so you can work your tour music into your yearly repertoire. Stick to standard instrumentation and consider re-working the music to minimize hassle and reduce cost. The music you program will help your musicians connect with the culture you'll be immersing yourselves in, and those connections and memories will last a lifetime.
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