Now that student travel is back, so are performance opportunities.

When you’re leading a band, choir or orchestra, your travel is sure to be centered around one of these opportunities—whether it’s a performance festival, parade, or other venue.

They all have their own benefits and challenges, but performance festivals are especially popular, as they offer musical ensembles (and their directors) a chance to get direct feedback and improve with healthy, constructive criticism.

Picking the right festival for your group has its own factors to consider, from the performance standards to cost, venue acoustics, additional inclusions (such as an on-stage clinic), and reputation of the festival company. After that, it’s time to start preparing. Here are a few of our tips.


Make sure you, your students and their guardians know how every minute of time at the festival will be spent. A few items to keep in mind:

  • What instruments are available and what do you need to bring?
  • Are your instruments tuned and in proper playing condition, especially woodwinds and percussion?
  • Do you (or your students) have backup reeds, lubricants, neck straps, etc. in case of emergency?
  • Where can you rehearse once you arrive?
  • Consider practicing in a different rehearsal area before you go to the festival, so they have experience performing outside of their usual band/choir room.
  • Make a seating arrangement chart for the festival host before you arrive.
  • Walk students through every single aspect of the day, from what they will wear to where they need to be and when, along with how they’ll enter and exit, what kind of audience they’ll have, etc.
  • Number the measures on both the judge’s scores and your own, to easily follow along with their criticism/advice.
  • Dive deep on the festival guidelines to make sure you’re not disqualified. While it doesn’t happen often, make sure you’re providing original published copies of the music, being on-time, staying within time limits, and whatever else the festival asks of you.
  • Be sure to stay in constant communication with your tour operator leading up to your trip so you’re ready when the day comes.


Another detail to think about is what you’ll be playing. If it’s noncompetitive, go for something audiences and students alike will enjoy and be sure to have fun playing. But if it is competitive, you want something that challenges the students and shows off what they have to offer, without going beyond their current ability. It’s very important that your group is actually comfortable performing the piece the best they can, rather than pushing too hard and audibly struggling.

You’ll likely have a list of a required repertoire to choose from, and then we suggest choosing a contrasting selection to really show off the various talents of your group. Just remember to play to their strengths. And it may be obvious, but avoid pop selections, which are fun and great for teaching, but not appropriate for a festival.

Also, order your music as early as possible so you have plenty of time to practice!


The most important way to prepare for any festival is to practice, and here are just a few ways to make sure you’re doing it mindfully:

  • Don’t forget to go beyond the bare basics of playing correct notes and rhythms. Focus on performing beautifully and achieving amazing tone, balance and blend.
  • If your group is struggling, you may have chosen a piece beyond their reasonable ability. But it’s not too late: Consider rewriting parts for the instruments or voices you have. Just make sure to send a note in the score!
  • If you want to take things to the next level: Invite an experienced director or guest conductor to your school to work with your band and provide feedback.
  • Play different renditions of the pieces to hear how other musicians have approached it.
  • Again, try rehearsing in a different venue to experience new dynamics and hear articulations in a new light.
  • Record rehearsals and come back to them later for a closer listen, when you’re not so distracted by managing the classroom.


Keep fatigue in mind, as your students need to be well-rested and healthy to perform well and enjoy the trip. Just remember, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the past few years, it’s that these performance opportunities can vanish at any time—so don’t just practice, perform and leave.

Enjoy every second of it, and plan an amazing trip around the performance, with the help of Super Holiday Tours.