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November 1958 Why Not Plan A Trip?, By T. Frank Coulter

Probably no one would question the statement that the ultimate objective for any school music group is the enlargement of musical horizons and the increase in appreciative capacity for the individual student. How to realize these objectives to the greatest possible extent is one of our ever-present problems.
   We should remember that the maximum of influence on the individual can probably be attained only by using the maximum in literature, with regard to both quality and quantity; that a large quantity of the world’s best music can probably best be assimilated by an organization well-skilled in performance; that a well-skilled group demands the realization of each participant’s potential; and that effective motivation must be provided to draw the best efforts from the students.

Appeal of a Trip
   Plans for motivation are numerous. The one suggested here is travel, taking an organization on a trip. It seems to be an inherent characteristic of an overwhelming percentage of the American people that we like to go places. I have found through the years that nothing gives greater pleasure, arouses more enthusiasm, nor inspires greater effort on the part of the student, than a proposed trip by an organization.
   Such a proposal enables me to demand a greater degree of intensified effort than I can get in any other way. It is possible to develop a fraternal spirit, and a feeling of pride in the organization and the school that is unattainable in any other way. These factors contribute to the ultimate objectives of music education, as well as being of value in them selves.

Discipline and Personal Responsibility
   There are two very important additional by-products of “trip taking,” both of which I feel are highly desirable in the training of students. One of these is discipline. No student can make the maximum contribution to the group unless he is willing to place his own desires second to the good of the group.
   The second value is the development of a sense of personal responsibility on the part of the students. Many who have taken trips with Joplin organizations had never before been personally faced with the necessity of hearing and understanding instructions, taking care of their own equipment or baggage in travel, being at a proper place at a proper time, wearing the proper uniform or dress, and many other details of kindred nature. I have always felt that this part of our training has been excellent for students, even though certainly not the main objective.

Anticipating Problems

   To deny that there are problems and dangers connected with taking a large group on a trip would be foolish, and to suggest that we in Joplin have avoided all such problems would likewise be absurd. However, by anticipating such difficulties, I think we have reduced them to a minimum, and the following outline of our procedure shows how we try to meet emergencies before they arrive.
   Tradition is an important factor. Incoming students know that there is always a possibility of a trip. They know the artistic and technical demands, which will be exacted, the discipline and co-operation that will be expected, and that those who do not meet these requirements during the school year will not go with the group. They also know that at least one of the penalties for the non-conformist is dismissal. With this start, rigid adherence to these demands is exacted from the first rehearsal in the fall, and consistently throughout the year. In most cases, the student who is unwilling to be regimented to this extent will eliminate himself.

Getting Underway

   As soon as details and arrangements for a trip have reached a point of definition, an announcement is made to the group. This is the starting point for more intensive and focused effort. As the time for going-approaches, a bulletin is sent to the parents. In this bulletin are stated the purpose of the trip and as many details of the arrangements as possible. This includes itinerary, mode of travel, time schedules, arrangements for housing and meals, addresses if the trip is to last more than a day or two, and information as to any special features.
   In acknowledgment of the receipt of this bulletin, the parents are requested to sign a permit that assures us that they are willing for their child to go. No student may go without his parents’ written consent. We usually travel in chartered busses, and all details of accommodations and meals are prearranged, even to the point of menus in most cases. Our student organization includes a stage manager, a set-up crew, a librarian in charge of folders, a baggage crew for each bus, and a monitor for each bus who assists the chaperones by checking the roll after each stop.
   Students are asked to give their preferences as to roommates, usually by twos, and they are permitted to sign up to ride on the bus (we usually use three) of their preference. After these choices are made, we permit no trading. Since we always pay all expenses from one fund, we insist that students travel, stay, and eat with the group. Exceptions to this rule are very few, and are not considered unless requested by the parents in writing.
   In due time a bulletin with complete schedules and all details is given to students, and a copy is sent to the parents. Questions not covered in the bulletin are willingly answered,

An Educational Experience
   At some time during the course of a trip, we usually plan a meal that is in the nature of a banquet with a short program. Birthday cakes are usually provided for those who are having birthdays while away from home, gifts or awards may be presented, and similar program items are included. We always insist on having the best available accommodations and meals; this is appreciated by both students and parents.
   I have always felt that a well organized, tightly packed schedule is the best answer to the disciplinary problem, just as a hard, intense rehearsal precludes the probability of similar difficulties during practice periods.
   A trip should be an educational experience, and we make every effort to plan the details that way. We always carry trip insurance on every person who travels with us, but have had only a few instances where it has been used. The group taken on trips most frequently is our orchestra, and in our case, the plan has enabled us to keep a most active interest in orchestral work year after year.
   Of course the best of plans miscarry at times, and our experience one spring proved that our students were equal to an emergency, when we were snowbound on our way to Denver, where we were to play for the Southwest Music Educators’ Conference. The snowstorm tied us up in the town of Syracuse, Kansas, from Saturday noon until Tuesday morning, under the very worst weather conditions. But everyone behaved like a veteran showman. This, we felt, was a result of their preliminary training. The citizens of Syracuse who managed to dig their way out of their homes were wonderful to us, and the orchestra had an experience it will never forget.
   Should I add that parental and community confidence and co-operation are “musts” in support of any program such as ours? Many of the men in our profession who move frequently from one town to another may be missing a great deal of satisfaction. Forty-three years is a long time on one job, but many former students of mine are now anxious for their children to have experiences in our music department, similar to the ones they had when in school. 

   T. Frank Coulter is now in his 43rd year of teaching at the Joplin, Missouri, High School where he is in charge of Band, Orchestra, and Choral work. He has been especially successful in planning and carrying out well-organized and productive music department trips. Mr. Coulter is also Director of the Joplin Symphony Orchestra and a member of the Board of Advisors of this magazine.