How To Tour An Orchestra Overseas - London Musical Theatre Orchestra

How To Tour An Orchestra Overseas

Taking an orchestra overseas can be a complex and daunting process.

To assist with this, LMTO has created a handy guide full of tips and tricks to make the process as smooth and straightforward as possible – covering the essentials before you travel, on travel day, while abroad and when returning home.

Before You Travel

Personnel

As well as the players, ensure that there is an Orchestra Manager who tours with the orchestra (this should be in addition to a Tour Manager).

  • Consider more than one Orchestra Manager if the orchestra is larger than 45 players. 
Passports

The first step in taking an orchestra abroad is to collect passport details for all the musicians – this will almost certainly be required in advance of booking flights.

  • Collecting this information will also be critical in starting any required visa applications. Remember that visa applications may be different for musicians of different nationalities (more on that later). 
  • We recommend using an online questionnaire service (such as Google Forms) to gather this information. Having the information submitted like this will make your life much easier as you will be able to export all the information as an Excel file, perfect for sending over to a travel agent.  
  • Consider gathering all the following information – scan of the passport photo page, passport number, expiry date, gender, city of birth, and issuing country. Include an example of a suitable scan of the passport photo page to ensure that they are all submitted properly. For scans we recommend using the Notes app on iPhone or Genius Scan on Android. 

Ensure that all data is both collected and stored in a manner compliant with current GDPR regulations.  

Emergency Contacts and Home Contact

It is best practice to gather emergency contact details for all your musicians.

  • This should include the emergency contact’s name, phone number and relationship to the musician.  
  • You should appoint a single Home Contact: an employee of the orchestra who remains in the originating country for the duration of the trip. They should be sent all the travel/accommodation details as well as all the emergency contact details. The Home Contact’s details should also be made available for the musicians to share with someone at home if required. Again, ensure that the collection and storage of this information is GPDR compliant. 
  • In the event of an emergency, the flow of communication should be as follows:
A flowchart illustrating the flow of communication in an orchestra emergency whilst overseas. The flow is: Musician to Orchestra Manager, to the Orchestra's Home Contact, to the musican's Emergency Contact, and then back again in reverse order.

 

Visas

Depending on your travel destination, some or all musicians will require a visa.

  • The first step is to work out which visa is suitable for each musician – most likely this will be based on the passport that they hold. It is possible that there is more than one option available to a musician – consider based on price, processing time and simplicity of application which one to choose. 
  • Always complete a visa application yourself before asking the musicians to. This will ensure that you are able to answer any questions that they have about the process. Visa applications tend to have specific requirements for any photos uploaded usually including photo size and quality. There are free online tools to make these adjustments, for example Canva. 
Allergies and Dietary Requirements

Allergies and dietary requirements can be extremely difficult to cater for in certain countries.

  • It is best to have these conversations as much in advance as possible to come up with solutions. Many airlines will cater to allergies if notified in advance. 
Booking Flights & Flying With Instruments

Flights will almost certainly need to be booked through a travel agent.

  • Depending on the number of musicians, you may be able to book them yourself –  however you will probably find the cheapest rate through a travel agent. Do shop around and consider a travel agent that specialises in working with orchestras.
  • Always ensure that your travel agent is either at the airport or at the end of the phone in the 3 hours preceding your flight. If something goes wrong, they will be the one that has to fix it, as they booked the flights.
  • Most players will be able to take their instruments as hand luggage. Players will all need checked luggage – they will not have hand luggage as this will be their instrument.  Cellos/trombones/guitars/bass guitars will need an additional seat booked for their instrument. (Hint for Cellos – place them in the seat upside down: they fit better and don’t move as much. Or, even better, they might get lucky and get upgraded to first class).
a cello "flying" first-class on an aeroplane


Travel Day 

The secret to a successful travel day is all in the preparation. Do everything that you possibly can to ensure that any issues on the travel day can be resolved as quickly as possible.

Travel Documents

All relevant documentation should be printed and organised.

Ensure that any documents stored online (eg. on Dropbox or Google Drive) are downloaded and accessible without internet. 

Communication – WhatsApp Community

We recommend using the WhatsApp Community feature for all communication – from the departure day until the arrival back in the home location.

  • A WhatsApp Community is distinct from a standard WhatsApp group for 2 specific reasons:
  1. Members’ contact details are private – only administrators can see the members’ mobile numbers. 
  2. Only administrators can send group messages.  
  • This ensures that messages in the group are only used to communicate important logistical information, rather than for arranging social occasions. 
  • If you would like to create additional subgroups in the Community, such as a ‘Social’ group, this is also possible. This gives musicians the option of joining the ‘Social’ group, if they would like to (within subgroups, everyone can send messages, and members can view each others’ contact details).
Airport Arrival

The first step on travel day is for the Orchestra Manager to arrive EARLY.

  • For an international flight, this should be 4 hours before departure. You can assume that the first musicians will arrive from 3 hours before departure, and you should be in place ready to greet them. 
  • On arrival, find the appropriate check-in desk and be ready to meet and register the musicians at the entrance to the check-in queue. Use your WhatsApp Community to communicate this location with the musicians. The more information you give them, the easier it will be for everyone. 
  • We recommend that Cellos arrive early and aim to get through security as early as possible, as they usually require additional screening. 
  • Make sure that whoever booked the flights is available via phone or preferably at the airport to troubleshoot any issues. They should be available from 3 hours before the flight and then a couple of hours following departure. 
  • We also strongly recommend that you have a second employee of the orchestra at the airport – someone who isn’t travelling – in case there are any issues to resolve involving missed flights (this could be your designated Home Contact). This allows the Orchestra Manager to leave with the rest of the orchestra. 

While Abroad 

Ground Transportation

Be specific about the requirements for ground transportation, as you will need more seats than you think.

  • Factor in an additional seat for cellos, trombones, bass guitar, guitar. 
Per Diems (Expense Allowances)

Per Diems are a cash amount given to each musician for each day they are away to cover any required transport or food.

  • We recommend that the entire trip’s Per Diems are given in cash at the beginning of the trip. Do make sure to get out the cash in the denominations required to share amongst the orchestra. 
Daily Schedule

The schedule for each day should be sent to all musicians (at a reasonable time) by the end of the previous day.

  • This schedule should be clear and concise, with appropriate buffer time to mitigate any delays. Use the WhatsApp Community to communicate this.

Returning Home 

Returning home is exactly the same as departure – in reverse! The Orchestra Manager should be the last to leave the home airport. 

Follow Up 

Send a wrap email to all players no more than 24 hours after landing to thank them for their work. 

 

These are all the tips and tricks that we have learned from taking an orchestra abroad. There are many more nuances involved, but being armed with the knowledge above should result in a smooth tour for the musicians, the Orchestra Manager and everyone else involved. 

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