Top Tips for Performance Venues and Festivals

Feb 7, 2023

In 2023, festivals and venues are back in full-force, ready for student groups to come perform in parades, on stages and anywhere else they can. Whether you have a choir, marching band or youth symphony, this is the year to push your students to be their best and put on a show for all.


With so many performance opportunities to choose from all around the world, it might be tough to make your pick.

Educators often vie for festivals they experienced when in school, and that personal connection can be a great motivator—but there’s much more to consider. Here are a few factors:

  • Can I see the performance standards and/or rubric for the festival prior to attending?
  • Is the festival company aware that my group may not be at its peak performance level for a few years due to the pandemic?
  • Are there any valuable inclusions built into the festival beyond the standard adjudicated performance and five-minute onstage performance review?
  • Does the festival and tour cost align with our needs?
  • What is the reputation of the festival company with colleagues?
  • Does the venue have strong acoustics and memorable aesthetics?

Much like finding a job, finding the right festival is a two-way street—the fit has to work for everyone involved. You’re not just asking permission to play at a festival, you’re asking what your hard-working students will gain from the experience as well. You likely want more than just five minutes of onstage feedback and going about your day.


If you’ve never been to a performance festival, you might not know why all the hard work is worth it. Whether it’s a competition, a parade or just a performance, students performing alongside other schools get to see how they perform, giving better context for their own skill level and providing motivation to improve—or providing affirmation for all their hard work. Getting students outside of the school and involved in something bigger makes their time in band/choir that much more special and worthy of all the hard work.

Plus, most festivals involve travel. Groups traveling together form a tighter bond, inherently increasing their ability to work together when performing. And there are all the fun things you can do while on the road, giving extra value to the trip beyond the destination itself. Museums, shows, parks, food—your tour operator can help plan it all.


If you’re traveling, it’s always a great idea to do more than just the performance itself. For instance, many festival programs include in-depth educational options and collaborative experiences, observational opportunities, one-hour clinics, relevant workshops and more.

Not to mention the opportunities outside of the venue, whether it’s enjoying a musical theater performance, taking a trip to the local professional symphony, visiting a music-themed museum, or whatever else you can do in town.

Also, consider adding on an additional community performance, especially if traveling internationally. Putting on a small show or parade for the locals is a great way to spread the love, experience a new audience, and see an actual appreciation for your students’ performance beyond scorecards and evaluations.


Make sure you know how every minute of time at the festival will be spent. What instruments are available and what do you need to bring? Will they be tuned before the festival? Where could you rehearse once you arrive? 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.


After years away from these events, the best thing your group can do is practice, practice, practice. Of course, keep fatigue in mind, as your students need to be well-rested and healthy to perform well and enjoy the trip. But remember that 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, but enjoy every minute of it.

To see SYTA’s full list of Performance Festivals and Venues, check out the January 2023 issue of Teach & Travel.