Meet MTC Tour Director Sue GuindonMark Ferrell
Music Travel’s professional Tour Directors use their commitment and experience to ensure the music director’s and the group’s trip are successful.
Rest assured, if the unpredictable happens, your Tour Director it there ready to tackle the unpredictable and get the trip back on track. When it comes to tour directing, Sue Guindon is hard to beat. Her personality, resourcefulness, experience, attention to detail, quick thinking and her constant “going beyond the call of duty” work ethic makes up the total package of the ideal Tour Director. When problems arise on a trip, there are few who can match Sue’s creativity and quick feet. Music Travel Consultants caught up with Sue to ask this super-hero road warrior to share more about herself.
How long have you been a Tour Director for Music Travel Consultants?
Sue: I’m in my ninth year of serving as a TD. My first trip was with the Walton HS Band from Georgia, who traveled to compete at the Doylestown, PA Bands of America Regional, and toured NYC. The regional was rained out, but the NYC touring was a hit, and I was hooked!
Do you have any background in music/music education?
Sue: In contrast to many of the staff and TDs at MTC, I do not have a musical background. But you’d be hard pressed to find a bigger fan of and advocate for music education!
How did you get started tour directing?
Sue: My three children were members of the Bellbrook, OH Band Program. During their decade or so passing through the program, I fulfilled just about every volunteer role available, from Band Booster officer, to head chaperone, to band secretary, to — yes — trip planning. Over those years, it became obvious to me what a positive affect music education has on students, in so many ways. You could say I became addicted to the activity! After my sons and daughter graduated, I volunteered with BOA, DCI, and WGI. I had the good fortune to meet Mark Ferrell through a mutual band director friend, and the rest, as they say, is history. When Mark suggested I had the right sensibility to become a tour director, I jumped at the opportunity.
How many total trips have you tour directed?
Sue: I’ve lost count, but it’s well over 100. I love it!
What is the hardest part of being a successful MTC Tour Director?
Sue: The hardest part is dealing with problems over which we have no control. Even the best-maintained motor coaches break down, miscommunication happens, vendors can be unreliable at times, weather can be unpredictable, and a myriad of other problems can present themselves. The challenge is to be as proactive as possible, and when issues do arise, to meet those situations with flexibility, creativity, composure, and resourcefulness.
What is the largest group you have tour directed for?
Sue: I have taken several very large marching bands, seven motor coaches each, to competitions and parades. Large groups provide their own unique challenges, but it helps that we always have a “team” of amazing MTC TDs and others to meet the group’s needs.
Is there something you wish travelers knew before the trip departs?
Sue: I can’t honestly think of something I wish they knew, because I am perfectly happy to have all of the time we put in to pre-plan and to anticipate a group’s needs be transparent to them. The goal is a well-organized trip with no apparent problems. If I have students, parents, and staff smiling and thanking me for a positive experience at the end of the trip, that is my reward.
What’s your proudest moment or a time when you being there made a difference/impact?
Sue: Trips for groups competing at the Winter Guard International World Championships provide some atypical situations, because the schedule is up in the air until results of each round are known. They require a very high level of flexibility and resourcefulness to organize meals and other details “on the fly”, but I really enjoy the challenge!
What is your favorite place to travel/visit with and without groups?
Sue: It may seem a bit cliche, but my favorite destination with groups is Orlando. The students have so much fun in the parks, and the performance and education opportunities are always fantastic. I enjoy the destinations myself, but more importantly, I love answering questions and giving tips and advice to optimize a visit for the group. The feeling of boarding a bus to head home after a night watching fireworks from a private viewing area, or enjoying a private ride on an attraction after closing, with the entire group energized and happy, is second to none.
I can always find something to enjoy about every destination, and many have provided me with indelible memories. From the haunting strains of a beautiful choir resonating through a cathedral in Salzburg, Austria; to a memorable concert by the Preservation Jazz Hall Band after a dinner of crawfish etouffee and jambalaya in New Orleans; to a group cheering as the sun dipped below the horizon from a beach in St. Petersburg, FL; to listening to a student jazz performance on a cobblestone square in a village in the Tuscan hills of Italy; to seeing Stephen Sondheim take a bow on the stage of Lincoln Center after a NY Philharmonic presentation of “Sweeney Todd”, it has been a great 8 years!
Without groups, my family and I love visiting areas with awe-inspiring scenery and opportunities for exploration. There are so many beautiful places in the world to discover! A few of our recent favorites have been Alaska, Arizona, Utah, England, and Norway.
What does it take to be a successful MTC Tour Director?
Sue: Strong organizational and communication skills are a must, but even more important is having the right sensibility about traveling with student performance groups. Student musicians are still kids, but they tend to be more mature, responsible, bright, and engaged than the average high school student. A good TD will embrace that tendency, and do everything he or she can to optimize the student experience.
What are the benefits of having a MTC Tour Director at your side?
Sue: I feel that the MTC policy of having the TD with the group from start to finish of any trip allows us to really engage with our groups, to be able to anticipate their needs and be more proactive. Also, our TDs’ backgrounds in education provide us with a unique and helpful perspective for trips with bands, choirs, theater groups, and orchestras.
My goal as a TD is to make sure that the only things a music director has to be concerned with are performance and chaperoning. We do our best to handle every other detail. I have had so many directors tell me at the end of a trip that they will never take another without MTC, because of the freedom it gives them to have all the bothersome logistics handled by someone else!
Any advice or things you want to share with groups considering performance travel?
Sue: Embrace the experience for what it is — a step away from everyday life, and an opportunity for exposure to places and activities that are new and exciting. Whether the group members are seasoned travelers or have never left their hometown, travel truly creates memories that can last a lifetime.
Contact Music Travel Consultants to start planning your trip.
Do you think you have what it takes to wear the cape and be an MTC Tour Director?