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Be One of the First to Take Your Student Group to Hudson Yards

Just when you thought New York City couldn’t get any more awesome, Hudson Yards debuts. Backed by some serious star power and VIPs, Hudson Yards opened to the public on March 15, 2019. As the largest private development in the nation’s history, it’s an epic addition to the New York City landscape. Be one of the first to take your student group to Hudson Yards.

What is Hudson Yards?

Hudson Yards is a sprawling, gleaming 26+ acre complex on the West Side of Midtown Manhattan. It’s a neighborhood comprised of restaurants, shops, office space, residences, gardens and green space, attractions and the world’s first Equinox Hotel®.

How Do We Get There?

Hudson Yards is located between 10th and 12th Avenues from West 30th to West 34th Streets. Student groups can take the No. 7 Subway (which runs from Times Square and beyond) right to the new station, just steps from the east lobby across Hudson Park. The M34-SBS, M12 and M11 bus lines stop near the building as well. Groups may also take the Midtown Ferry which stops at the West 39th Street and West Side Highway terminal.

What Can We Do There?

Hudson Yards is home to some distinctly unique attractions, including the “Vessel.” The Vessel is a temporary name for the centerpiece of the complex and unlike anything ever built before. Students will love climbing 2,500 steps and 80 landings nearly one vertical mile above the Public Square and Gardens on a spiral staircase for different heights, angles and viewpoints of the city.

Snark Park is on the second floor of the Shops at Hudson Yards and is part of a “Floor of Discovery.” It is a constantly changing, interactive space seeking to recreate the familiar in new and creative ways. Art, retail and sweet treats come together in a themed, park-like destination. Right now, it is a hot spot in NYC for Instagram-able selfies (nirvana for student groups!)

Talk about a cool park – the Public Square and Gardens is built over railyards and cooled by jet engines! It’s built to be sustainable and used for year-round enjoyment. It’s an elevated paradise of flora and fauna and a marvel of engineering.

As if these attractions aren’t enough, there are lots of dining and shopping options perfect for students.

The Shed

The Shed is THE place to be for artists. It’s a movable venue that can adapt to host many different disciplines and audience sizes. It has a 500-seat theater, two floors of column-free galleries and a hall for large-scale performances. It also has an event and rehearsal space on the top floor known as Tisch Skylights.


While the writer of this piece quivers, students will quest to visit the Edge, the highest outdoor deck (1,100 feet!) in the western hemisphere when it opens in 2020. A glass floor juts out 65 feet from the building at 30 Hudson Yards for the most breathtaking, panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline.

Be among the first to take your student group to Hudson Yards. It’s a shining new jewel in a city filled with treasures. As you plan your NYC travel, Kaleidoscope Adventures is ready to help. Trust the KA team of experts at 407-345-4899 for travel beyond expectations!

5 Festive Holiday Parades for Marching Bands

I’m one of those people who gets excited when the stores put up Christmas lights beside pumpkins. I can’t wait for the holiday music to start playing on a loop and I buy wrapping paper in bulk. We get a few short weeks when it seems as if the world is just a bit cheerier and people a little kinder. I want to soak it all in for as long as possible! One of my favorite ways to kick off the magic of the season is with a holiday parade. Lively marching bands, exquisite floats and giant balloons make for big smiles and happy hearts!  Here are 5 festive holiday parades for marching bands.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City is the world’s largest! Bands of all shapes and sizes can apply to entertain crowds of nearly 3 million live spectators and 50 million television viewers. It’s packed with celebrities, floats, performances, and of course, those giant floating bits of pop culture! Applications are usually due no later than April 1st for the following year’s parade so start planning now.

Hollywood Christmas Parade

If you’re looking for a warmer parade route, think about sunny southern California and the Hollywood Christmas Parade. This one is held the Sunday after Thanksgiving and bands of all types are welcome to apply. Participation is based on a variety of criteria, including musicianship, marching ability, uniqueness and entertainment value. Bands must also be able to perform field show-type maneuvers while marching.

This parade promises to be packed with star power and pageantry so be sure to submit your application by the February 1st deadline of the parade year.

Nashville Christmas Parade

The Nashville Christmas Parade has been a Tennessee tradition since 1927. It includes celebrity appearances, elaborate floats, balloons and performing groups. The parade route travels the “Musical Mile” with hundreds of thousands of spectators ready to cheer on your group! It’s a great way to kick off Christmas – country style!

6abc Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Day Parade

Nearly 100 years old, the 6abc Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Day Parade is the oldest in the country! Balloons, floats and fan favorites are the hallmarks of this iconic Philadelphia event, along with talented marching bands and performers. There are spots for 19 talented bands of 90 or more!

America’s Thanksgiving Parade® in Detroit

Finally, mark the start of the holiday season with a Michigan tradition! The America’s Thanksgiving Parade® Detroit starts bright and early as hundreds of thousands of spectators line historic Woodward Avenue. They’ll watch as colorful floats, gigantic balloons and thunderous marching bands pass. Your band can take part in the fun and excitement based on their performances and quality of music as well as overall presentations. It’s a unique, once in a lifetime experience sure to set the mood for a joyful holiday.

Holiday parades are a great performance opportunity for marching bands and performance groups. There’s nothing like a live crowd or a chance to be in front of a televised audience. When the department store trees go up this year, think of them as a cheerful reminder that the holidays are almost here. Hopefully they’ll inspire you to kick off the magic of the season by planning your performance trip to a holiday parade!

Why Perform in A Bowl Game?

The excitement of bowl season is nearly palpable as late December closes in. Bowl pools are completed in every office, family gathering and on-line, while the big games are hyped on all channels. If you have ever attended one of these nationally revered events, you’ve heard the stadium roar to a fevered pitch as the crowd anticipates kick off! What a rush! Why perform in a bowl game?  It’s even better to be right in the middle of the action!

Why a Bowl Game?

There are a select few among us who have had the opportunity to be a part of the pre-game festivities for these exciting competitions, namely the iconic bowl parades. High school marching bands from around the country (sometimes the world!) converge on bowl locations to kick off the action and set the tone for fanatical game attendees. Audiences of thousands watch as these talented musicians wow the crowds with spirit and skill. It is truly a magnificent experience for both participants and viewers and a memory to keep for a lifetime.

Which Bowl Games are Open to Marching Bands?

There are lots of amazing bowl venues in which to participate! The Outback Bowl hosts young performers from across the nation at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. They can also take part in the Outback Bowl Music Festival, a four-day event packed with performances, competitions and clinics.

The Military Bowl is a spirited display of patriotism as the Budweiser Clydesdales lead the Military Bowl Parade in Annapolis, Maryland. You’ll energize the crowd during your pre-game trek to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

There’s always the iconic Tournament of Roses® Parade in Pasadena, California. It’s a New Year’s Day tradition featuring magnificent floral-decorated floats, equestrian units, bands and more.

Showcase your marching band as part of the Fiesta Bowl Parade.  Festive floats and giant balloons contribute to an impressive display of skill and showmanship as the parade route winds through Central Phoenix.

In many cases, participating in a bowl game puts your students in the national (or international) spotlight since games and parades are often televised. It’s a thrilling performance opportunity!

How Do We Apply for A Bowl Game?

Marching band directors looking to showcase their accomplished students’ skills need look no further than a bowl parade. While some of the bowl organizations use an “invitation only” approach to selecting bands, others require an application for inclusion.

One of the best ways to wade through the process of performing in a bowl parade is to partner with an experienced company specializing in student performance travel. Kaleidoscope Adventures is an outstanding choice with more than 26 years in the industry and granular attention to detail. You can be confident that they’ll get you to the big event with ease!

Now is the Time!

Why perform in a bowl game?  It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience not to be missed!  This year’s bowl season is nearly here but  Bowl Season 2020 is on the doorstep. Applications are usually due a year in advance and hotels book early as well. Now is the time to begin planning your bowl performance travel (or start saving for those bowl game tickets!)

Halloween Celebrations Around the World

Breathe deeply…. October is here! In my little corner of the world, October means crisp air and brightly colored leaves.  It means smiling pumpkins and straw bales garnished with vibrant mums. It’s costume stress and an endless supply of candy. It means Halloween is on our doorstep as surely as the trick-or-treaters will be on the 31st. As I filled the monster munchies bowl, I began thinking about our Halloween traditions. How are they different from others? Are there Halloween celebrations around the world? Does everyone carve jack-o-lanterns and dress up? I decided to “scare up” some information about this ancient holiday and was fascinated by what I found.

Where did Halloween begin?

Halloween started in Ireland with the early Celtic festival, Samhain. Samhain marked the end of summer and the harvest. It was believed that the boundary between the dead and living became blurred on this day.  Celebrants wore costumes and lit bonfires to ward off ghosts and prevent spirits’ mischief causing crop damage. When Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as All Hallows Eve in the 8th century, many of the traditions associated with Samhain were adopted.

How is Halloween celebrated around the world?

Halloween, or Halloween-like events, take place across the globe. They are often celebrated in the same general time frame as Halloween and have similar themes of the dead rejoining the living. Oddly enough, food (and not just candy) is often involved.

Do the Irish still celebrate Halloween?

In Ireland, bonfires still dot the landscape and children still dress in costume to trick-or-treat on Halloween. Neighborhood parties often follow the door-to-door activities. Children and adults eat a special fruitcake called a barnbrack. Each has a treat baked inside that can predict the future. If you find a toy ring in your barnbrack, romance is in store. If you bite into a coin, it’s going to be a prosperous year.

Is Dia de los Muertos a Halloween celebration?

Dia de los Muertos is NOT a Halloween celebration, but it is a time to honor the dead.  In Latin America, Spain and Mexico, October 31st marks the beginning of this three-day observance.  During these days, families of the deceased believe the dead come back to visit. People build alters for their lost loved ones and fill them with candy, flowers, photos, favorite foods and even drinks. The celebration wraps up November 2nd on All Souls Day.

How do the English celebrate Halloween?

On November 5, 1606, Guy Fawkes was executed after being convicted of trying to blow up England’s parliament building. Fawkes was a Catholic who wanted to remove King James from the throne. Today, Guy Fawkes Day is commemorated each November 5th with bonfires, effigies of Guy and fireworks.  Children also roam neighborhoods asking for pennies for the “guy.” No need for a candy bowl here- just lots of spare change!

What is the Hungry Ghost Festival in Hong Kong?

Somewhere between mid-August and mid-September, the people of East Asia believe spirits get restless and begin to roam. The Hungry Ghost Festival gives them a chance to feed the spirits and give them money for the afterlife.

How do Italians celebrate?

All Saints Day on November 1st is a national holiday in Italy. People leave fresh flowers (typically chrysanthemums) on the graves of loved ones and strangers, creating colorful displays. They also place single red candles in windows at sunset and set tables with an extra place to encourage visits from lost loved ones.

There are countless Halloween celebrations around the world with different names and common themes. It’s a fascinating look at how traditions are formed and an interesting perspective on our similarities as global citizens. As you fill your own munchies bowl for the onslaught of trick or treaters, know that you are not alone when celebrating the departed!

5 Fabulous Reasons Kids Should Travel

Recently, I sat in on a rather tense PTA meeting at my daughter’s school. The subject causing controversy? Eliminating class field trips. The district wasn’t considering cancelling to save money, but rather because parents were concerned that children won’t be safe. I became increasingly agitated as I listened to the conversations detailing the certain perils and dangers lurking around every corner. Keep in mind, these trips typically involved the zoo, a play or the local science center!

As I tried (and failed) to keep an open mind and closed mouth, I finally had to add my two cents. I reminded the parents that teachers have the daunting task of preparing students for success beyond the classroom. Achieving this lofty goal sometimes requires that students actually LEAVE the classroom.

The same fundamental principle applies to student travel. It’s a big world (yes, sometimes crazy) but absolutely worth experiencing! Student travel is one of the best teaching tools available to educators and parents. Below are 5 fabulous reasons kids should travel.

Cultural Awareness

Travel is a critical piece of understanding the world around us. We are a global society, connected by technology. However, nothing can replace the human experience of engaging with a culture that may differ from our own. In some cases, visiting a different city qualifies as cultural awareness!

My husband, a former student tour operator, often took young people from socioeconomically disadvantaged urban settings on trips. Many of these kids never ventured beyond the borders of their neighborhoods. Traveling gave them the sense that the world is bigger than what they live, that people are different, and yet also very much the same. When forming opinions about others and the world around you, it’s imperative to do so with first-hand knowledge.

Academic Performance

A recent study by the Student Youth Travel Association demonstrated that 54% of teachers organize travel opportunities because it positively impacts academic performance! Duh! Travel connects curriculum to reality. Simple.

Social Impact

This same study also looked at the social impact of student travel. It showed a 60% increased willingness to know, learn and explore as well as a 56% increase in self-esteem, independence and confidence. Kids who travel have a strong sense of their place in the world, are more tolerant and respectful of others, are more collaborative and adapt more readily to new situations.

Practice to Performance

If your students are involved in the arts, consider the benefits of performing in front of an audience NOT just filled with proud moms, dads and grandparents. It is incredibly fulfilling to take the skills practiced every day in 3rd period and apply them to a real- life performance opportunity in an amazing venue! Imagine dancers opening for professional shows in Branson, or the show choir performing before an international audience at Walt Disney World®. We all know the countless hours invested in marching band- travel allows those finely-honed skills to be displayed in style at countless festivals, parades and performance spots both nationally and internationally.

Classrooms to Careers

Students (particularly high school) are constantly planning for future career possibilities. Travel provides a unique perspective on job opportunities that may exist outside the norm. For example, maybe you have a sports nut who loves football but won’t necessarily be turning pro. A visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame may offer a glimpse into the careers of those who work in the industry but not as athletes!

Perhaps your child loves music but isn’t destined to be the next “big thing.” That shouldn’t exclude him/her from a career in production, marketing, or any other aspect of the field. A behind the scenes tour in Nashville or Broadway can be illuminating and worthwhile when thinking to the future.  There are countless options available to explore!

There are just 5 fabulous reasons kids should travel. It is an essential piece of a comprehensive education, and key to developing a well-rounded individual. Let those kiddos out into the crazy, wide, wonderful world – I guarantee you’ll ALL be glad you did!

Performance Opportunities for Orchestras

As far as school music programs go, the band tends to get a lot of attention. Between sporting events, concerts or even competitions, the band enjoys a certain amount of popularity. As a result, the orchestra and its talented musicians can occasionally be overlooked. School orchestras are comprised of students who are gifted in their own rights – and in more ways than one! It’s time to share the spotlight with amazing performance opportunities for orchestras!

Manhattan Concert Productions, NYC

Your ensemble can perform on stage in famous venues with exceptional guest faculty when you collaborate with Manhattan Concert Productions. They offer experiences you won’t find anywhere else, like the Symphonic Series. Orchestras participate in a private clinic with a guest faculty member and receive feedback from an acclaimed panel of nationally recognized experts. The residency culminates in a daytime concert at Carnegie Hall. It’s an extraordinary performance and learning opportunity in an iconic setting.

National Orchestra Festival®

The National Orchestra Festival® is held in conjunction with the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) annual conference each year. Middle and high school youth orchestras from all over the U.S can apply. Categories include competition, ratings and comments, or comments-only. This is an incredible opportunity for your orchestra to receive placement, ratings, comments and instruction from top adjudicators and clinicians. In 2020, the festival takes place March 5-7 in Orlando, Florida and promises to be a phenomenal experience for your string players.

Theme Park Performances

The marching band isn’t the only group that can perform in the parks! Orchestras are invited to wow the crowds in many of the most popular amusement parks.

Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA welcomes students as part of its SoundWaves program. Orchestras take center stage in a unique park performance venue before an international audience. Even better, a designated coordinator will organize your group’s performance so you can focus on the fun.

Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH is another fantastic option for your student group. The Festival of Music is an opportunity to perform on site before first-rate adjudicators. They’ll listen, evaluate and comment on elementary, middle and high school orchestras. Each school will then receive a participation award with a rating. The Festival of Music will take place May 8, 15 and 22 in 2020 for those interested in this exciting program.

Walt Disney World® in Orlando, FL hosts Festival Disney each spring. It’s open to middle and high school orchestras, concert bands and jazz ensembles and historically has been adjudicated by distinguished collegiate music educators. The festival allows for competitive and non-competitive status including ratings, but no rankings or comments only. It’s an amazing performance opportunity for orchestras looking to gain a competitive edge or simply fine tune their skills.

String players are just as talented and dedicated as the marching band but perhaps not always as visible as their percussive counterparts. There are outstanding performance opportunities for orchestras on some very prestigious stages that will allow them to shine brightly. Give them a platform for the praise and accolades they deserve!

Band Competition Survival Guide for Parents

For some parents, autumn means back to school, crockpot cooking and Friday night lights. For band parents, it means that band competition season has begun! If you are new to the joys and challenges of performance events (or just need a refresher), this band competition survival guide for parents may come in handy!


Let’s face it- marching bands have a LOT of moving parts. They can always use a helping hand, especially during competitions. If you have some time to spare, consider spending some it with some talented kiddos. Your band director will ultimately determine where help is needed but there are lots of ways to jump in! Below are some suggested volunteer opportunities.


Chaperones are invaluable during a competition. They ride the bus to help maintain order, offer endless supplies of patience to students waiting in endless queues to perform, carry coats for those brisk evening performances and generally help students get through the event from start to finish.

Pit Crew/Props

If you have a bit of muscle or a knack for organizing, consider helping with props or pit crew. Equipment trucks need to be loaded and unloaded and field props set up and torn down quickly.

Uniform Crew

Someone needs to sort those uniforms and keep track of the plumed hats for distribution! It’s also a good idea to have a few people handy with needle and thread (or even duct tape!) for last minute uniform repairs.

First Aid

Ideally, a medical professional will travel with the band. However, a few caring parents willing to handle basic first aid is always appreciated.


Making sure students are hydrated and well-fed is critical to a successful competition. Days can be long and rigorous. A little food and lots of water go a long way and snack volunteers usually have rock star status among students!


If you are more of supporter from the stands, there are things you should also do to prepare for competition day.


Weather in the fall can be tricky, depending on location. Days in the sun can be hot while nights can get cold quickly. Dress in layers, throw hats and gloves into a backpack and don’t forget the ponchos (I can speak to this personally!) Blankets are a great idea also and…need I say it…. don’t forget your stadium seat!


Most performance venues will have concessions of some sort, so be sure to bring some pocket money for hot chocolate and nachos. Many competitions will also be selling gear like t-shirts, pins, patches, etc. Your band student may not have a chance to shop so be prepared to grab the goods for him/her.

If the competition is held at a host school, that school may use it as an opportunity to fundraise. Prepare for 50/50 tickets, basket raffles and candy grams!

Team Spirit

Bands are doing the difficult work of performing but spectators should carry their weight by cheering them on! Consider sitting with others from your school to make your presence known. Carry a banner or signs to show your team spirit. Ring those cowbells when the performance ends so they’ll hear you on the field!


While we want to show support for our kiddos, remember that their competitors are someone’s children, too. Refrain from negative comments in the stands, be considerate of moving only between performances and give a hand to all the performers in recognition of their hard work.

Whether you are a volunteer or spectator, band competition season will find you. It’s a wonderful, wild and exciting time of year! Stay on top of your game with this band competition survival guide for parents and keep your fingers crossed that the kids bring home a winner!

Marching Band Competitions

When our son joined the high school band, I had visions of Friday night lights and a rousing drum beat calling to the crowd at our high school football games. I imagined the tattoo accompanying the cheerleaders and the military precision of a halftime show. I didn’t envision countless hours of summer practice and daily practices once school resumed. Not having a background in music, I didn’t understand why all the fuss.

Now with a year under my belt as an official “band mom,” I get it. His band isn’t JUST a spirit band- it’s a competitive band (and a darn good one, too!). Just as the football team practices and prepares for a shot at the playoffs, the band trains for its big dance at the Bands of America regional competition. Our high school participates in the southeast regional, but there are marching band competitions across the country. This fall, 22 Bands of America (BOA) Championships will be held throughout the U.S.

What is Bands of America?

Bands of America is a Music for All program with more than one million alumni. It was created in 1976 as “Marching Bands of America” and renamed in 1984. In 2006, it merged with the Music for All Foundation to become the program we know today. Music for All’s mission is “to create, provide, and expand positively life-changing experiences through music for all.” Bands of America plays a huge part in reaching this lofty goal!

What are the Bands of America Events?

BOA offers several participation levels for bands of different sizes. All are exceptional venues for amazing performances and are evaluated by experts.

Regional Championships

Regional Championships are complete, one day championships with educational events. As many as 32 bands can compete, with 10 advancing to the evening finals.

Super Regional Championships

Super Regional Championships are two-day, amped up events that allow up to 84 bands to compete (52 on Friday and 32 on Saturday). Two panels judge the preliminaries followed by a 14-band final competition on Saturday evening.

Grand National Championship

The BOA Grand National Championships is a three-day, preliminary, semi-finals and finals event held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. It is touted as the nation’s most exciting marching band event open to all high school bands on a first-come, first-served basis.

Where and When are Bands of America Events Held?

There are 22 marching band competitions from September 21st through November 9th across the country, so chances are good there’s a BOA event near you. States include:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Missouri
  • Ohio
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia

How Much Does it Cost to Participate in Bands of America?

The short answer is, it depends on which competition you choose and if you want to include extras. Regional championships have an early season base price of $700 and a regular season price of $875. Super Regional Championships have a base price of $875. The Grand National Championships base price is $975. Sunday clinics may be available for an additional cost of $275.

Why Should Our Band Apply for Bands of America?

Bands of America Championships are nationally recognized as premier high school marching band competitions and listed on the 2019-2020 National Association of Secondary School Principals as an approved program for students. They are stunning displays of skill and pageantry. Beyond all of this, they are the playoffs for which our kids have trained so hard. Find the BOA event that makes sense for your band and showcase your students’ incredible talent on a national stage!