Here are some of the our most Frequently Asked Questions. Please read!
APPLYING: (This section contains answers to these questions:)
MUSIC & PERFORMANCE: (This section answers these questions:)
COSTS & MONEY (This section answers these questions:)
TRANSPORTATION & FLIGHTS (This section answers these questions:)
GENERAL (This section answers these questions:)
APPLYING: [Back to the Top]
Q: What is the first thing I need to do?
A: Send in your application and $85 application fee. If you have further questions, continue reading or call us at 717-245-2826 or e-mail us.
Q: How much time do I have to decide to apply?
A: Now is the best time to apply! Applying in the fall/winter gives you more opportunity to pull together your funds. To save several days' time in waiting for the application to arrive by mail, you may consider calling-in their application over the phone, or faxing their application form so we can send the materials out that day. Additionally, we would be happy to send you some of the materials by e-mail as well as mail, to let you get started rigth away!
Everything really depends on how fast your section is being filled. Our best advice is to send in your application (and application fee) as soon as you decide you are interested in touring with SOA this coming summer. We encourage you to call us or e-mail us to find out the status of your instrument or voice section. NOTE: Those who recommend you may fax their form to us, or give us an oral recommendation via phone.
Q: I got my brochure over a month ago. Is it too late to apply?
A: If you have held onto your application for several weeks or it was delayed in reaching you, and you are uncertain as to whether there are still positions available in your section, call us at 717-245-2826 or e-mail us. We accept applications through spring, but it's the amount of others applying for your section, and your ability to raise the funds for the tour cost, that really makes the difference. It is very possible that there might be positions available. If not, we can put you on a waiting list until a position becomes available. You have nothing to lose by asking! See SOA News to learn what sections are open and which are filled.
Q: What happens when my section is filled? (Alternate Status)
A: If all positions are currently filled in your section and you are placed on alternate status, you will have the choice of withdrawing and receiving a full refund, or to continue the application process in hopes that a position will become available. Each year we develop alternate status-lists for many instrument and vocal parts (usually in the springtime). However, when a section is filled, we end further recruitment of musicians for that particular instrument or voice part. NOTE: Many of the students placed on alternate status are eventually given the opportunity to join SOA due to the withdrawal of another student. If a position never becomes available, the student is offered a guaranteed position on the next year's concert tour or a refund.
Q: How much time do I have to return my application materials?
A: We normally send the packet of application materials the same day the application is received in our office. We expect that packet to be received by the applicant within a week. The applicant should try to hand all three recommendation forms within a week of receiving it, so that we should have the forms in our office a week or so later. (For speedier processing - forms can be faxed to our office, and we can accept recommendations over the phone.) We expect the applicant to send in their audition tape or CD within 3-5 weeks. Applicants are not disqualified for sending materials late, but the risk of other students gaining positions in their section increases, especially after 5 weeks. It is to your advantage to complete the application as soon as possible to increase your chances of being accepted.
Q: Is there an age limit? Are college students eligible?
A: Both high school and college students may apply. Ages 15-21. If you are older, you may qualify as a chaperone or a performing chaperone. Although there are a number of college students on each SOA tour, the majority of the students are high school age or will be graduating seniors. In some instances, we've accepted 14 year olds who turn 15 over the summer and are entering 10th grade.
Q: Do I send a tape or CD with my application?
A: No, we will supply you with a blank audition tape or CD-R. Other forms and instructions will come in your application packet. ALL STUDENTS: Please mark on your form which you would like to receive to make your audition - the CD or cassette.
Q: How long will it take for me to know if I've been accepted?
A: Have your Recommendation Forms returned to our office as soon as possible (by mail, or fax). Work on your audition tape/CD and return it to our office with your Information Form as soon as you can. Once all your materials have arrived at SOA headquarters, it usually takes 5-15 days for the audition committee to review an applicant's materials and make a decision.
Q: What is the Demo CD and how do I obtain a copy?
If you apply for the tour, you will receive a free SOA Demonstration Compact Disc.
This SOA Demo CD features some recordings from recent past SOA concert tours. This will give you a good idea of the type of music we perform and the quality of the performances. We offer a CD for vocalists and another for instrumentalists, each featuring either band or chorus musical selections. We encourage students to share their CDs with their music directors and private teachers.
Q: What are my chances of acceptance?
A: We would like to think they are good if you have already qualified for other honors or All-State events. However, acceptance is based upon both musical skills and character evaluations. Only the most qualified will be accepted. We are looking for responsible, dependable team-players who have shown a positive attitude and are respected by their school faculty. In addition, the applicant must be at a musical level that will allow them to handle the level of music we perform. Acceptance is on a first-come, first-served policy. If you meet the qualifications and the position is available, your chances for acceptance are excellent! If you don't try, you'll never know!
[Back to the Top]
Q: What if I decide not to go after I have applied?
A: If you change your mind about going on tour or about finishing your application process, please notify us as soon as possible so that we can open your position to another applicant. As stated in the brochure, right above the application form, the application fee is non-refundable. If you would like to go the following year, you are still welcome to complete the application process, so that you can be accepted for the year 2015.
If all your materials are submitted to our office for evaluation, and you do not qualify for membership, you will be notified by mail and refunded $40. The musical and character standards for acceptance are very high and we are not able to accept everyone who applies for the tour.
If you have chosen not to complete your application process, or have chosen not to travel with us on tour, the application fee is non-refundable. If you were not accepted by our evaluation committee, then you will receive a $40 refund.
If you have been accepted and have started making tour payments, please refer to the cancellation policy that was included in the application packet.
Q: I've been invited on more than one tour. How do I decide?
A: Contact each tour organization and ask each of them questions. Ask for references to contact past tour members to ask them about their experience. (Ask about the concerts, the directors, the hotels and buses, how well it's organized, other musicians, how smoothly the tour went, what their feelings are about their experience.)
Check the internet to see if there have been any complaints or lawsuits made against the organizations. Look for recordings on Youtube, or comments on Facebook.
IMPORTANT: Compare: total cost; length of trip (how many days); all inclusions and admissions; the quality of accommodations; the number of meals included; and the overall professionalism and expertise and personal care of each tour, etc. The answers you receive should help you decide which tour is best for you.
Ask yourself: "What do I want to gain from this tour?"; "Which tour fits my interests?"; "What type of tour do I want to be a member of?"; "Which tour gives me more for my money?", "What do I know about previous trips with each tour organization?", "How important is it to me that I'm with a quality musical group or a group that represents the whole country?" "Does the staff care about the students?"
Some trips may be less expensive, but length of the tour may be much shorter. Remember, SOA tour is a national organization and one of the students' favorite aspects is making close friends from all over the country. Another aspect that is very important to our students, is that they are proud to be on a musical tour whose focus is presenting high class performances throughout Europe.
Things to consider: how will a national-level musical performance group look on your resume? Which groups bring a physician on tour? Which group gives you the most value for what you get? Which tour group has been in operation for how long?
You may wish to order our complimentary "How to select the Right Tour for your Child" from our office (call 717-245-2826).
You may also wish to view some unsolicited comments from SOA members from your area. Testimonials
Q: How many positions are available in my section?
A: This depends on your section and the overall size of the group. Generally, for vocalists, each of the four vocal sections of the choir have approximately 25-40 positions in each of the soprano, alto, tenor, bass sections. The band is approximately 70-90 musicians strong. Mr. Barr, the conductor, will have the final determination as to the size of each section of the band. We do have an overall tour size limit due to restrictions from the airline, our motor coaches and stage restrictions.
Q: Can I play in the band and sing in the choir?
A: You may audition on both, but either you or the SOA directors will have to chose if you will perform with the band or with the choir. You are not able to perform in both.
Q: I already have plans for this summer, but how can I get an invitation for next year?
A: Call or write us so you can be on the list to receive information for next year's trip. If you want to go in the year 2015, you can apply now and you will be that much further ahead next fall. Just note on your application form "2015".
Q: Can I still go if I have a medical condition or a recent illness/injury? ~ Health issues while on tour ~
A: Although each tour member must be responsible for his or her own health, our tour doctor will help with emergencies, unexpected situations and illnesses that occur on tour. Our program involves long days of rehearsals in the US, full days of traveling and sight-seeing in Europe, as well as many concerts. This tour may not be suitable for all people. Those with serious or life-threatening medical histories (heart conditions, seizures, etc.) should consider this before applying. In order for our physician to be available for all tour members, we expect those individuals with more serious conditions be aware that our tour physician cannot be a care-taker for only certain individuals.
Diabetes, asthma, allergies, hypoglycemia, etc. are rather common and are normally NOT problematic IF you bring your medication and follow the medical instructions faithfully. The key is prevention and immediate and proper medication. Our tour physician will review all medical histories and current issues to determine if he or she should consult with you prior to the tour, or have you placed on the same tour bus as he or she.
If you have had a recent injury or illness, please consult with your physician. If your situation would require you to have special needs or assistance, please call and talk with a staff member (717-245-2826). Our tour physician should be able to help if and when necessary, but you should be aware that the tour can be exhausting due to the amount of travel, performances and warm weather, and you should consult with your own specialist.
Our tour physician will need to know every tour member's medical history. This is very important. If necessary, your doctor and ours could consult with each other prior to the tour. This is especially advised if you have had a prior injury or condition that could reoccur.
On several occasions, we have been able to include students who were sight-impaired, had hearing loss and other health problems or syndromes, etc. However, each individual and his or her situation must be discussed with our staff so that we can advise accordingly. We do not want to put anyone at unusual risk or discomfort. Similarly, some of our tour members have been diagnosed with mild Asperghers or Autism. SOA may require a parent or guardian travel with some individuals if they would have a physical or learning disability that could otherwise put them at increased risk of unintentional separation from the group, following instructions, and overall responsibility liability.
Please note that sadly, wheel-chair accessibility is minimal in Europe, particularly since many of the buildings are hundreds of years old. That, coupled with the constant bus travel that we do, can make it very difficult for someone with special needs. Europe is not subject to the same handicapped accessibility laws as in the U.S. Many times, tour buses are not permitted to park near famous monuments, and therefore, all tourists, include our group, must walk sometimes a few blocks to the attractions, concert halls, etc.
Please call us if you have questions. 717-245-2826.
Q: Should I take travel insurance? (Instrument insurance info follows travel insurance.)
A: We do highly recommend it! Even though it may be unlikely that you'll need it, there have been several situations in the past few years which were perfect scenarios for the benefits of travel insurance. We offer insurance upon acceptance. We have had students who have either accidently gotten hurt, fallen, become ill, aggrivated a past medical condition during or just before the tour or just developed something unusual like a collapsed lung. Some students have had to cancel the tour in late spring, when the cancellation fees are higher, and on rare occassions, we've had students who have had to be hospitalized and even had to end the tour early. Domestic flights can be cancelled, items can be stolen, and emergencies at home can occur. Trip insurance is really a great thing when these situations occur. It is not manditory, but we do recommend each tour member purchase insurance to help them if they need to cancel due to a medical reason, or if they need re-imbursement for expenses of medical attention, transportation, and treatment. Some medical and transportation bills have been in the thousands of dollars. The trip insurance is mostly supplimentary, and covers what your own heath insurance or homeowners insurance doesn't.
Please note that if the tour member has a pre-existing health condition - insurance needs to be taken within 2 weeks of the initional tour payment (not the application fee).
Also offered is an additional insurance option that allows you to cancel for any reason. This extra insurance must be taken out within 2 weeks of your first tour payment.
Here are some examples of situations of needing travel insurance: http://www.travelguard.com/whybuy/whytravelguard.asp?intcmp=clc-001-Nav-3-10Reasons
Use this direct link to go to TravelGuard. This will take you to the Gold package, which weconsider the least expensive for the most coverage. Just click on the logo. We highly recommend purchasing insurance! Even in recent years, students have had to cancel due to an injury even prior to the tour.
Instrument insurance is offered seperately, but is not available in all states. Most homeowners insurance or renters insurance can cover instruments - but call your provider to learn if anything extra needs to be added to your insurance for it to cover expensive items such as musical instruments. Please do look into this. Click on the dog to go to Music Agency Instrument Insurance.
Also - you may consider Clarion Insurance if you are over 18 years old: www.clarionins.com
Another instrument insurere is Heritage Insurance. Otherwise, check with your parents' homeowners or renters insurance company to see what they can cover.
[Back to the Top]
MUSIC & PERFORMANCE
Q: When do we get our music?
A: Choir members should receive their music in early to mid-May. Band members normally receive their music early June.
Q: What type of music is performed?
A: All types written for concert band and choirs: classical, popular, Broadway, folk, international/ethnic, patriotic, sacred, spiritual, jazz, etc. Please see some previous musical selections in this web-site under.
We suggest you visit our page of musical selections from previous years.
Q: Am I required to be at all rehearsals?
A: Although some other student concert tours do not require participants to attend rehearsals, SOA believes strongly that each minute of rehearsal at Elizabethtown College is important in order to have successful concerts. The instruction by the conductors is something no one would want to miss. Additionally, we do not schedule time from sightseeing in Europe for rehearsals. All music and choreography must be polished prior to our Bon Voyage concerts at Elizabethtown College, which are presented each year to full-house audiences. So, the answer is: YES. And you are required to know your music!
Q: Will an audio or a video recording be made available?
A: Yes. Each year the SOA concerts are professionally recorded to produce a double CD set. Quality video tapes of the concerts, the sights of Europe, and SOA members enjoying Europe are also produced, but not as quickly. CDs, DVD sets, as well as photo enlargements of concert(s) and individual bus members are made available to students after the tour. The cost of these items is very reasonable. Many students also purchase CDs for family members, directors and sponsors.
Q: Will I need to memorize music?
A: YES! All of it! The time is short at our college. Rehearsal time must be spent on learning to blend and sing as the director wants, not memorizing the words. Also, choreography must be taught on campus as well. Not using music makes our performances more effective.
Q: Is there choreography involved for the choir?
A: Yes, for some pieces. The more advanced choreography is usually reserved for those who qualify during auditions at the College for a small dance troop featured in one or two musical selections. Choreography helps make the music come alive!
Q: How are soloists chosen?
A: Approximately 15-25 singers will be selected from their audition tapes & CDs. These singers will be permitted to audition in person for solos within choir productions. Our featured soloist will be chosen from the taped audition and be notified prior to the tour that they have been selected to sing their solo during our concerts.
Q: Will I need to carry my instrument all over Europe?
A: NO. Our European instrument truck will keep all the musical instruments, choral risers, sound system and recording equipment safe when we are not performing. There are no additional costs to you for the transportation and customs forms and fees for our instruments (other than flight travel on your own on your domestic airlines - which usually only affects only the largest of instrumentalists).
Q: How is chair placement determined?
A: Your chair placement is determined by your audition tape or CD that you send us. When you receive your music in early June, you may notice by your music which section you will be in, but the seating arrangement is only announced at the first rehearsal at the college.
Q: How secure is my instrument?
A: Over the past 37 years, we have had very few instrument problems. We will instruct band members how to properly pack their instruments. Our instrument truck in Europe is very secure. However, since musical instruments are very expensive, and each musician treasures his or her instrument, we strongly suggest checking with your family's home owner's insurance or your school's insurance to see if it is covered. Otherwise, we can suggest instrument insurance companies that specialize in musical instruments for non-professionals. Every instrument should be covered by insurance, if it is not covered by your family's home-owner's insurance. We will offer special instrument insurance.
[Back to the Top]
COSTS & MONEY
Q: What is the Fund-Raising plan?
A: The Fund-Raising plan packet is mailed with the Acceptance Materials. In this packet, we will suggest many options and suggestions on how to raise money for your tour. It is designed so that you can get your community behind you. We do not have items for you to sell, like you might be used to for your own band or choir. The ideas we send you do require some time and effort, but many students have done very well following our fund-raising plan and its suggestions. Each year over half of the SOA members engage in fund-raising. The majority of those students raise more than half their tour cost. Several each year raise their entire tour cost and more. NOTE: The tour cost is broken down into monthly payments, the last being June 1st.
Q: Why is it so expensive?
A: It does seem like a lot of money! But look closer . . .
The main reason is the value of the U.S. dollar has gotten significantly worse since 2001, when the dollar was actually worth slightly more than the euro. The good news is: the dollar gained some value more recently
We have done whatever possible to keep the price down, while retaining our standards and quality of the tour. Other costs, such as increased postage rates, fuel rates (gas for buses, planes), additional security taxes and customs forms and insurance for international travel, and new city taxes in some places in Europe all add to the base cost we have been used to paying.
When you compare our costs with other trips to Europe, you will probably see that ours is very reasonable and actually a real bargain! Look at the length of the tour, inclusions, quality of hotels, rehearsals, etc. Considering all the costs we must cover to contact you, cover our knowledgeable directors and staff, costs of renting a truck and driver for our instruments, choral risers, sound equipment and large percussion instruments, and concert promotions, the whole trip for barely over $6000 for 23 days is a deal!
Keep in mind, that there are very few times in one's life to receive the opportunity to travel abroad and perform - especially during the high school or college years, before career obligations, family obligations or financial debt (college) make it impossible later. How probable is it that you will receive this opportunity to actually perform with a very talented group throughout Europe, with new friends from across the country? You might be able to travel some other time, but will you will have the chance to perform concerts in front of appreciative crowds in special concert halls and churches ?
Q: When is the tour cost due?
A: Upon acceptance, your initial deposit will be due within three weeks. You will also receive a payment schedule which enables you to make smaller payments spread out over a longer period of time (monthly payments are suggested) . The balance will be due on June 1st. Details will be in your materials if you apply and are accepted. We will need each tour participant to start making payments throughout the spring. These funds are needed in advance so that we can make our deposits to the airlines, college, hotels, bus companies, restaurants, etc. Your tour cost is not due at once, but we expect payments over time through June 1st.
Q: What is the payment schedule?
A: When a student is fully accepted, they will be mailed a payment schedule which will request the participant may smaller monthly payments over time up until a month before the tour begins. It is important for us to receive funds over the year since we have many large deposits to pay to the college and European hotels, restaurants and overseas flights to hold our reservations. We need the commitment from each participant so we can depend on them as an important member of their instrument or vocal section. Otherwise we risk inbalance in the musical ensemble and possibly miss the chance for a person that is on alternate status to gain a position on the tour.
Q: Why is the final payment due a month before the tour begins?
A: We need every tour member's final payment by June 1, 2014 so that we can fully meet our financial obligations and all personal checks have a chance to clear before the tour. This is also so we can guarantee our exact counts of tour members and send rooming lists to Europe, etc. Most hotels, restaurants, flights, tickets, and other reservations, etc. are paid in advance, so we are obliged to secure reservations and make final payments based on their deadlines, before the tour even begins.
Q: Can I pay with a credit card?
A: As a convenience to you and your parents, we do accept VISA and Mastercard for tour payments. We do not accept payment for incidentals by credit card.
Q: What if I must cancel? What is the cancellation policy?
A: If you have already made tour payments, you will have the choice of "freezing" your account until next year in planning to delay your trip to the following year, or receive your funds, minus the cancellation fee. These details come with the Application Materials. Please note, that due to final reservations that must be made in May and June, not all of the tour payments can be transfered to the following year if the student cancels late in the spring. After deducting the cancelation fee, the remaining funds of tour payments may be either refunded or applied to the following year's tour. Please note that any tax-deductible donations that have been made to the Sound of America not normally considered refundable, in order to abide by tax laws. Donations and tour payments are not treated the same way.
If you have only paid the application fee, there is no refund if you decide to withdraw. This application fee is non-refundable.
Q: Besides the tour cost, what costs will I need to consider?
A: Transportation to and from your home town at the beginning and end of the tour, spending money (see details below - most importantly, lunches), the concert uniform, any extras for excess baggage, and personal items, etc. We will offer travel insurance, if you are not already covered and would like this coverage protection. Choir members will have the option of buying their music for a small cost. You will also need to obtain a passport if you don't already have one. Passport Information Online.
Q: Where do I purchase the uniform?
A: The uniforms will need to be ordered and purchased individually. The men's uniform consists of a navy blue blazer, pants, tie, dress shirt, etc. The women's uniform will consist of a red dress and shoes. We will send details ordering these through our concert attire company. The men's uniforms tend to cost $100-175, and the women's are closer to $80-125, with shoes. Details will be in one of the Phase packets received after acceptance. Variations in the cost depend on which items are needed to be purchased and how many one prefers to buy.
Q: How much spending money should I bring?
A: This is a difficult question since everyone spends money differently. Students last year recommended anywhere between $500-$1000. However, most suggested $700-900. Some students who brought less were able to budget accordingly. An individual can certainly survive on less than $600, but most students normally want to buy souvenirs and gifts for family and friends and therefore need more money. It is very easy to spend money in Europe. (Lunches, sodas, postage for postcards, gifts, etc. tend to be more expensive in Europe than what we are used to. Even a value meal at McD's can be $10+.) Please be aware that because the value of the US Dollar is significantly weaker than it used to be, everything in Europe is about 30-40% more expensive than it was 7-10 years ago.
Q: What about foreign currency and travelers cheques?
A: We will give you more information on foreign currency, travelers cheques, credit cards, ATM cards, calling cards, etc. in our pre-tour packets after acceptance. All the countries we travel to, with the exception of Switzerland, use the Euro. We will offer all tour participants foreign currency packets so that they will have some Euro and Swiss Franc cash. (This is very important since our first stop Europe does not change money, and we arrive in Switerland on a weekend.)
Q: Should I bring a credit card or an ATM card?
A: If you own one or you and your parents agree on a card, it is very convenient. Bank ATM cards usually are wonderful for withdrawing cash, if the automatic teller takes your card (Plus or Cirrus). Remember, there are many vendors and places which do not accept credit cards and sometimes a particular card just doesn't work in some machines. If you plan on using a credit card or ATM card, it is advisable to bring travelers cheques along, just in case your card becomes demagnetized, damaged, etc. (You can always cash the extra travelers cheques in the U.S. if you don't use them in Europe.) We will discuss this and credit cards in our Phases.
Q: How do I figure out currency conversions?
A: We will give you this information on tour. We'll give you cheat sheets and explain how to easily calculate the conversions.
[Back to the Top]
TRANSPORTATION & FLIGHTS
Q: How do I get to Pennsylvania and back home after the trip?
A: You will either need to fly or drive here. Most students will be flying into the airport in Harrisburg, PA, where we'll have a chartered bus and staff members waiting for the students the day of arrival. Upon returning from Europe, students should fly from either JFK or LaGuardia airports. We will also have a chartered bus available for those whose parents prefer to meet their son or daughter in Pennsylvania instead of at our New York Airport.
Q: I've never flown before, what do I need to know?
A: We'll give you all the information you'll need before you fly. We can even help you arrange your flight.
Q: How do I arrange my flights?
A: We will send you very detailed information on this and make sure you know what you are doing when booking a flight. You can use frequent flyer tickets or book through a local agency or via internet, but we encourage you to double check with us for the correct times, dates and airports before guaranteeing your flights. We will have staff members waiting for you at the airport. We will also send out detailed information on what to expect when flying, as well as a list of everyone's flight schedule so you can see if you will be flying with other students.
Q: I have family in Europe. Can I arrange to stay longer after the group returns to the United States?
A: Yes you can. Please inform us of this as soon as possible. We will need to ticket your international flights differently.
[Back to the Top]
Q: My director and/or family has not heard of SOA before? How do I know you are legitimate?
A: First of all, we would not go to all this extra work to create a fine brochure, detailed pre-tour information, and create a web-page if we had not operated a successful organization for the past 37 years! :) However, we suggest contacting past tour members who can testify from their first-hand experience with SOA. (see next Q/A) We also offer a booklet for parents that answers many questions. It is entitled, "How to Choose the Right Concert Tour for Your Child". These booklets are available free, when requested from parents.
In addition, it is important to note the concert photograph from last year's concert tour in the brochure and the personal testimonials from last year. If we were not a legitimate organization, we would never have been granted "non-profit" status by the Internal Revenue Service (which was a long process); our airlines, hotels, colleges and concert halls would not continue to grant us permission to use their facilities each year, and we wouldn't have had 37 consecutive successful concert tours of Europe. If you have specific questions or requests that with which we can help you, please contact us at 717-245-2826. We would love to tell you more!
SOA has received commendation letters from former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush and George W. Bush, as well as from former Pennsylvania Governor & Under-Secretary-General to the United Nartions, Dick Thornburgh, former Pennsylvania Governor & Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, former First Lady and New York Senator, Hillary Clinton. Additionally, diplomats at foreign and local posts have also applauded the work of SOA. Those inlcude the Cultural Minister of the U.S. Embassy of Paris and Consul General and Minister Counselor for Public Affairs of the US Embassy, Superintendents of the U.S. Cemeteries, and numerous mayors throughout Europe and Carlisle, PA.
Please review this webite, ask us how to contact recent past tour members in your area, and you may also want to visit our facebook page .
Q: What is the average size of the group?
A: Normally around 140-180 participants, including band, choir and adults. The band is usually 55-85 musicians and the choir is usually 80-110 singers. Last year's tour was 145 tour members.
Q: What about chaperones?
A: We welcome parents, directors, teachers, guidance councelors, and other family members or friends of the family to join us on our tour! We have even had parents of former tour participants come on tour as well as former tour participants themselves.
Chaperones must be over 22 years old or have graduated from a 4-year college. Adults who are not a parent of a current tour member will asked for references before being fully accepted. To apply as a chaperone, contact us for a brochure (717-245-2826). The tour cost is the same as it is for students, but the application fee is only $65. Starting this year, a proof of a clean criminal background check will need to be supplied by all adults on tour.
Chaperones will be asked to help with certain duties in assisting the staff members while on tour. This will entail staying up a bit later some nights and so forth. Although the staff make any final decisions and run the tour, we value the help our chaperones give us on tour. Sometimes they will help with the crates or props at concerts, or watching over a student who might not be feeling well, etc. We like to consider our adults as the "parents" of the tour, as we do become a sort of large family unit.
There are normally 1-2 staff members and 3-6 additional chaperones on each tour bus.
Q: What is the ratio of adults to students?
A: Approximately 1 adult per 6 - 8 students.
[Back to the Top]
Q: Can I contact some past participants from my area?
A: ABSOLUTELY! Please do call us for some names and numbers of alumni! (717-245-2826) You can also e-mail us. Also check out our page of testimonials. Don't be afraid to ask - we have lots of friendly alumni that would be happy to tell you about their personnel experience with SOA.
Q: Is it necessary to be on the college campus the first day?
A: Yes! We need everyone at the college on day one. We will start the next morning with an important meeting and continue with rehearsals and classes. The schedule will be very busy here. We will give everyone details on how to get to the college in one of your pre-tour packets.
Q: How did you find me?
A: We try to contact the top student musicians of each state. Either you qualified for an honors or All-State level event, solo event, or are one of the top musicians in your band or chorus, or you were recommended to us by a director or a past participant.
Q: What type of rules will there be on tour?
A: We need some tour regulations in order to have everyone on tour comfortable, healthy, safe and happy! We believe the tour rules are reasonable. Details on curfews, proper dress, personal conduct and general tour regulations will be discussed in some of the pre-tour packets and at the college. We expect all students to have high standards and to comply with all rules, as well as a positive attitude. Students must be willing to be a team-player and to abide by the rules and standards outlined in the tour materials.
This is a non-smoking tour!
Q: Besides a passport, do I need any visas?
A: No, unless you are not an American citizen. We will send you a Passport Application with instructions upon acceptance. It is very important that you have applied for your passport as soon as possible. To expidite your passport can be costly.
If you haven't applied for your passport by May 1st, we suggest you purchase money orders to cover the cost of sending your information overnight delivery to and from the passport offices. Please call us for more information. Passport Information Online. Please note that many US Post Offices are requiring that you make an appointment to apply for your passport. Call your post office before going in.
To avoid expensive, and sometimes low quality passport photos at local drug stores, try this website: http://www.epassportphoto.com . You will need a white wall and someone to take your photo properly, but you can upload your photo to this site, and then send it to your local store of preference (Target, Walgreens, Shutterfly, etc.) for pick up - all for less than a dollar.
Q: I'm not an American citizen, am I still eligible?
A: Most probably. If you are not an American citizen, you will need to make sure you have a valid passport, and the visas that may be required for all the countries we will be visiting. Also, be sure you have the correct documents to re-enter the U.S. Please let us know when you apply if your citizenship is not American. We may be able to help you. There are quite a few types of citizenships that are no longer required to obtain visas from the European consulates. Please visit the following web-sites. If you need a visa, in most cases Switzerland will now accept the Schengen visa which is valid on all the other countries we'll visit. (Switzerland is not part of the European Union.)
Visa requirements for Switzerland . Which citizens need a visa?
Visa Info for E.U. countries (Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Luxembourg), for example
(More Information on the Schengen Visa needed for EU countries and some info on the Schengen visa)
Visit the US State Department to see what you need to re-enter the US.
[Back to the Top]
Q: Do I need any shots before traveling to Europe?
A: Not where we are going. Our tour physician will give everyone ideas to help from becoming fatigued, dehydrated and sick. Be sure to bring any prescription medicine if you think you may need it. Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. You may want to also consider getting vaccination for Hepatitis A.
Q: Is the water safe to drink?
A: Yes. But if you prefer, bottled water is available throughout Europe.
Q: I'm vegetarian, can meals be arranged for me?
A: Yes, we can order veggie dinners if you inform us by early June. Although some of the vegetarian meals are not too exciting, most are quite good!
Vegans: Europe is not very accostomed to vegetarians, let alone strict vegans. We have found that finding meals or ordering special strict vegan meals rather challenging. If you are vegan, we suggest contacting us so we can discuss this.
Q: How do I find out if there are any other students from my area going on the tour this year?
A: Contact our office and we'll tell you who else has been accepted from your state. We will send out a listing of accepted tour participants in one of our mailings in the spring. A final listing will be sent to all tour members in early June.
Q: Can I invite someone else on the tour?
A: Yes, call us or write us with the information. Remember that we are looking for talented, quality individuals for the tour.
Q: How are roommates chosen?
A: We select roommates based on your Roommate Questionnaire which will be mailed to you in mid-spring. We first separate the guys and girls, and then age groups. From there, we try to find individuals with similar interests.
[Back to the Top]
Q: How many people are rooming together?
A: Most of the time, European rooms are set up for 2 in a room. However, there will be times where some suites will allow 3 or 4 persons to a room. It will vary from hotel to hotel.
Q: I know someone else who will be touring with SOA. Can I room with them or be on the same bus?
A: You may request a roommate if you know someone and would like to be roomed with them (providing you are the same sex). You may also request to be on the same bus throughout the tour as the other person (parent, friend, etc.) and we will do our best to arrange this.
Q: Do most tour participants usually know other students before coming on tour?
A: No. Aside from a handful that do each year, the vast majority of students don't know anyone else before arriving on campus.
Q: Does SOA have an 800 phone number?
A: Sorry, no.
However, we have e-mail addresses. If you have several questions, the fastest and most complete way to have them answered is to call us at 717-245-2826.
Q: Can I attend religious services while on tour?
A: Sometimes. In many places we will visit, it may be hard to find services other than in Catholic churches. NOTE: The choir usually performs during Mass in Venice.
Please note that SOA cannot favor a particular religion. Although it's not unusual for many SOA members to follow a religion, we are not a religious organization. Whatever your worship day may be, it is likely that at least once while on tour, we'll be traveling and you will find it nearly impossible to attend a service. Of course, if our schedule allows, staff members and hotel front desks can help find information that you will need to find a religious service of your choice. Some participants have enjoyed attending a service on their free-time or sharing their own interdenominational worship time during free time.
Q: How can my parents contact me while I'm in Europe? Can I call them? Can I e-mail them?
A: We will provide each family with addresses, phone numbers and fax numbers of each hotel. We will also explain to you how to call home with a calling card, directly or reverse charges. Please note that we will supply access numbers for AT&T, MCI and Sprint. If you own a calling card from another company, you will need to check with them prior to your departure, to find out how to access the U.S. from each European country. Phone calls are quite expensive. There are some other options too, and we will go over that in our literature in the spring. Some cell phones work in Europe, but we do not encourage students to take them. They may, but, the ease of calling can become expensive.
Most hotels in Europe offer internet access and WiFi (some free, some pay per usage). You can pay a few dollar's worth to get on-line for a period of time. Once in a while, it might be offered free. Students are finding that the WiFi at the hotels can allow them to skype or facetime with their families instead of making calls.
Q: Can my parents stay in the area during the rehearsals in Pennsylvania?
A: Parents and families are welcome to stay in the area. As the year progresses, we'll be able to offer more information about hotels, Bon Voyage concert information, etc. We will provide everyone with a hotel list in advance so families can stay nearby. They may want to watch rehearsals and visit Elizabethtown's nice campus. It is not far from HersheyPark, Gettysburg, Baltimore (another Baltimore link), Washington DC and Lancaster (PA Dutch/Amish country). We recommend booking a hotel as soon as you know if you will be staying overnight. (Tour members will be house in dormitories on campus.)
Q: Can I get more information to help me decide between this tour and other tours?
A: We can offer you a booklet-style document that was designed to help parents compare different concert tours. As most people have not faced this situation before, it can be difficult in deciding which tour is right for your son or daughter. This booklet helps one decide which aspects are important for you, your son or daughter, and how to decide what exactly you may be getting for your money. You may contact us at 717 245 2826 or email.
Q: What about security and air safety?
A: After the tragedies of September 2001, SOA has re-evaluated and installed a few new things as we continue to offer a very secure tour. We have always considered the safety of our students of top priority throughout our trip. Although we cannot guarantee 100% safety in Europe, as no one can in the U.S. or anywhere in the world, we are happy to say that we feel our tour is offered with as much safety as it has enjoyed over the past 3 decades. We stay in communication with European contacts, study state department issuances, and we have staff members who have been to Europe numerous times. We think everyone on last year's tour felt completely safe and secure while in Europe. We can honestly say that we have not felt threatened or the least bit uncomfortable in Europe during the last several years.
How safe is air travel? The statistics show that flying accidents are still extremely rare and tourist-related terrorism or deaths in Europe is almost non-existent. The risk of being involved in a commercial jet aircraft accident involving multiple fatalities is approximately one in three million. To put this in perspective, you would have to fly once every day for more than 8,200 years to accumulate three million flights. Even though fatal jet accidents are rare, the aviation community world-wide is continuing to work together to reduce them.
Commercial jet aviation is an exceptionally safe way to travel. Millions of people around the world fly safely on commercial aircraft each day. Did you realize that in 1999, for example, there were over 6 million auto accidents in the US, in which over 41,000 people died and approximately 3.4 million people were injured? That same year domestic airlines flew over 17 million hours. There were just 2 major accidents (involving major plane damage, and deaths), 1 serious accident (involving perhaps 1 death, some injuries), and 20 minor accidents with only some injuries. In 2000, planes logged over 18 million hours (more than 11 million departures) with only 3 major accidents, 3 serious accidents, and 20 minor accidents. That comes to about 2.7 fatal accidents per 10 million hours of flight. (1)
We have a booklet with more details on safety measures for our summer tour. You may request a booklet by contacting us at 717 245 2826. You may also wish to see our page concerning Safety while Traveling.
Q: Can I e-mail SOA Headquarters?
A: You can contact headquarters. You are welcome to send them a note or a simple question. However, if you have several questions, or need a speedy answer, we strongly suggest you call our office to speak with us in person. Speaking on the phone, you will receive better attention and better answers. If you e-mail us, please let us know your full name and where you are from and any other information we might need to process your e-mail.
(1) Information offered by Boeing, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
[Back to the Top]
LEARN MORE ABOUT SOA:
NEWS / 2014 Itinerary / FAQ's / Directors & Staff / Eligibility / How to apply / Cost & Inclusions / Non-Profit Information / Music / Safety & Security
Special Alumni / Distinguished Alumni Talk about SOA / Testimonials from Past Tour Participants, by state
2013 Highlights / 2012 Highlights / 2011 Highlights / 2010 Highlights / 2009 Highlights / 2008 Highlights / 2007 Highlights / 2006 Highlights / 2005 Highlights / 2004 Highlights / 2003 Highlights / 2002 Tour Highlights / 2001 Tour Highlights / 2000 Tour Highlights / '99 Tour Highlights / '98 Tour Highlights / '97 Tour Highlights /
PHOTO GALLERY / Fun website links / ALUMNI news /
END of PAGE.
Updated 2-14-14 tlb