Jackie Male, director of Angas Travel, recently ventured to the cool climes of Europe to lead our inaugural 8-day Music Director Preview Tour (MDPT). A familiarisation expedition, designed specifically for Australian Music Educators, allowing them to discover first-hand the opportunities and experiences available to their students in Europe. At Angas Travel, we’re delighted to offer music education and other speciality tours for Australian school group travel.
Accompanied by five music educators from around Australia, along with Roger and Anne Hey from Perth Modern School, Jackie set off to showcase the rich history and exceptional performance venues that will inspire young musicians.
Teachers, parents and friends – read on for Jackie’s first-hand account of the trip, and get in touch with Angas Travel if this sounds like the ideal and relevant international school group tour for your students.
“I really enjoyed the camaraderie and opportunity to meet like-minded people from all over Australia. Some of the connections made on the trip have enabled us to now share resources and experiences which will not only aid future Music tours but also the continued growth of each of our programs.”
– Jessica, Director of Music, Nazareth
It was with excitement and some trepidation that I set off from Adelaide on a 43-degree day, bound for the zero degree climes of Vienna. Travelling in Europe in mid-winter can be challenging, but it certainly has its advantages too. There are no crowds making sightseeing and transportation hassle free, and of course, there is the chance of snow!!
Flights were with Emirates Airlines, with daily flights from most Australian cities into Europe via Dubai. With comfortable seats, smooth connections and great in-flight service, we were in Vienna before we knew it.
After transferring to the hotel and checking in, we were given a guided sightseeing tour of Vienna. Days are short in Vienna during winter, and it was dark by 4 pm, however, the lights made it very beautiful. Dinner at a restaurant close to the hotel gave us a chance to get to know each other and discuss what we were all hoping to achieve during the following week together.
As Vienna is home to so many world-renowned musicians and composers, there was no problem in filling in the next day with performance venue inspections and sight-seeing. We were able to visit the magnificent St Stephen’s Basilica, the Votive Church and the Haus der Music.
Throughout our time in Vienna, a tour of the Augartenpalais, home of the Vienna Boys Choir, was definitely a highlight. For visiting choirs, there are various options available. Contact us here to find out more.
That night we ate at a popular Austrian ‘Heuriiger’ restaurant, located a 20-minute drive from the hotel into the hills. This is the sort of place that is included in our school tours, and we all agreed that the students would love it.
>> Accommodation: Hotel Leonardo Wien.
>> Highlight: A guided tour of Schonbrunn Palace, now a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important architectural, cultural and historic monuments in Austria.
We departed Vienna and headed towards Budapest, stopping en route to the picturesque city of Bratislava, capital of Slovakia. A popular inclusion in Angas Travel’s school group itineraries is participation in the annual Bratislava International Youth Music Festival. During our trip, we were fortunate enough to meet with the organisers of the festival to learn more about it.
Our next stop, one of my favourite European cities, Budapest, led us to some of the most gorgeous performance venues you could ever see. With our guide, we visited the Matthias Church, St Stephen’s Basilica, the Italian Cultural Institute, the Grand Hall of the St Margaret Gymnasium and the beautiful Nádor Hall.
Hungary was once home to composer Zoltan Kodaly, the creator of the Kodaly method of music education used worldwide. A highlight for our group during this part of the trip was a visit to the Kodály Choir School. We met with the Choir Master who explained how this prestigious music school operates. If this is something you are interested in, Angas Travel can arrange for visiting school choirs to workshop and perform with the Kodaly School Choir.
Later that night, we dined at atmospheric Kaltenburg Restaurant and attended a classical concert in the Liszt Academy Concert Centre.
The next day we continued on to Venice.
>> Accommodation: Hotel Leonardo Budapest
>> Highlight: Nils Monkemeyer and Kelemen Quartet at the Liszt Academy Concert Centre.
“Local Tour Leaders and Guides – were EXCELLENT, not only knowledgeable but also looking out for our safety and so very enthusiastic about their own cultures. It was good to meet them and see how enthusiastic they are about working with school groups”
– Beth, Canberra Grammar School.
Our arrival into Venice could not have been more beautiful! As we made our way by private boat along the Grand Canal towards our accommodation in the Dorsoduro district, iconic places such as St Mark’s Basilica, the Doges Palace and the Bell Tower were silhouetted against a spectacular sunset. The hostel is in a great location and is excellent for groups as well as independent travellers (see below for accommodation).
That evening we explored the city-on-water after eating a delightful meal.
The following day was packed with exploring more concert locations, including the Church of San Salvador, Santa Maria Rosario and St Mark’s Cathedral. Then it was time to continue on to Tuscany.
>> Accommodation: Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli Religious Guest House.
>> Highlight: Our boat transfer was gorgeous – an opportunity to really see the city.
Next up was the Tuscan spa town of Montecatini. We stayed one night and had dinner at a local restaurant in the centre of the town.
Montecatini is a great base to explore the surrounding towns. We visited the nearby towns of Lucca, famous for its renaissance walls, cobblestone streets and the birthplace of Puccini, and Prato, where Melbourne’s Monash University has an international campus. Visiting groups can participate in language and art courses, and perform concerts during their trip. Other towns in the area include Sienna, Arezzo and Pisa, and all offer amazing experiences for visiting students.
That afternoon we travelled to Florence and marvelled at the magnificent Duomo and Baptistry, and also enjoyed some shopping time. As the sun set we boarded a fast train to Rome and 3 hours later we were ensconced in our Roman hotel and enjoying a delicious Italian inspired dinner.
>> Accommodation: Grand Hotel du Park et Regina.
>> Highlight: The Church of Santa Maria Corteorlandin (Santa Maria Nero) – a beautiful performance venue. It is plain on the outside but inside is incredibly beautiful.
When in Rome, our local guide helped us explore this beautiful, historic city, with the main emphasis being on possible performance venues and ancient sites.
>> Accommodation: Hotel Portamaggiore
>> Highlight: The mind-boggling contrast of ancient constructions and bustling modern-day life.
Overall, the Music Director Preview Tour provided a great snapshot of what a European Music Tour could look like. Feedback from all participants has been very positive and each person came away with new ideas and plans for how to organize a school music tour to Europe with confidence.
A huge thank you to the Director of Music from Perth Modern School, Roger Hey, for giving us his time and extensive experience, and also to our partners in Europe, Budaventura Travel and Musica Italia. We work very closely with them to create and effectively execute our tours.
The response has been so positive that we are now planning a 2019 Music Director European Preview Tour. If this travel review has inspired you please make contact with Jackie Male to register your interest, and you will be the first to book – this speciality tour is limited to 10 places. Registration deadline is 15 September 2018.