January 30, 2020     Jon Linker

Prelude 2020 Recap


What if you could spend a weekend in a fabulous location soaking up the music, food, and culture while networking with a diverse group of accomplished fellow music educators and directors?

And you could bring a friend, spouse or significant other.

Oh….and did I mention it wouldn’t cost anything?!

It’s not a dream. It’s Prelude – Encore Tours’ annual professional development weekend for ensemble leaders. Each January over the MLK holiday weekend, qualifying music directors and administrators leading international tours with Encore are invited to this unforgettable and enriching event.

This year’s Prelude took place in beautiful Milan, Italy where directors and companions had the opportunity to see Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, visit the incredible Duomo and Galleria just steps from their hotel, check out some potential performance venues for touring ensembles and enjoy a number of musical highlights including a performance at La Scala Opera House.

“Encore goes to great lengths to plan an exceptional weekend filled with incredible cultural activities and outstanding hospitality,” said Mark McCormick, choral accompanist and music theory instructor at Mira Costa (CA) High School. “Prelude showcases the best that Encore has to offer and I highly recommend it to anyone.”

“The opportunity to connect with other directors from all over the country gives you as an individual the opportunity for continued growth,” said Dave Raposo, Music Department Head at Avon Old Farms School in Avon CT. “My philosophy is that we all have a great deal to learn. Even the most seasoned traveler can gain from someone else’s experiences.”

Guests arrived in Milan on Friday and saw Da Vinci’s The Last Supper before visiting Laboratori Ansaldo where all the sets, sculptures and costumes for productions at La Scala are crafted. After a welcome dinner, it was time for a good night’s rest.

The following day featured an excursion to Cremona, Italy to see the Museo del Violino and Luthier workshops in this renowned center of instrument making since the 16th century. The museum offered a chance to see some of the most famous – and expensive – string instruments in the world up close.

“I could not believe that I was seeing not only Stradivarius violins, but also Guarneri’s and Amati instruments!!!,” said Rachel Clifton, an adjunct music professor at Jacksonville University who traveled with her husband, First Coast Wind Symphony Director Artie Clifton. “How many musicians have this kind of opportunity?”

However, not only did Prelude guests get to see these priceless instruments, they were treated to a private recital on three authentic Stradivarius instruments- the 1669 Clisbee violin, the 1727 Vesuvio violin, and the 1700 Stauffer cello – in the museum’s Auditorio Arvedi, a true jewel of acoustic engineering.

“This was one of the most special experiences of the trip,” said Ariel Lambrecht-May, choral director at Canyon High School in Anaheim CA. “It’s something I will share again and again!”

After a stop for lunch at Cremona’s Teatro Ponchielli (a potential performance venue), small groups of 7-8 people each visited a luthier, or violin maker, to learn how the Stradivari instruments have been made for over five centuries.

Sunday featured a demonstration of Ambrosian chant in one of Milan’s most historic churches and an exclusive backstage tour at the world-famous La Scala Opera House followed by a concert by the Filarmonica della Scala.

“Wow! This was great,” said Ben Duckett whose wife, Danielle, is the choral director at Chaminade College Preparatory school near Los Angeles. “The access that we were granted on this trip was unbelievable!”

“This was my favorite part of Prelude,” Landry Duvall, Director of Music at River Road Presbyterian Church in Richmond VA, said of La Scala.

Died and gone to heaven,” added Allison Neumann, whose husband Michael directs the Sacramento Youth Symphony. “Glad I’d brought my best evening clothes and sat in the 4th row!”

On Monday it was time for everyone to return home, tired but re-energized and with memories and experiences that will last a lifetime.

“There is nothing comparable to the personal contact and ongoing interaction with fellow directors, not to mention the establishment of long-term relationships/friendships with fellow attendees, whose experiences and expertise always enhances, lends support to, and enriches our personal and professional lives,” said David Vernier, accompanist for Girl Singers of Maine.

“This is real,” said Sean Boulware, Encore Tours Ambassador, and director of the Central Coast Chorale in Monterey CA. “Why not take the opportunity to be supremely blessed and encouraged and nourished as a conductor and let this change your life?!?”

Need more convincing? Listen to Michael Hayden, the Director of Choirs at Mira Costa High School, as he explains what makes Prelude so special.

Want to learn more about taking your ensemble on a performance tour with Encore? Request a free quote and you could be attending Prelude in 2021!

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