Have you ever wanted to elevate your ensemble to the next level and deepen your knowledge of travel and performance tours? Look no further, as our annual Prelude trip offers just that! For anybody who may be unfamiliar, Prelude is Encore Tours’ professional development weekend for ensemble directors, which takes place each year in a musically significant destination. Though it may seem too good to be true, Prelude is free for all qualifying group leaders (plus a guest) who meet the minimum travel requirements. Designed for music directors and ensemble leaders, Prelude offers a unique and exciting opportunity to explore personal and professional growth, network with peers, and immerse yourself in the local culture and arts. This year’s event took place in Budapest, Hungary, where group leaders gathered together to with travel experts and fellow ensemble leaders. During the weekend, our group leaders had the chance to participate in sightseeing excursions, enjoy culinary delights, and take in a variety of musical performances that showcase the best of Budapest. This year, travelers were able to stay in comfort and style at the luxurious Hotel Aria in the heart of Budapest. With a fantastic location and musical theme, travelers were able to bask in the nation’s musical heritage and explore the city with ease. “Hotel Aria was magnificent! The breakfast was scrumptious, the rooftop bar had extraordinary views, the service was above and beyond, the atmosphere was elegant, the design was exquisite, and the amenities were so beyond what we anticipated!” Nathan D., Choir Director The Prelude weekend kicked off with a warm welcome at the hotel, followed by a visit to the magnificent Matthias Church led by our exceptional tour manager, Peter Ede. Perched on the summit of Buda Castle hill, Matthias Church is a gem among Hungarian churches and a standout among Europe’s unique places of worship. We delved into the local history within the church’s stunning Neo-Gothic interior and were serenaded by a musical performance from the Director of Music on the church’s stunning organ. “I loved the organ recital, especially the organist,” explained Jen Massey, a Band Director from Wisconsin. “His explanations of the organ and his choices of music was a great welcome to Budapest.” The start of our long weekend was made even more memorable with the welcoming reception held at Fisherman’s Bastion. This was an ideal chance for attendees to catch up with old friends and make new connections with other ensemble directors. As everyone sipped on champagne and took in the breathtaking views, the atmosphere was filled with excitement and anticipation for what was to come. Inside, a delicious feast awaited, further elevating the celebratory mood. “The building was beautiful; staff provided excellent service. The meal was amazing! Not a single thing would I have changed,” stated one of our group leaders. “The food and drink were marvelous and conversation was riveting,” remarked another. Our experience at the renowned Franz Liszt Music Academy in Hungary was a testament to the immersive and informative experiences that are a hallmark of Encore Tours. After a guided tour of the esteemed facility, we were privileged to attend a private harp lesson, giving us a unique glimpse into the inner workings of Hungary’s most prestigious music university. “LOVED the tour and the harp lesson…the teacher was doing excellent work to help the student with her technique” exclaimed one attendee. “I’ve always loved the harp and was very pleased we had this opportunity to learn more about the instrument and how it has been used throughout the ages,” remarked another. Other memorable experiences from the weekend included touring the Hungarian Parliament, the Royal Palace of Gödöllő and St. Stephen’s Cathedral, attending a captivating equestrian show at Lazar Equestrian Park, and a memorable farewell dinner. However, the showstopper of the trip was the evening performance of Verdi’s Otello at the iconic State Opera House, which offered a modern interpretation of the classic opera. “The building, the people, the experience were all extraordinary. A++,” proclaimed one traveler. “[It was] fabulous,” remarked another Prelude attendee. “Loved the box seats. I thought the modern setting made the story come to life.” Food and drink play a crucial role in showcasing a culture, and we meticulously select dining establishments that offer both genuine local cuisine and delicious flavor. These shared meals provide a glimpse into a nation’s history, customs, and societal practices while also fostering a sense of camaraderie and enabling us to swap tales from our travels. The farewell dinner at New York Café was especially memorable for many of our travelers and clearly left a lasting impression. “WOW!! This meal was easily one of the best I’d ever had!” exclaimed one of our group leaders. I absolutely loved this place and James’ farewell speech!” Another group leader concurred, stating “The absolute best dining venue I have ever experienced. The food and wine were excellent.” This is no fantasy, it’s a reality, and it’s truly awe-inspiring. Prelude is designed by musicians for musicians, and helps our group leaders explore both personal and professional growth opportunities. First time group leaders have the chance to learn more about the on-tour experience from the more experiences travelers, while everybody has the opportunity to network and experience cultural immersion or artistic advancement. With a near decade-long history, Prelude continues to receive high praise from attendees, with 100% of surveyed participants rating the event as “Excellent.” See for yourself why this complimentary professional development and networking weekend is so highly regarded, by hearing directly from this year’s attendees! Prelude is a marvelous opportunity to workshop with other music directors. The demands of planning an international trip are so specific. Working with other directors who are planning similar projects is so incredibly helpful. Nathan C. Prelude met my expectations as being an exceptional event with just the right amount of visiting potential venues and sightseeing. Meeting and interacting personally with the Encore staff made the whole experience more enjoyable. Dinner at the New York Cafe was one of those nights you will remember the rest of your life. But most of all, the preparation and execution by the Encore staff was very much appreciated as there were many events and venues to see in a compact schedule, but you did not feel rushed or wish you had more time. David S. This was the most incredible trip to experience along with such genuine people. The busy but satisfying itinerary left no room for jet lag or boredom. It was exhilarating from beginning to end. Laura D. Encore Tours recognizes the crucial role of professional growth in determining the success of your ensemble, which is why we provide the Prelude weekend at no charge to eligible ensemble directors. This is a fantastic opportunity to establish connections, gain insights from experienced leaders, and broaden your perspective, which will ultimately elevate the performance of your ensemble. It’s also an opportunity to explore new destinations, check out potential venues, and fine-tune your repertoire with help from experienced directors and local experts. Prelude is a must-attend event for all ensemble leaders who are looking to elevate their skills, network with peers, and immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage of a musically significant destination. To learn more about attending Prelude, contact us today and request a free quote!