Behind the Scenes at Festival Disney

Oct 21, 2014

Travel Notes

with Disney Youth Programs, Senior Festival Manager Rene Perez

It’s Festival Day in Central Florida:  students and directors rise to start their day, gather their tuxedos, warm up their voices, tune their instruments, and stretch their flag-spinning muscles.

More Than Your Typical Festival

Festival Disney, though, is not your typical festival.  When Senior Festival Manager Rene Perez begins his festival day, he starts with strategy in mind.  On any given day, adjudication might be taking place in two to five different venues—sometimes miles apart, at different locations throughout the Walt Disney World® Resort—and Rene is prepared to stay on his toes. “Although we are at different locations, I try to plan ahead to think through possible opportunities and make myself available to my team as well as the other Disney teams that support us at each of the performance locations,” Rene states.

No Challenge is Too Much

Accomplishing that means knowing both his operation, and the groups he’ll be helping, inside and out: Is it the first time using a particular venue this year?  A last-minute change to the schedule?  Are all of the adjudicators at the venues and ready for a great day of music? From then on, Rene knows that it will be a day of running back and forth between locations, offering his support.  “Our team can handle anything,” he says confidently.  “But I like them to know that I’m there to jump in when they need an extra hand.”

The team has handled every conceivable challenge—from working scheduling magic for a late bus, to dealing with the unpredictable Florida weather, and even heroically producing a replacement for a forgotten item, like a mouthpiece, a baton or a tuba.  “Yes,” he confirms; “people actually have forgotten tubas.”

Location is Everything

Having helped so many performing groups navigate the festival with success, Rene knows that Festival Disney’s unique location sets it apart.  Many of the festival’s performance venues are in ‘backstage’ locations (areas that park guests typically do not see), and the daily bustle of the parks create some unique circumstances for the performers.

“Things will run a little differently from an average festival because of the locations we use, but our outstanding team of Festival Coordinators will expertly guide each director and the ensemble at each venue,” he remarks.  Rene recommends that directors participating for the first time read up on the festival guidelines in advance.  Many directors, he notes, embrace the differences quickly, and continue to visit year after year.

Passion for Music

Whether he’s listing off some of the nationally-acclaimed adjudicators, or enthusing about the festival’s Friday night parade and auxiliary performances, it’s clear that Rene loves—and takes pride in—every minute of his role.

“I’ve gotten to do some amazing things,” he says, “that I never thought I would have done.”  Rene’s work, for example, brought him face to face with trumpet legend Arturo Sandoval, has given him the chance to work with industry leaders like Conn-Selmer, The GRAMMY Foundation and the National Association for Music Education.

The flexibility and support of his leadership has even made it possible for Rene, a long-time fan of Drum Corps International, to organize DCI competitive events across the country.  Through Festival Disney, Rene is able to show off his musician side and his Disney side at the same time, and he’s proud to do that for the students, too.

“We know the parks are a unique, utopian experience for youth groups—and with all of our Disney Performing Arts offerings, we have the chance to couple that with a magical music experience.”

Success Comes From the Students’ Hard Work

With everything he does to make sure Festival Disney is a smashing success, it would be easy for Rene to claim all the credit…but he doesn’t. Rene makes it clear that the sole reason for Festival Disney’s success is the students and directors who dedicate months of hard work, and miles of travel, to their moments in the Festival Disney spotlight.  Perhaps that’s why his favorite moments are at the awards ceremony, recognizing each group and getting a chance to connect, and celebrate, with the directors.

For Rene, who’s spent nearly twelve years growing the festival from an idea to a reality, these celebrations are a dream come true.  “The festival is coming up on its eleventh year, and I’m blown away by how many directors have brought their groups back seven or eight times.  We built this from scratch—Festival Disney was unlike anything we had here.  I look at what it is today: the quality of the experience and the venues, feedback and clinics with the top music educators in the nation, along with our world-famous Disney Parks.”

“It’s Disney—and we strive to meet all the expectations attached to that name.”

Share your unique Festival Disney memory in the comments below, or contact us to bring your group to Festival Disney (and meet Rene’s team in person).

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