In their words – our clients help us celebrate 35 years

Jun 29, 2017

Travel Notes

Taking this year to celebrate our 35th birthday as a BRT family has been so meaningful for us. We’ve taken the time to look back and dream forward and each of those directions brings us back to what’s most important to us – our clients. We’ve learned so much from each group we’ve traveled with; many have become family to us. So in closing out our 35th birthday celebration, we wanted to honor our clients by letting them choose their favorite “moments that matter.”

Powerful performances

Some of the most life changing moments that students experience on our trips are the performances they take part in. Those memories are almost tangible, even years later – the look and feel of the venue, the weight of the instruments in their hands, the energy of the audience. Those powerful moments stay with students for years to come.

Our trip to New York City four years ago had so many moments to choose from. Meeting a Blue Man and the head of set construction who happened to be an alum of our school, working with two phenomenal actors/dancers/artists from Wicked learning part of the musical from them and seeing it later that evening on Broadway, working with an incredible team from BRT who I felt I was able to develop a friendship with along with building a professional relationship. But, I have to say, the one moment which rises just a little higher than these other amazing moments was our visit to The Bowery Mission where our group had the privilege and honor to hear “Mack”, a former homeless person himself who found his way to the mission and eventually found himself in a leadership role there, tell us about his story and deliver a powerful message to all of us about life and not taking it for granted. Afterwards, our choir performed for many homeless who sat right along side the rest of us in pews in the small sanctuary. Many tears were shed during this powerful performance opportunity by everyone in attendance, and we all learned an important lesson on humility, empathy, and caring for all people to carry with us every day.

Mike Carnahan – South Tama High School

Our New Orleans trip this year was spectacular! We had a great time at Preservation Hall with a private performance, enjoyed a dinner and Jazz cruise on the steamboat Natchez, learned about and ate some outstanding food at the New Orleans School of Cooking, and topped it all off with my favorite place in the world for some Beignets and Coffee at Cafe Du Monde. The most memorable part of the whole trip, however, was our choir performing William Dawson’s “Soon Ah Will Be Done” in the St. Louis Cathedral and hearing that last chord ring throughout that beautiful historical building. It was a moment that took everyone’s breath away.

Brent Johnston – Lakes Community High School

Life-changing memories

Many of the students we travel with have never left home, let alone their home state. That first travel experience is one students never forget; directors and educators get to experience that wonder with each new student traveler.

My favorite memory is that of standing on the ferry approaching the Magic Kingdom and having two of my students start crying and say, “I didn’t think I’d ever get to see this.”  For a school with a high percentage of low-income students, these trips offer opportunities at a great price that any student can experience.

Susan Webb – Plano High School

On every trip we go on, I listen close when we cross the state line out of Michigan. There is always a student that will say, “This is the first time I’ve ever left Michigan” and a few more will join in, as well. It makes me realize how important it is that I do these trips: the students that might never have had the opportunity to travel.

Brian Mangiavellano – Northwest High School

I’ve watched bands march the Magic Kingdom, shared screams on Top Thrill Dragster, toured the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and more, but sharing laughter and tears at the conclusion of Hamilton with students and parents was unforgettable. Learning who snores loudest on the bus is a close second.

Bethany Bickel – Western Middle School

One of the things I love about BRT trips is how willing the staff is to give us an authentic experience that is both educational and fun.  Some of my absolute favorite memories are from our recent trip to Los Angeles, which included clinics at both USC and UCLA, complete with campus tours and lunch.  In addition, we were able to take in a Lakers game, visit Santa Monica Pier, swim in the Pacific ocean, have lunch at the Los Angeles Farmer’s Market, and make an impromptu stop at In and Out Burger (that wasn’t originally on our itinerary).  Our students still talk about how great and memorable this trip was over a year later!

David Lesniak – Plainfield East High School

Navigating the unexpected

Travel is an adventure whether it’s your first trip of your fiftieth – you simply can’t plan for every scenario. But with an experienced team as your guide (that’s us!), you can handle anything – and typically experience something amazing that wasn’t on the itinerary!

January of 2016 brought on snow storm Jonas coinciding with our trip to Disney. Unfortunately, our four buses spent the night on I-75 in Kentucky. Jeff McLain and Jennifer Shiplet of BRT were tremendous in placing the best drivers from the bus company to traverse the storm. We were never in any danger from the storm and the staff at BRT worked with our Tour Director, Sue and the staff at Walt Disney World to adjust our itinerary so that we were able to minimize any disruption. The BRT staff has a tremendous rapport with their vendors to accommodate their tours when or if situations occur.

Leslie Schwegler – Lincoln High School

The Appleton East and West High School Bands were to perform a concert just outside of Lucca, Italy and what we thought would be a simple concert shared with the community band of the town turned into one of the most meaningful collaborations we experienced while traveling internationally.

A dinner was held in our honor at which ALL our students and ALL the Italian students sat together and conversed for hours, getting to know each other and, eventually, finding there were more similarities than differences. Many friendships were forged during these hours that really were expressed in a special way when we all stood side-by-side to play both National Anthems. Many students were brought to tears at the significance of this gesture. The concert was a great success and extremely well attended due in large part to the great marketing and attention to detail of BRT. It was an experience we had while travelling overseas that will stay with us forever.

Michael Ross – Appleton West High School

Treasured relationships

Relationships are why we started and why we continue. Our clients join our family – it’s a bond we treasure and the reason we still love what we do 35 years later.

One can assume that most travel companies are in the business to first make money, then take care of the customer. Bob Rogers is the exception. Our dedicated band mom of thirty some years had major health issues and eventually passed away. On the day of her memorial service, we called Stacey early that morning to ask a few minor questions regarding our upcoming trip to San Diego. We were told she was out of the office. We left a message and proceeded to prepare for the long, melancholy day of honoring our beloved band mom. At the funeral home, the band performed William Himes Amazing Grace as our beloved band mom’s urn passed the lines of band members. As we performed, I looked up and out of the corner of my eye, who was there to comfort us? Stacey had left very early and driven two hours south to our little town to pay her respects. I will never forget that moment of knowing that Stacey would take the time to drive all that way to support us all. She made an effort to talk to all the kids and parents to comfort and show support. It wasn’t about the financial investment, but investing in the people they serve.  It is a true testament to the values and dedication to what they do for our kids. It was a Moment that Mattered…

Matthew Chapman – Illinois Valley Central High School

We had a former student working on the fireworks for the Illuminations show at Epcot, and he invited us to watch the show on the dock by Mexico. We were able to take Bob Rogers with us. He had been to the parks thousands of times, and had never been able to watch the show from there. The chance to give Bob something back and that experience is one of the coolest things ever!

Jim Kull – Saint Charles East High School

Thanks for celebrating 35 incredible years with us. These memories from our clients mean so much to us. If we can help your group plan your own life-changing student travel experience, we’d be honored. Considering your very first trip and not sure where to begin? Give us a call or send an email and we can give you the information you’ll need to get started.

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