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Taking the Stage: Student Performance Destinations

Nothing captures a child’s attention as quickly as Disney. Student performing groups can join the princes and princesses of Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim, California, by booking one of the company’s many performing arts experiences.

These opportunities for musical students don’t exist only at Cinderella’s castle, but also at cities across the country. Student performance groups, such as choir groups, marching bands and dance teams, can step into the spotlight at many extraordinary venues, such as Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, SeaWorld San Antonio and the streets of New Orleans.

Groups seeking to create memories that last a lifetime should consider these five hot spots for their next performance trip.

Orlando, Florida

Students can feel the rush of a cheering crowd when performing for Disney World guests in Orlando, Florida.

At the park’s Candlelight Processional, high schoolers and other choirs come together to retell the Christmas story with a celebrity narrator. A 50-piece orchestra plays alongside the recruited choirs at this revered Disney holiday tradition.

The park accommodates a wide range of performance groups, with experiences including a dance at Marketplace Stage in Disney Springs and an instrumental ensemble performance marching down the park’s Main Street, U.S.A.

Even groups who’ve already seen Disney World will find that performance opportunities abound across Orlando. The energetic city has so many attractions, it’s easy to plan completely different tours from one year to the next. Universal Studios Florida, the Kennedy Space Center and SeaWorld all combine pure fun with educational and performance options.

Universal’s Stars Performance Program offers chances for groups to dazzle on the stage. Marching bands, concert bands, dance teams and choirs can transition from the spotlight to scream-inducing thrills.

Students can delight visitors at Universal’s Superstar Parade or the Universal CityWalk. Workshops and music festivals are also available.

New Orleans

Marching bands can party like it’s Mardi Gras year-round in New Orleans. Students can march in a parade through the iconic French Quarter by working with a coordinator to organize the unforgettable experience.

Music groups can also take advantage of the city’s jazz heritage by performing at a live jazz venue. After the students perform, they can listen to a professional jazz band and arrange a question-and-answer session with the musicians. The Palm Court Jazz Cafe frequently hosts these experiences, which can also include traditional New Orleans cuisine.

A variety of performing groups can entertain aboard the Steamboat Natchez. The historic paddle-wheeler offers a buffet and scenic Mississippi River cruises.

Swing or patriotic music is especially encouraged at the National World War II Museum. Designated by Congress at the country’s official World War II museum, the site offers venues for performing groups as well as an interactive history experience.

The city’s Tombs by Twilight tours explore famous cemeteries at dusk for a memorable way to educate students on New Orleans’ past.

“Student groups are always looking for something to do after 6 p.m. other than dinner,” said Thu Tran, tourism sales account executive for New Orleans and Company. “Our downtown cemetery tours are interesting and heavy in history. The kids love it and don’t know they are getting a history lesson as well. It has a cool factor for the kids who get to see the cemetery in the dark.”


Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum honors some of the greatest figures in music. And with the city’s Classical Music Rocks package, young visitors get a chance to  perform in the museum itself.

Youth already enamored of musicians will love touring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s exhibits, which feature artifacts from famous rockers and interactive displays. The new Garage exhibit allows visitors to pick up real instruments, learn to riff and jam together with a band. Groups can take their musical stylings home after the experience.

Classical Music Rocks also includes a live performance by the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall. Founded in 1918, the orchestra is considered one of the country’s top orchestras.

To feel like a professional artist, groups can open for a jazz musician at the Music Box Supper Club. The music-themed restaurant allows groups to perform at the venue, then sends participants recorded copies of the performance.

Nearby Cedar Point also regularly welcomes performance groups to mix roller coasters with musical medleys. Groups can time their visits with the Festival of Music at Cedar Point in May for band, orchestra and choral student events.

Students can also perform the national anthem on Progressive Field before the Cleveland Indians take the field.

“We have more than 40 performing opportunities,” said Kristen Jantonio, communications specialist for Destination Cleveland. “We also have a lot of learning components as well. There are different music clinics where groups can learn from the pros at the Cleveland Orchestra or at universities. It’s another way groups can level up their experience.”

For additional itinerary options, groups can also incorporate educational tours at the University Circle’s museums and theater productions at Playhouse Square.

San Antonio, Texas

Averaging 300 days of sunshine a year, San Antonio nearly always has beautiful weather. Performing groups can soak up the heritage, history and entertainment of the area while honing their craft with live performance opportunities.

SeaWorld San Antonio has several performance venues that can work for a variety of youth groups. Bands, choirs and orchestras frequently perform at the park while also including time to enjoy SeaWorld’s ocean animals, water shows and rides.

Marching bands or choirs can perform to a thundering crowd to celebrate the Valero Alamo Bowl during a pep rally, halftime show or water parade down the San Antonio River.

Groups can also show off their talents at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Planners can book a trip during the Music in the Parks Festival for a planned festival for bands, orchestras and choirs. Packages to the event come with park admission and a meal coupon.

For a relaxing evening, groups can walk a series of tree-lined riverside pathways at the River Walk. Many of the city’s top museums, hotels, restaurants and shops connect along this scenic route.

More history options await at the Alamo and the city’s Spanish colonial missions, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Anaheim, California

Groups can demonstrate their musical prowess in front of professional clinicians at the Anaheim Heritage Festival. Hosted by WorldStrides in partnership with Disneyland, the May event includes private master-class sessions as an elective for groups participating at the festival competition.

After focusing on their festival performance, groups can let loose at Disneyland Park by jumping on the Indiana Jones Adventure, Space Mountain and other classic attractions. The park hosts an exclusive awards ceremony with Tinker Bell, Merlin and Mickey Mouse.

Disney California Adventure also warrants a stop for popular rides like Toy Story Midway Mania and Grizzly’s River Run. The park is only 10 minutes from the Anaheim Convention Center and the city’s major hotels.

“Anaheim has a campus feel,” said Junior Tauvaa, Visit Anaheim’s chief sales officer. “There are hotels close to the convention center, making it easy for youth groups to take over the entire area.”

More performances occur at Disneyland Park year-round, with several dance, instrumental and vocal options. Those wanting an educational spin to the trip can book a workshop at the park, which offers focuses such as musical theater, acting, costuming, soundtrack creation and puppetry.

“We work with youth groups to create their ideal experience,” said Tauvaa. “We arrange evening hour passes to the parks or stays at the beach. We are centrally located to southern California for groups that want to explore further.”