CYSO Tour: Traveling with an Orchestra

The seven students of CYSO’s Tour Social Media Team are sharing photos and blog posts of their experience abroad on our 2017 Tour of Central Europe. Today we feature a dispatch from flautist Jennifer Wang who reflects on traveling to our first stop, Belgrade, Serbia. Jennifer writes about  flying with instruments and with a group of over 100 people. Hint: It can be an adventure!

I am happy to report that we made it to Belgrade! A successful first flight into Central Europe. Since arriving, we’ve had dinner and settled into our hotel rooms, and I’ve even managed to convert money from Euros to Diner– lots of new experiences for me!
Reflecting on the flight from the comfort of a hotel room, I have to say that traveling in a orchestra is challenging. Fun, absolutely, but definitely challenging.

Students relax with their carry-ons during a layover in Munich.

I never quite realized just how hard it is to travel with instruments. As a flutist, I definitely have less of a struggle in this regard– my flute fits perfectly into my backpack– but I got to witness some of the struggles of traveling as a musician firsthand. Here are some examples, just in our group alone:

  • Students with larger instruments having to check said instruments
  • At least one cellist anxiously watching out the window of the terminal as we waited to board at O’Hare, hoping to see cases being loaded
  • A French horn case refusing to fit properly under tiny airplane seats
  • Bulky violin cases and double bass bow cases that had to be jigsawed into overhead compartments

Again, I’m glad to be a small woodwind player. But even I constantly had concern in the back of my mind for the state of my beloved flute as we bumped our way through the terminals and plane aisles.
There were also the challenges of traveling in a large group. Herding an entire group and coordinating passports/boarding passes/life plans definitely took some coordination (although the distinctive blue shirts helped a lot). The chaperones were absolutely incredible in this regard, and actually everything went pretty smoothly.
Finally, there were the usual travel challenges: jet lag, delayed flights, overweight luggage, TSA– all the fun that comes with the miracle of air travel.

Made it to Belgrade!

But honestly? Traveling with an orchestra is a lot of fun. Fellow travelers noticed our shirts and ask about our destinations, our orchestra, our performances, so we got to chat with and meet new people (recruiting new concert-goers along the way!). The flight attendants, hotel staff, and anyone else who helped us were really kind and accommodating, even with any language barriers we encountered.
Belgrade is a beautiful city and I am really excited for our walking tour tomorrow. There’s also something special about getting to travel with other musicians who share in the excitement of new countries and experiences, as well as the concern of instruments and air travel. All in all, I’d say this trip is off to a great start.
Now, off to sleep.
The view from Jennifer’s hotel room in Belgrade.

About Jennifer

Jennifer Yu Wang is co-principal flautist for CYSO's Symphony Orchestra. She has been playing flute for eight years, and with CYSO for five. She studies with Susan Levitin, and her solo achievements include winning the Society of American Musicians and Chicago Flute Club competitions, as well as performing on WFMT Introductions. Jenny is active in chamber music and played in CYSO's Zephyrus Winds woodwind quintet. This fall, Jenny will be a senior at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.

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