Joshua Sholler, an educator who teaches 6th – 12th grade band and choir at Reading High School in Reading, Michigan, fully understands the value of student travel. Sholler himself went on two student trips to Disney World with his band program as a high school student, creating wonderful life-long memories.
“I knew that when I eventually had a band/choir program of my own, that I would want to take my groups on trips to give them a similar experience,” said Sholler, who graduated from Michigan State University in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in music education and has been teaching at Reading ever since. “My director in high school used Educational Tours, Inc. and so they were my starting point when I first reached out back in 2013/2014.”
Knowing ETI’s long-standing track record with successful student travel (from both a student and educator perspective), Sholler has continued to use ETI’s services for four of his trips: Chicago in 2015, Disney World in 2017, NYC in 2019, and most recently, New Orleans in 2023. For this trip, students in grades 8 -12 (with an age range of 13-18) attended.
“The purpose of the trip was to explore the rich and vibrant history of New Orleans, focusing on the famous jazz capital of the world,” Sholler said, noting he likes to travel to new locations for both the band and choir to perform. “For this trip, we performed at the National World War II Museum. During our trip, we had the opportunity to explore the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, take a guided haunted walking tour of the French Quarter, take a tour of Mardi Gras World and enjoy a fabulous mask-making workshop. We also had a beignet and beverage at the famous Café Du Monde.”
The trip also saw Sholler and his students take a swamp boat tour to see gators and other animals, in addition to enjoying a jazz dinner cruise with Cajun cuisine on the Steamboat Natchez along the Mississippi River. They also had time to explore and shop at the French Market and tour the Jazz Museum.
Sholler explained that one of the more memorable moments from the trip occurred during that jazz dinner cruise.
“Later in the evening, when the jazz group that was playing took a break, I asked one of the members if our choir could sing one of our songs for the crowd gathered on the top deck. They graciously agreed and so we gathered everyone up as quickly as we could and began singing an a capella arrangement of ‘Down by the Riverside,’” Sholler recalled. “About halfway through the song, an impressive and unexpected firework show starts going off along the river behind the group! It was as crazy and chaotic as you can imagine. It threw us off for a hot second, but then we miraculously recovered and finished strong with fireworks in the background! It was a moment none of us will forget. The crowd went wild at the end!”
Sholler says that he takes these trips specifically because travel offers students a better understanding of the world around them and helps them broaden their perspectives to see how big the world is outside of their small rural town.
“Travel has been essential to building my program in Reading. We are a very small rural school with only one blinking yellow traffic light in town, and our graduating class is typically 50-60 students,” Sholler said. “The magic of traveling with all of your friends to a new city or destination and sharing in those experiences is second to none. It might seem like a daunting and impossible task to organize, but ETI is your partner from start to finish.”
Sholler plans his trips in two-year cycles, meaning that he’ll start planning his next trip soon for travel in 2025. Among other advantages, this early planning helps students to have more time to fundraise and for families to save.
“Because we are a small rural school with lower socioeconomic status, and do not have the resources that a much larger school may have, there are many students who have traveled now with my group that may never get to have an experience like this ever again,” Sholler said. “To be able to provide the trips we have to our student population is a reward I will forever cherish. Life-long memories and experiences!”
Sholler emphasizes how very fortunate he feels to be in a school district that supports and values the arts and has gone out of their way to support his music department. In addition to that support, Sholler credits much of his successful trips to ETI’s services.
“Quite simply, the planning, organization, response time, customer service, and their absolute dedication to make sure students have the absolute best experience while traveling are the reasons why I’m a fan of ETI,” Sholler said. “ETI understands the magic of traveling with a group of students and works to create that magic in each trip they prepare and plan. I also believe they have an exceptional team that works together to get the job done. They also work to ensure the director can enjoy the trip, too.
“Traveling with a large group of students can be stressful, but ETI does everything in their power to help alleviate as much of that stress as possible.”
Courtesy of ETI.
Headshot Photo Credit to Abbey Moore Photography. Remaining Photos Courtesy of Joshua Sholler.