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Behind the (concert) scenes: Q+A with Rade Sekulic, specialty travel agent. First in a five-part series.

Behind the (concert) scenes: Q+A with Rade Sekulic, specialty travel agent. First in a five-part series. featured image

Travel agent to the classical stars Rade Sekulic has a drink with Christina Mahler, Tafelmusik’s Principal Cello

This week, I’m posting a five-part web feature about the folks who work behind the scenes of live concerts. What you see as an audience member – the performers – is a mere fraction of the number of people it takes to organize the travel, ticket buying process, promotions, costumes, and the staging that all lead up the magic you see and hear on stage.

Today, we’re starting off with Rade Sekulic, Manager/Owner of Hospitality Tours,Toronto.

Q: To give us an idea of whom you work with, name a few clients you help get from A to B, instruments intact.
A: The list would be rather a long one, but to mention a few Tafelmusik, Toronto Consort, Gryphon Trio, Caprice, LaNef, Collectif 9, and guest artists for various year round festivals: Harbourfront Centre, Baroque Montreal, Luminato, Ottawa Chamber Fest, TIFF, and Early Music Vancouver.

Q: How did Hospitality Tours become specialists for planning and booking travel for classical musicians?
A: The idea came about from the late Nicholas Goldschmidt (Canadian conductor, teacher, and music administrator) and Professor Harvey Olnick (who taught at the University of Toronto and founded musicological teaching in Canada). They suggested to the founders of Hospitality Tours, Ethel and Jeff Doughty, that Hospitality should look after musicians, orchestras and music festivals travels. It took off from there. Ethel and Jeff founded the agency in 1980. I started in 1996 and now own the business.

Q: There’s probably no such thing, but what is a typical day on the job?
A: A typical day of a travel agent used to be to source out and secure space in world-wide airlines systems networks available only through brick and mortar agencies.

With technological advancements and evolution of distribution channels, the typical work day now is more coordination and planning of activities for various events, artist management, and looking after individual artists, by arranging suitable cost effective solutions for all parties.

In the post booking process, we provide accounting and detailed traveling documents, including at-a-glance summaries so that all parties involved can navigate who, when, and where they would join the travel, and depart when the event is over.

Q: Often I see Facebook posts from friends VERY upset with airlines not allowing them to travel safely with instruments. In fact, I did a 5-part Q+A on that alone. Ever dealt with either a musician who refused to travel because the airline was insistent on checking the instrument, or worse yet, a musician left with a broken instrument?
A: As Rene Schiffer, cellist, and one of my musician friends, said, when traveling with larger instruments (cello, double bass), very little has changed from the baroque period, Bach’s time, with horse carriages, to today when we travel with modern planes.

In the early days, I had a situation where the baggage handlers could not get the double bass through the baggage loading door. Fortunately, one of the handlers cleverly figured out that if it was turned around the other way, it would fit.

Another time, a cellist was asked to either check in the cello or disembark as the seat in the cabin designated for the cello was taken. Luckily, a crew member came to the rescue by asking the person in the cello designated bulkhead seat to change it for another one, who did it happily.

Part of moving an orchestra around is also chartering buses. Once Tafelmusik was in Charlottesville, Virginia, when the bus broke down. A second bus was sent, but on arrival broke down as well. Running out of time, I called a local gas station who had a school bus available but not a driver. Understanding the seriousness of the situation, the gas station owner with the licence drove the bus personally to Dulles International Airport in Washington DC, where they just made it to the only flight to Kansas City for their next concert.

Q: Best thing about your job?
A: It is about being part of the process of helping musicians move around the globe in their noble quest to create music and perform. Also, attending various concerts and meeting those musicians in person is quite a rewarding experience as well.

Tomorrow: Chris Dorscht, Sales Director at Mirvish Theatre.

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