Introduction / How to Pack for Running Away With The Circus

Posted on Jul 10, 2017

Monday, July 10

I’m sitting alone on a camping chair in the grassy median between a small residential street and I-5. The morning Seattle rush-hour traffic is slogging along in front of me as I wait for the Chautauqua truck to make its way down from Mount Vernon so I can load up the pile of gear sitting next to me. Due to some magnificantly complicated logistics (a Chautauqua staple), I’ll be here for at least another hour, so this seems like an appropriate time for an introduction.

My name is Stephen O’Bent and I’ll be occasionally blogging on behalf of Chautauqua over the next three weeks as we tour through Eastern Oregon. This will be my 14th tour and in addition to the thousand community tasks we all share (meal prep, camp setup/cleanup, truck loading, community service projects, etc.), I will be co-leading the band with Eben, co-teaching a round-singing workshop with Leta, and co-juggling with the Flying Karamazov Brothers. In my non-Chautauqua life I’m a music professor and choir director, jobs that require skills I’ve surely acquired thanks to past participation on Chautauqua tours. It’s hard to overstate how much this community has had a positive impact on my life.

But I know what you really want to know, the question burning in the depths of your soul: how do you *pack* for a Chautauqua tour? I’m glad you finally asked. I travel a lot, but packing for Chautauqua is a different beast entirely. Since we’re living in tents, we have to be prepared for both very hot and very cold environments, often in the same day. We have to pack costumes, props, instruments, kitchen gear, and camping gear, and since we’re traveling commually, we have to be as efficient as possible while meeting all those needs. With that in mind, here is my best attempt at a cards-on-the-table, full disclosure of what I packed for this summer’s tour, roughly organized by category:

1 tent, camping pad, sleeping bag, pillow, & flashlight
1 amp, 1 electric keyboard, 2 trombones (1 to share with Linnea), ~100 pages of sheet music to distribute to the band, 1 songwriting notebook,
2 t-shirts, 2 tank-tops, 1 long-sleeved shirt, 6 pairs of underwear (decadent!), 3 pairs of socks, 1 pair of shoes, 1 pair of flip-flops, and 1 sweatshirt
1 kilt, 1 cape
1 toiletry bag, 1 towel
1 cell phone, 1 Chromebook, 1 actual book (The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell), 1 emergency backup battery

Things I have left behind that I will miss while I’m on tour: 1 wife (hi Shannon!)
1 dog (don’t eat that, Kaylee!)
1 actual bed, 1 actual shower

Thanks for reading, and thanks for supporting Chautauqua! Looking forward to get rolling.