MEET THE TEAM

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Debra Smith
Founder & Managing Director
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Debra taught for 25 years and retired from the Mobile (AL) County Public School System, where she also served as a Band Booster for 10 years. After retiring, Debra founded the Student Tours division in 2003 and is the architect of every group we do.  Having come from the educational environment Debra truly knows what it takes to make each and every trip a success, she’ll  consult with your school’s group leader to define the objectives and timing for your group, establish a budget, and negotiate and secure every element of the trip!

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Linda Carpentier
Student Tours Logistics & Sales Coordinator
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With 25 years of experience as a travel planner, Linda plays a key role in Student Tours, keeping each group organized, managing reservations and payments, and responding to inquiries from travelers. She’s often the voice at the other end of the phone when you call Student Tours.  Prior to joining the Student Tours team, Linda has arranged tours and cruises all over the world for individuals and groups. Some of the destinations include Alaska, the Caribbean, Europe (Ireland, Italy, Spain, Greece, Germany, France, Scotland and England).  If you have a vacation or travel need beyond a Student Tour, Linda  is a fountain of knowledge and expertise!

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Lee Smith
Sales Development
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Lee has been in the Student Travel Industry for 10 years and came to us with a vast knowledge of music & performing art tours. His love of music led him to obtain a degree in music performance as well as another in music business. For over 15 years, he has taught and worked with area high schools & drum majors to get them ready for competition. When available, he enjoys adjudicating band festivals and competitions. Besides instrumental music, Lee is also well versed in choral arts. Throughout his life, he has been a member of and directed numerous choirs and ensembles. He has had the opportunity to sing and work with many professional opera & theatre companies. When it comes to music educators & peace of mind, Lee knows exactly what they need.

He loves that he is still closely connected to music through travel!

“Some of the best times of my life are closely connected through music and travel. I feel a strong responsibility to pass this on so others are able to have these same experiences and positively influence the youth of today.” – Lee Smith

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Donna Cutrer
Tour Manager & Escort
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Cathy Clarke
Group Air & Mission Trip Specialist
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In my 39 years as a travel agent and I have helped plan hundreds of mission trips. What started by planning a small mission trip for my church grew into the foundation of my travel clients. These types of trips are very near to my heart because I’m honored to be a part of this amazing experience and help support the people who are so giving of themselves in order to help others. Because mission trips are about helping those in need, working with a travel agent can really help cut down on the cost of travel for the group.

I’ve helped book air travel packages for many groups headed to parts of Central and East Africa as well as regions of the Caribbean over the years. Working with the group leader, they are able to tell me how many travelers they are expecting and I arrange air transportation for the best price. By doing so, the additional money that was saved can be used for supplies that would otherwise not have been purchased.

Planning the appropriate connections, seat assignments and checked baggage regulations are just a few items I can assist with for your group when planning an upcoming mission trip. These teams travel all over the world offering medical, dental and other support for those less fortunate. I ensure that wherever there is money to be saved, I will work my hardest to keep cost low.

I also enjoy planning mission trips because I love working with groups. Reunions, romantic travel and corporate travel have all had a place on my travel resume. Working with my customers is the best part of my job. There is often so much excitement that is built up around an upcoming trip. To deliver the vacation of a client’s dreams makes this job so rewarding!

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Kristen Hughes
Outside Sales Agent
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Kristen has many years of experience in the realm of travel with music performance groups, particularly with her husband, who has been a high school band director for many award-winning band programs. She also gained travel experience while hired on as a private instructor for Phillips Preparatory School. Kristen has a Bachelor’s degree in Music and a Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology. During her spare time, she works as a Speech-Language Pathologist at a local nursing home and spends time with her son, Weston. While studying music, she was the first piccolo section leader of the Jaguar Marching Band, an undergraduate teaching assistant, John W. Laidlaw Scholarship recipient, took lessons from many world-renowned flute players, played substitute flute for the Mobile Symphony, and attended summer music camps. She continues to express her love of music through teaching private lessons. Having been on many trips with band programs through Travel Travel Leaders Student Tours, Kristen has experienced firsthand how this company has transformed the lives of directors and their ensembles. She also recognizes the benefits of performance travel, including providing an educational experience, boosting the ensemble’s reputation within the community, enhancing recruitment, and building a sense of unity within the ensemble. Her goal is to create the group travel experience you want, which is affordable, educational, and memorable.

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Heath Nails
Outside Sales Agent
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Heath Nails is currently the Coordinator of Band Operations and Conductor of the Concert Band in the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Music and Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Alabama. His primary duties include all logistic organization and operational units of the University Band program, managing all financial obligations for the Million Dollar Band, University Bands Large Ensembles, Honor Band Festivals and Summer Music Camps, supervising all Million Dollar Band auditions, managing band personnel and serving as the conductor for the Concert Band. Mr. Nails also coordinates all concert promotion and management for the University of Alabama Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band, and Concert Band as well as coordinates travel arrangements for the University Band Department. Some of his major travel operations for the Million Dollar Band include the 2011 BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans, Louisiana, the 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016 SEC Championship Games in Atlanta, GA, the 2012 BCS National Championship Game in Miami, Florida, the 2012 International Tour of Italy with the Alabama Wind Ensemble and Million Dollar Band, the 2014 College Football Playoff Semi-Final Sugar Bowl Game in New Orleans, Louisiana, the 2015 and 2016 College Football Playoff Semi-Final Games in Dallas, Texas (15) and Atlanta, Georgia (16) and the 2016 and 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Games in Phoenix, Arizona (16) and Tampa, Florida (17). Mr. Nails has been closely involved in working with both the College of Arts and Sciences and the University Athletic Department in all issues relative to the operations of the band program. Other responsibilities include serving as the University of Alabama Bands liaison at state and national music conferences. Additionally, Mr. Nails serves as a Group Travel Specialist for Springdale Travel, a branch of Tzell Travel Group based in Mobile, Alabama. His responsibilities include pre and post trip planning for student groups as well as serving as the official travel escort for student group trips.
Mr. Nails received his Bachelor of Music degree from William Carey College in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and the Masters of Music Education degree from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Prior to his appointment at the University of Alabama, Mr. Nails served as band director at Rock Quarry Middle School and Southview Middle School in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Fairhope Middle School in Fairhope, Alabama. Additionally, he currently serves as General Manager/Director of Personnel on the Board of Directors for the Alabama Winds, an all-adult community band based in Birmingham, Alabama. Mr. Nails currently has had the privilege of serving as conductor with the University of Alabama Symphonic Band during its Fall and Spring 2015-2016 concert series. Prior to his employment full-time with the University, Mr. Nails served as a Graduate Teaching Assistant with both the Music Education and University Band Departments at the University of Alabama. As a Graduate Teaching Assistant, Mr. Nails assisted in daily operations for the band program, supervised the 400 students of the Million Dollar Band during performances and trips, and assisted with the planning and execution of the Crimson Cavalcade of Bands, Alabama Honor Band, and Summer Crimson Music Camp. He also served as one of the conductors for the Alabama Concert Band and Tuscaloosa Winds community band.
Mr. Nails holds membership in the National Association for Music Education, the College Band Directors National Association, the National Band Association, the Alabama Music Educators Association and the Alabama Bandmasters Association.
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Sharon Concepcion
Vice President, All Aboard Travel Leaders
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Sharon oversees All Aboard Travel Leaders, where Student Tours is based. She provides the team and tools to support Student Tours, and ensure that we’re bringing all the resources of Travel Leaders to bear on behalf of your group and students.

ABOUT TRAVEL LEADERS

Travel Leaders Network has been assisting travelers for nearly 30 years through our international alliance of agencies big and small. Backed by Travel Leaders Group – a powerful leader in both leisure and business travel – we represent all facets and styles of travel, giving us the unique advantage to plan every detail of your travel experience.

 

Travel Leaders has been honored with over 65 prestigious Travel Industry Awards for Excellence since 2009 – more than any other travel agency company in North America. Our agents are experts on specific cruise lines, hotels, resorts and tour operators, as well as niche travels areas, such as destination weddings, river cruises, safaris and multi-generational family.

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