PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. — The holidays will be twice as merry at one Johnson County high school.

Students from Shawnee Mission East High School are preparing for the trip of a lifetime with 90 musicians from the school’s band program are headed for London, England, where they’ll play three shows including the city’s popular New Year’s Day parade.

Six-hundred-thousand people are expected to attend as East’s band performs on January 1.

Alex Toepfer, East’s director of bands, led his musicians to a similar show in Rome, Italy four years ago. It went so well in Italy that the British asked the Lancers to come back. The Lancers’ instruments are already shipped overseas.

“It’s a really big opportunity for us as a program,” Toepfer said. “That’s really what it’s all about, providing experiences like that to take something we’re passionate about and something we love to do, and, quite frankly, something we’re good at, and sharing it.”

The Lancer musicians, who’ll be accompanied by 40 adult chaperones, will take Kansas City jazz to European ears. Their caravan is due to depart the morning of December 27.

East musicians typically plan music trips every two years in the United States, and every four years internationally, but COVID shut that down for a while. Getting back to normal will feel good to these music makers.

“I think it’s going to be cool to play music in a different country. I’ve never been overseas before. I think that will be fun,” Delia Cashman, one of East’s musicians, said.

“I’d like to learn more about the people there and more about performing before a new crowd. It’s a good experience to have,” Henry Revare, another player, said.

In all, the Lancer music makers will play three shows, including a private VIP reception planned by the Lord Mayor of Westminster. The January 1 parade will be webcast at this website.  The parade should begin at 6 a.m. CT.

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