London Calling 1

Lee’s Summit High School Music Students Head 
To The UK for New Year’s Parade and Festival

They already carry quite a reputation around Kansas City. Now, a group of Lee’s Summit High School band and orchestra students are poised to take their act on the road. In a big way.

The students will head to London later this year to perform at the 2017 London New Year’s Day Parade and Festival, an event spanning five days leading up to and after that city’s New Year’s Day parade. The band will march in the parade, while the orchestra will perform in a concert during the festival.

“We received an invitation from the London New Year’s Day Parade committee after being recommended by schools and professionals in the area,” says R. Brady Finch, director of bands and chair of the music department at Lee’s Summit High School. “Due to the school’s positive reputation for musical excellence in the region, with high school teachers and college professors the committee in charge of selecting groups for the event, they felt we would be a good fit for the event.”

First, however, they had to pass a crucial and potentially intimidating test. Before a formal invitation could be issued, the former Lord Mayor of Westminster, Catherine Longworth, made a trip to the high school in September to hear the groups perform. The audition of sorts confirmed for Longworth what Finch and orchestra director Carrie Turner long suspected: their young and talented musicians were ready to play London.

“The experience was different than any other school related event I have seen,” says Finch. “I was very stressed to meet our guests from London, but it was such a pleasure. The students were enamored with the Lord Mayor Catherine Longworth and waited after the event to take pictures with her.”

Many of the trip’s details are yet to be worked out. The band will be marching and performing in the parade and possibly an evening festival concert. The orchestra will be performing in one of the evening performances during the New Year’s Festival.

“They haven’t given us specifics yet about which hall we will be performing in but we have been assured it will be one of London’s premiere stages,” says Turner. “With such a long-standing tradition of orchestra music in London, there are many to choose from. I’m excited to see where we will be.”

The trip figures to be the first international travel for many of the students. The group departs Kansas City on December 27, 2016, returning January 3, 2017. Aside from the performances, the agenda includes some great sightseeing: London’s West End, the Tower of London, Greenwich, the 2012 Olympic Park, a River Thames cruise, the Tower of Windsor, and many other notable stops.

Also to be determined is what the groups will play during their performances. Finch and Turner are still working on that, but they promise crowd-pleasers that are both fun for the students and will bring some Americana to the events.

What is known is that the students have some work ahead in order to pay for the trip. Fundraising events are planned, and students will be busy saving up on their own. The music department is actively working with its Music Parents support group on fundraising ideas.

If anyone is interested in helping the students make the trip, they can connect with the music department at LSHSMusic.com.

Finch has been teaching at LSHS since 2001. His wife, Laura, teaches vocal music at Moreland Ridge Middle School in Blue Springs. Turner has been at LSHS for four years. She previously worked at the University of Missouri teaching music theory and conducting a youth orchestra program that had a chamber music program and two orchestras.

Turner has personal witness to Lee’s Summit’s musical reputation.

“I remember back 20 years ago when I was in high school orchestra in another district. Every year, I would beg my parents to move to Lee’s Summit so I could be in the orchestra program. I love teaching at LSHS, the staff is very supportive of the program and the students and parents can’t be beat. We have three orchestras at LSHS and every ensemble is bursting with energy, passion and spirit. The kids make me smile all day and making music with them is a privilege.”