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German band students visit Shawnee Mission South for a music exchange

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Posted at 4:41 PM, Jun 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-02 13:42:04-04

OVERLAND PARK, Ks — Germany and Kansas City are separated by 4,788 miles, but one program between two schools in Germany and Kansas City is helping bridge that gap together.

Fifty-three band students from Germany are visiting Kansas City this week as part of an exchange program with Shawnee Mission South High School.

For the last 44 years, students have traveled to each other’s schools to perform and learn about their counterparts. Over the years, it had led to some beautiful friendships, including the mayors of both cities.

“24 years ago, the town of Bietigheim-Bissingen( approx. 30 minutes away from Stuttgart, Germany) and Overland Park became sister cities. That grew out of the music exchange,” said band director, Steve Adams. “They can go anywhere they want, but they come to Kansas City and I asked them why? Well, it’s the people.”

This week, the students have been touring across the metro this week experiencing Kansas City sports, food, history and culture. And on Friday, the German and American students will be working together to put on a concert for the public.

“I don’t think you can really quantify the value of something like this,” said Shawnee Mission South senior, Emma Krueger. “It gives you all this experience and broadens your world view in a way that will impact you for the rest of your life.”

Despite the language and cultural barriers, the students say music has been an amazing avenue to connect.

“If we play something and they know the song, it’s like, that’s great I think,” said German exchange student, Sophie Kachler. “Especially when you play the same instrument, just to talk to each other.”

Kachler is back in the program for the second time since visiting the city four years ago. She says the experience of making friends, both old and new, has been truly life-changing.

“Some of us actually are staying with the same host family we stayed four years ago so it’s great to see the transformation and the change that happens over four years,” said Kachler. “I’m still in contact with some of the people that I met four years ago here.”

In a short few days, the German students will be head to Kansas City International airport and fly back home, but 53 American students from Shawnee Mission South will also get their chance at a trip of a lifetime to head to Germany and see what life is like there.

“The difference between a German teenager and an American teenager is like four percent. 96 percent they are the same, but the four percent is what makes for great conversation,” said Adams.