L-R Band Director Erik Mason, drum majors, Caleb Terry, Jacob Nabors, Peter Kwok, Crestard Falohun and Assistant Band Director, Bridget Wildes
L-R Band Director Erik Mason, drum majors Caleb Terry, Jacob Nabors, Peter Kwak, Crestard Falohun and Assistant Band Director, Bridget Wildes

The Buford High School Marching Band, also known as the Band of Wolves, recently celebrated the beginning of 2024 by performing in London! The group of almost 200 high school musicians spent several days in London, performing at London’s New Year’s Day Parade (LNYDP).

The Band of Wolves had eagerly anticipated their first international trip in over a year after receiving an invitation from several dignitaries who visited Buford High School from London in October 2022.


The dignitaries extended an invitation to the BHS Band of Wolves and Chamber Chorus to participate in the 2024 London’s New Year’s Day Parade and the London International Choral Festival. Duncan Sandys, the British Lord Mayor of Westminster and great-grandson of Winston Churchill, presented Erik Mason — the BHS Band Director — with the invitation to participate. Sandys referred to the festival and parade as “the greatest event in the greatest city in the world.”

Band members pause to capture a photo of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The Wolves experienced a significant increase in membership in the fall of 2020 when BHS band director Erik Mason and assistant director Bridget Wildes joined Buford High School. According to Mason, the invitation to perform in London started with the international talent scouts at LNYDP, who scoured the United States for the best bands. Both Mason and Wildes have been awarded the National Band Association Citation of Excellence multiple times, and they have a  track record of success in both concert and marching performances.

Mason said, “Bridget [Wildes, assistant band director] and I believe that our primary job for these students is to teach them how to be great people and to provide them with experiences to make that happen. The chance to travel and see other cultures and their history, as well as the opportunity to perform on such a massive stage, is an experience like no other for these students.”  

The London’s New Year’s Day Parade is said to be twice the size of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, with over 750,000 spectators and a worldwide television audience of 350 million. The size of the crowd is what Wildes said made the event “My favorite part of the trip was seeing the joy and excitement in the students’ faces when they turned the corner onto Piccadilly and performed on such a large, international stage.”  When asked how it felt to perform for such a large crowd, Senior drum major Caleb Terry said “I was nervous until we walked around the first corner and saw all the happy faces and the phones recording. I didn’t really think about how many people were watching us until the end of the performance.”

Anna Belle Clayborn, a 9th grade member of percussion, said “It felt exhilarating to see thousands of people waving and smiling at you and just enjoying your music”

The band played “Sleigh Ride and Industry Baby” among their feature song, “Werewolves of London,” which they performed at the finale grandstand.

In total, 121 students participated in the parade, which is almost 70% of the marching band. Two dozen chorus

Clay Mason (11th) and Elena Anderson (10th) snap a photo with the raven while exploring the streets of London Photo by: Kathy Mason

members performed in the London International Choral Festival, a 3-day event where students attended rehearsals and performed a 75-minute concert alongside other high schools and a professional orchestra.

In addition to the parade and performances, students toured, explored and experienced the City of London, “seeing all the different customs that London has, such as riding the underground and the tube and double-decker buses, and eating fish and chips and the crispiest doughnuts I’ve ever seen,” Clayborn said.

When asked whether the band would participate in the parade again if invited, Wildes stated that “one goal that Erik (Mason) and I have always had for our students is to positively change lives through music and that mission drives every decision we make for the program.” Wildes summarized the event as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience for these students — “a flashbulb moment” — and being able to see that is worth all of the work (and then some) that it took to get them there.”


Terry agrees, When asked to describe the trip in 3 words, he quickly responded……”The best ever.”


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