The SME Bands are lead by Alex Toepfer and Eric Starnes.

Director – Alex Toepfer

Alex Toepfer is the Director of Bands at Shawnee Mission East High School where he conducts the Symphonic Band, Marching Band, the Blue Notes and Blue Knights Jazz Ensembles, IB/AP Music Theory, Musical Theater Pit Orchestra and Pep Band. Active in the community as an educator, advocate and performer, Mr. Toepfer serves as artist coordinator for the Prairie Village Jazz Festival, is an educational consultant for the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, East Central KS Music Educators Association Jazz Honor Band Chair, and frequently works with various community outreach organizations. Toepfer has appeared professionally as a member of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, Kansas Music Educators Big Band, the Back Alley Brass Band, Crossroads Wind Symphony, High Plains Music Camp Faculty, and The Kerry Strayer Jazz Orchestra. He earned a Master of Music degree from the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and a Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Fort Hays State University.

A native of Hays, Kansas, Alex lives in Overland Park with his wife Alyssa Toepfer, soprano and fellow music educator. He enjoys BBQ and cats (but not together).

Assistant Director – Eric Starnes

Eric Starnes is assistant director of bands at Shawnee Mission East High School. Currently in his third year at East, he previously spent 4 years at Mill Creek Middle school in DeSoto school district and 5 years as an assistant band director in Buhler, KS. 

Mr. Starnes is a native of Manhattan, Kansas where he attended Manhattan High School and upon graduation, studied at Kansas State University where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education with an emphasis in Trumpet. While at Kansas State, he studied trumpet with Gary Mortenson and conducting under Dr. Frank Tracz. Since, Mr. Starnes completed his masters degree in Music Education at the University of Kansas in 2020.

Mr. Starnes has performed in the K-State Marching Band, Wind Ensemble, Brass Ensemble, Big Bands, Latin Jazz Band, Trumpet Ensemble, and various other groups over his career. Since his move to the Kansas City area, Mr. Starnes is a part of the Midwest Winds, Crossroads Wind Symphony, and various other performance opportunities.

Mr. Starnes is an active member of the Kansas Music Educators Association, Kansas Bandmaster’s Association, Phi Mu Alpha Fraternity, and International Trumpet Guild.