Mighty Panther marches to State



The Snider High School marching band and staff listen as director Kevin Klee sets the stage for the rest of the season.


Freshman Kayla Fincher plays a solo on her alto saxophone in a Snider Mighty Panther Marching Band run-through at the school on Oct. 10.


By Garth Snow



Aurelio Gonzalez celebrated with a smile as he watched band practice from his SUV.

His son Dominique was one of the 119 members of the Snider Mighty Panther Marching Band. That’s the point, according to Aurelio: Dominique is one of them.

“His little brother looks up to him and wants to be like him,” the Fort Wayne man said.

Parents lined up for the first practice and run-through since the band earned a Gold rating Saturday in the ISSMA Scholastic Class Prelims at Homestead High School. That achievement will take the band to the Scholastic Finals on Oct. 22 at Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis.

Director Kevin Klee told the band to stay great, stay focused and reach for even higher goals. The best two bands at the Scholastic championships earn the right to perform in exhibition Oct. 29 at the Open Class State Finals at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Snider could represent Class A, he said. From his eagle’s perch atop the mobile platform, Klee’s voice carried across the front ensemble, the guard, band and staff, the clusters of drums and banners and toward the building that Klee hopes will hold a championship trophy.

Klee is is no stranger to the emotion of a state title. In the first post of his career, Klee was assistant to Barry Ashton at Northrop High School in 1983 when the Big Orange Pride took the Class A state title. To Klee, the memory is as fresh as his next breath. “It was so exciting. It was so wonderful,” he said. He wants his staff, 119 kids and a caravan of parents to know that same feeling.

“I don’t want you to forget for a second how great you were on Saturday, but you have to bring your A game again,” he said. Rehearsals prepare a band physically, he said, cautioning that each person also must be prepared emotionally. He told the students to know and believe that they can win.

“We have set a very high standard,” he said. “Get better every day without taking any day off, and without taking any steps backward.”

As the run-through sounded its finale, Klee told the band to hold the pose. That’s the photo, he said, that will appear in the 2017 ISSMA State Finals program. “Is that your best pose?” he asked. “Is that the photo that you want?”

The band formed a semicircle in front of Klee, assistant director Helen Hockemeyer and other staff as practice closed. “Don’t be afraid to be great,” Hockemeyer said. “It’s hard. That’s why everyone doesn’t do it.”

Dominique Gonzalez carried his trumpet from practice as his father watched from the SUV. Dominique is enrolled at Blackhawk Middle School. Aurelio said his son’s first year in band has been a blessing, and the trip to State is another blessing. “We’re really excited about it, it being the first year that he’s in band. It really helps him to socialize. You become a better person, because they have something to look forward to every day,” he said. “It teaches them to respect elders, to respect themselves.”

Aurelio missed the Homestead contest because of work, but said he tries to be to be at every event. When he arrived at school, though, the celebration had begun. “I got here and they gave me the news and we were really, really excited about it,” he said.

He hopes to be at another show, and then another. “It makes the kids more confident, happier when the parents show up,” he said.

“This band has exceeded my every expectation,” Klee said in an interview. “I’m so proud of them and can’t wait to see how they finish the season.”