In 1999, Norwell High Schools marching band began a 14-year streak of performing in the state finals when the bands current leader was still a marching Knight.
Cory Kelley, in his first year as the bands director, said it has been surreal, returning to the school, walking the halls and seeing things not from a student perspective.
Im honored to be the director here, he said. Im just trying to keep the tradition going.
The Norwell Marching Knights, who have won three state titles, are one of seven area bands that will travel to Indianapolis on Saturday for the Indiana State School Music Association marching band finals at Lucas Oil Stadium. Norwell will compete in Class C.
Also competing are Homestead High School, defending state champions in Class A; North Side High School in Class B; Concordia Lutheran High School and Angola High School in Class C; and Adams Central High School and Eastside High School in Class D.
For Eastside, this trip to Lucas Oil will be the marching bands first in school history, despite competing at the semistate level for four out of the past five years. Eastside Director Jim Graham said he has some experience playing in venues like Lucas Oil, but he took other area directors up on their offers to help out during practice this week, answering his and students questions.
Thats really helped put (students) minds at ease. Mostly, its about getting them prepared mentally for what theyre going to see, he said.
For Saturday, Graham said hes looking for all the bands hard work to pay off in a strong performance.
Our goal, though, has always been to entertain the audience, but we also want to really be able to walk off that field with a sense of accomplishment, he said.
Kelley said Class C, the division in which Norwell, Concordia and Angola will compete, has stiff competition this year, with any of the top five bands able to take the title. Last year at state, Norwell placed third and Concordia fourth.
At this point in the year, its about finding the little things and making them better, cleaner, he said of the bands preparations. Were really just looking to put our best performance of the year on the field.
Angola has been taking judges advice and making minor changes to polish its show, titled The Fire Within. Director Kevin Fogle said the band is hitting its peak in execution and has noticeably improved each week.
The students love (the show). Ive been able to see their passion for it grow, he said. You can tell the students really enjoy playing their instruments.
Homestead is also adding a few elements and fine-tuning its show, Director Steve Barber said, as it prepares to compete for a second straight Class A state championship.
Were always looking to make changes for the better, he said. We try to talk to the kids about doing their very best. We think the outcome will take care of itself.
Directors also praised the boosters, parents and students who have put in time and effort to support the bands.
It really takes quite an effort from many people to get to this level, Fogle said.