INDIANAPOLIS - Seven northeast Indiana bands celebrated or created traditions with top 10 awards Saturday at the state marching band finals.
Homestead's second-place finish in Class A added to its string of 23 top 4 awards.
North Side built on its finals tradition by adding a No. 10 finish in Class B.
Concordia Lutheran claimed second place in Class C, the best finish in the school's history. Norwell was No. 4 and Angola No. 8. Adams Central claimed No. 7 in Class D. Eastside earned a No. 10 placing.
Eastside's first-year director, James Graham, was jubilant over the Marching Pride's first trip to Lucas Oil Stadium. Veteran North Side director Ed King took similar delight in the Marching Redskins' 32nd trip to state's finals.
The Indianapolis Colts' home field at Lucas Oil Stadium provided the year's final stage for 40 marching bands that had endured the heat of summer and the fury of fall. Months of drills, halftime shows, festivals and elimination rounds ended in a 12-hour celebration of marching, music and mutual respect.
Band directors focused on the teamwork that had brought them to the state capital. They thanked students, staff and communities. They talked about celebrations back home. They discussed next year.
“The kids did everything we asked them to do this week,” said Steve Barber, the director of Homestead's Spartan Alliance Marching Band. The defending champion in large-schools Class A finished one place behind Carmel and one step ahead of another powerhouse, Avon.
He addressed a throng of students and parents as midnight approached in the Lucas Oil parking lot. Barber said he was proud of the band's performance and conduct throughout the day, including the respect that the runner-up Spartans extended to first-place Carmel at the awards ceremony. With only the top two squads remaining on the field, the Spartans walked 70 yards to congratulate the winners.
“You guys are class,” Barber told his band.
Dianne Moellering, the director of Concordia's Marching Cadets, said placing second among “great bands, great competitors” was something to celebrate. “It was just like getting first for us,” she said. “It was a humbling experience, especially when you get high scores, because there are so many great bands here. And on any given day, anything can happen.”
After the awards, the band carried the No. 2 trophy through the tunnel and into the rain. “We just stood there and hugged and were happy for each other,” Moellering said. “Nobody's gonna melt,” she said.
Graham, of Eastside, said he was pleased with the band's performance. “Just even walking down that tunnel and seeing the look on their face as they got into the big room,” Graham said. “It was something that I had experienced as a performer, and as a director I was really glad that I was able to share that experience with these kids.”
“Every game I performed was NFL games at halftime, so no one was really there to really watch the band,” Graham said. “This is one of those events where everyone in the stands was there for you, so it was definitely more intense today.”
He said the band incorporated the changes made over the past month. He called it a solid and cohesive show.
Michael Satterthwaite, the director of the Adams Central Squadron of Sound, said the band made steady progress through each of the many performances that led to the finals in the NFL stadium. “This can be a pretty intimidating place to play,” he said. “But I was very proud of them.”
Kevin Fogle, the director of the Angola Marching Hornets, joined other directors in thanking the community for its backing. “We have great parents. We have a great community that supported us all week, gave us a great send-off,” he said. “The kids see that and it energizes them and keeps the morale high and really helps us perform at the highest level.”
Cory Kelley, the director of the Norwell Marching Knights, said the band has improved each week of the season and delivered another big performance Saturday. “I think on a lot of levels it was really heart-felt and everything just seemed to come together well.”
He said the band was good this year, and so was the competition. “Really, I think anyone coming out of the semi-state field had a chance of winning it this year,” he said. “That's kind of the beauty of marching band, that we're kind of competing against ourselves. It's all about excellence, and putting on a great show.”
King, in his 40th season at the helm of the North Side Marching Redskins, shared the enthusiasm of younger and even freshman colleagues. “I thought we did just great,” he said. “I'm really excited just being here.”
He said North Side survived a tough Class B semi-state the previous Saturday at Pike High School in Indianapolis. “It's a lot harder getting here than it was in the past,” said King, whose band has made the trip four of the past five years.
Even preliminary competition was tougher, he said. “We got our lunch handed to us at district contests,” King said.
He said he reminds students that they have a tradition to uphold. “That uniform has been to state finals and we plan on making it to another,” he said.
“They just turned it on at regionals and then they turned it on again last week,” King said. “They've just risen to the occasion a lot more than I even thought they had it in them to do.”
Looking to another band season, directors said they have succession plans in place after they lose some marchers, flag corps leaders and drum majors to graduation.
“You always work to keep your enrollment up, but it's about quality, not quantity,” said Moellering, of Concordia. She said the No. 2 placement just gives the Cadets something to shoot for next year.
Graham, of Eastside, said the focus now shifts to concert band and an approaching Christmas concert. “I think you can't just have a band program that has a strong marching band,” he said.
“We always lose to graduation, but we always find a way to rebuild,” said Barber, of Homestead.
For the moment, Barber urged students to return to school in celebration not only of the school's tradition, but of their own achievement.
“This is your shining moment,” he said.