Marching Vike parents facing ‘Challenger’ in prep for show

Members of the Huntington North High School Marching Vikes Band Parents Association work on constructing the showcase prop that will be used in an upcoming band performance, during a work session on Saturday, Aug. 27, in the high school parking lot. Pictured are (from left) Mike Benson, Kathleen Stetzel, Dave Stetzel and Band Parent Association President Mark Johnston.
Members of the Huntington North High School Marching Vikes Band Parents Association work on constructing the showcase prop that will be used in an upcoming band performance, during a work session on Saturday, Aug. 27, in the high school parking lot. Pictured are (from left) Mike Benson, Kathleen Stetzel, Dave Stetzel and Band Parent Association President Mark Johnston. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Sept. 5, 2016.

They are the group behind the group – making sure the Huntington North High School Marching Vikes put their best feet forward, whether on the football field or in school competitions. This season, members of the Band Parents Association are facing a “Challenger” in preparation for a new show presentation.

The band parents have recently installed uniform racking inside the band’s 28-foot trailer, with head and shoe storage for every band member participating in the upcoming show season. They also launch numerous fund-raisers, move podiums and equipment onto and off the field and serve as van drivers for show trips.

They also make props to be used during performances, and this year the parent volunteers are using hammers, saws and power tools to make a combination backdrop and stage for the band’s commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy.

Band Parent Association President Mark Johnston says the group is creating a launch pad for the space shuttle.

“Now the tricky thing is, it also has to actually be the space shuttle Challenger, too,” Johnston explains. “On the back side of it, the floor of that will hinge up in the air, with the wings of the space shuttle painted onto it and the outside will just be black. Then, from that, underneath will fold out the nosecone of the Challenger and will lock into place.”

The prop will rise to a height of around 11 feet tall, Johnston adds. The “challenge” of the Challenger prop was to design it to be light enough so it can be maneuvered onto the football field, opened, laid down and then opened back up again – all during the Marching Vikes’ performance. At one point the prop will actually become a stage of sorts for some of the band members to stand on.

“We’ve got to get it to be able to do all these things, so we can get it on the field in a matter of about 30 seconds, and we can get it off the field in about a minute,” he says.

The mostly wooden prop will illustrate the band’s accompanying music that tells the fated space shuttle’s story in its program, titled “Challenger.” The band will use it in Indiana State School Music Association competitions, with the first contest, the “On The Banks of the Wabash” Invitational, set for Sept. 10 at Bluffton High School.

Johnston says the music will be three different pieces, all comprised of original compositions by HNHS’ band director Michael Petek.
“The first one will be an upbeat piece of music, that the space shuttle Challenger launches, and sounds great and happy,” he says. “The second piece of music is going to be a really sad, down piece of music because it blew up. And then, they come back to life and life moves on.”

Petek, who has a background in composition and experience creating arrangements for different groups, says the original music serves two purposes. First, is the marriage between the theme of the show and the music that tells the story.

“If it’s a unique theme, many times it’s actually easier to create original music as opposed to going through the process to find something that fits,” Petek explains. “This way you can make sure that it is exactly what you want.”

Secondly, the school will not have to be concerned about copyright laws or pay hefty royalties to use copyrighted compositions.
Petek says it is a thrill to hear his composition come to life when the band begins to play.

“It gives me a lot of pride to see it pulled off, especially when the kids are enjoying it,” he says. “I tell them that when I give them ‘new’ music, it’s usually my third or fourth draft. They never see the drafts that don’t make it.”

The band parents have a deadline to construct the prop so the Marching Vikes can begin using it in practice, Johnston says. It will cost about $1,000 to build, just a drop of the $30,000 the Band Parents Association raises each year to support the young musicians.

Football – and Marching Vikes fans – have already heard a couple of selections of the new program played on Kriegbaum Field, without the new Challenger prop. However, Petek expects to have the entire program, including the prop, presented in its entirety at the Vikings’ Homecoming game, coming up Sept. 16. The band will continue to present “Challenger” throughout the competition season, held nearly every Saturday in October.

Both Petek and Johnston say it takes all of the school’s band parents to put together an excellent program for the students, and the students are why their parents work hard to fill in the monetary gaps that school funding does not provide.

“The Band Parent organization has to be strong and active in order to make this all succeed for the kids,” Johnston adds. “And that’s what we’re doing it all for, is so the kids can have an opportunity to compete and be proud of what they’ve accomplished.”