When I became superintendent of Lufkin ISD in the spring of 2013, there were certain events I was asked to clear my calendar for that were “do not miss” events. One of those events, to my surprise, was band camp. Immediately I was informed that it was a tradition for the superintendent and high school principal to attend the Panther Band camp that’s held about an hour away at Pineywoods Camp every August. Of course, I accepted the invitation to continue the tradition. As a former trombone player in the band myself, I was excited to meet some kindred band students and learn more about the military style of marching.
Mark Smith, our high school principal, drove me out to a beautiful part of the country where the camp was held. As we walked out, I was greeted by parents who told us that our timing was perfect. The students were finishing up a drill. I looked toward an open field and saw student section leaders providing instructions and groups of students practicing their marching steps over and over. As I stood and watched in amazement, I began to realize why this was one of those “do not miss” events. I met parents who explained the week’s schedule to me and how every minute was planned from sun up to sun down with activities designed to strengthen their musicianship, marching ability, and teamwork. Once they had perfected what they were working on, they were released and reported to our area, where they provided us with our mini concert. I was beyond impressed.
The Lufkin Panther Band is known, even outside our city limits, for its tradition of excellence. The expectations are high and our students continually meet and exceed those expectations. Not only did our band earn all ones at the annual UIL marching contest this year, they also brought home the 5A division state championship in the National Association of Military Marching Bands for the first time ever. Our band is successful because of many reasons, including community support that generates funds so that all of our band members can have a unique experience during band camp, the diligence of our student band leaders, and the commitment of our band directors.
At the beginning of the year, I was visiting the high school and I stopped by the band hall where I heard Scott Williams (otherwise known as “Band Man”) explaining the history of the Lufkin Panther Band being the best and how everyone had to do their parts to continue the tradition. He further explained the importance of providing our community with a great halftime show. The halftime performances have been incredible and the community support phenomenal as each show ends with a sincere standing ovation. When I think about all of the hard work, time and effort that Band Man puts in to choreographing performances, planning practices, and motivating nearly 200 students to work together to achieve perfection at the same time, I realize that excellence is not accidental.
Honor America Night, to me, was the culmination of our entire band program from the sixth graders who played sitting in their chairs, to the seventh graders who stood proudly playing, and the eighth graders who marched and spelled out “LP” to the LHS Panther Band marching and playing together all in honor of our veterans. I am so proud of our band and what they have accomplished.
The Lufkin Panther band is just one of the many examples of hard work and dedication that makes Lufkin ISD an exceptional place to be.