By Faith Allison
After 40 years of teaching, 33 at Snider, Mr. Kevin Klee has left behind a legacy of selflessness and dedication, along with a treasured tradition of Hawaiian shirts and sandals.
His journey as a band director started at the same place it ended. Mr. Klee realized that he wanted to be a band director during his sophomore year at Snider.
At first, Mr. Klee thought of himself as more of a US History teacher or a basketball coach, but his new passion for music and the sense of belonging that came with it quickly pulled him in.
“When I got to Snider, I just kind of got overwhelmed by the band culture. The enthusiasm and the excitement around me made it seem like something that was really big and really important.”
Mr. Klee and a peer had the chance to conduct Snider’s orchestra during their senior year when the orchestra director had to take a break after a back injury.
“We were looking at the scores and trying to figure out what all those notes meant and stuff like that and trying to stay in 4/4 time and ¾ time. One of the pieces was Nelhýbel’s “A Mighty Fortress,”which is a son of a gun to conduct even to this day,” Klee said. “It was so good for me. I got bitten by the bug, and I knew that yeah, this is what I’m doing.”
Jazz has been the heartbeat of Mr. Klee’s musical interests ever since he began attending jazz workshops at Elmhurst High School.
“I went out to Elmhurst and got involved in jazz, and it literally changed my life,” Klee said. “I know that sounds dramatic, but seriously, without that opportunity I don’t think I would be a high school band director right now.”
Mr. Klee has been developing his music composition skills since he began composing in his music theory class at Snider.
“The second semester was creative projects, which could be arrangements or compositions. I did a piece for an expanded jazz combo and I did a piece for brass choir, and I did a piece for orchestra,” Klee said. “I really liked that. I find it interesting, I find it to be challenging and creative.”
Mr. Klee plans to continue his compositional endeavors during his retirement.
“In 2009, we decided to write our own show. I wrote the music to fit the plot, and it was easy, but I had no idea where that music came from,” Klee said. “The show was called Enlightenment, and it turned out really well. One of the things I would like to do during retirement is revisit that music and try to rework it into a multi movement piece for concert band.”
In the little spare time that a busy band director like Mr. Klee has, he enjoys cooking and working part time directing a church choir.
“I don’t even look at it as a job. It gives me a little extra money that I can do whatever I want with, my happy money. The people in the choir are so sweet. We have a fun time.”
Each band program has their own strengths, along with their unique deficiencies. When Mr. Klee arrived at Snider, he wanted to create a band program that was well rounded and would strive for excellence in all areas.
“The attitude among Snider students was that concert band is just something we do between marching band and jazz band season. My first year I was trying to change the culture, and culture is strong.”
For the next 40 years, Mr. Klee persevered and created a balanced band program that excels in many areas.
As he pursues his plans to stay creative, and to compose music, Mr. Klee leaves behind 40 years of band students who have grown and prospered under his direction. As he moves forward, in his Hawaiian shirt and sandals, the sound of his music and the impact of his leadership will echo in the halls of Snider.