Celebrating the life and work of Lenny Knight: Dover High Senators hit the highest of notes in tribute to the late former band director

Lenny Knight, who died Tuesday, leads his Dover High musicians in the playing of the national anthem at the 2013 DFRC Blue-Gold All-Star Football Game. (Delaware State News file photo)

DOVER — The Rolling Thunder drum line greeted visitors to the Celebration of Life for former band director Lenny Knight at Dover High School on Friday night with pulsating rhythms – sort of symbolically showing their love for their former leader in the form of heartbeats.

Once inside, that unrelenting beat was joined by the melodies and harmonies of the trumpets, trombones, saxophones, flutes and other instruments as the Senators paid tribute to Mr. Knight, who died March 14, in the most fitting way they knew how.

“It’s amazing. I’m really speechless,” said Natasia Nealous, senior drum major for Dover High. “Right now it’s kind of hard to keep it all together and focused because it’s just amazing at how many people came out to just celebrate Mr. Knight’s life. It’s truly amazing.

“The amount of people that came just shows how many people he touched.”

The massive gymnasium at Dover High School was half full as friends, co-workers, alumni and others from the community came out to celebrate Mr. Knight’s life.

Lucas Knight, brother of former band director Lenny Knight, is greeted by current director Reginald Daniel, right. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

The program opened with the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner” before members of Mr. Knight’s family were introduced and received several mementos honoring Mr. Knight’s life and career.

Dover band drummers warming up before the program honoring former band director Lenny Knight.

Mr. Knight was hired to work with the Dover band’s percussion section in 2000, after graduating from Delaware State University, and was named band director in 2007.

He served as the Senators’ band director from 2007-15, when he returned to DSU as an assistant band director.

Dover High’s band performing the national anthem at the start of the program honoring former band director Lenny Knight.

Lucas Knight, Mr. Knight’s brother, was overcome by the support for his family, but said, “I know there’s a lot of sadness, but not tonight … we’re here to celebrate.

“This week has been an emotional rollercoaster for the family but I can honestly say that we’re most grateful for the outpouring of love. There’s so much spirit here and so much love …. It’s keeping us up. I’ve got chills.”

Chorus member Ashley Gosnell, of Dover, signing a card that was presented to the Knight family.

There was a photo montage of Mr. Knight in the gymnasium as well as a Dover High School Senator Band blanket that featured a picture of Mr. Knight and stated “100 percent heart, 100 percent effort,” as well as “Pride, Precision and Perfection!” near the bottom of it.

The band played several songs in memory of their former leader and there was a tribute by the Rolling Thunder drum line, as well.

A 10-minute video tribute reflecting on Mr. Knight’s life and career concluded the celebration.

Mr. Knight’s funeral service will take place this morning, starting with a viewing at 9 a.m., in the theater at Dover High School.

Lucas Knight, Lenny’s brother, became emotional as he addressed the crowd Friday night.

It was obvious by Friday’s huge turnout that Mr. Knight, a 1989 graduate of Dover High School, touched hundreds of students with his passion for music, performing and having fun.

Dr. Courtney Voshell, Dover High’s principal, said she made 500 copies of the program for the celebration but had to head to the copy room a half hour before the event even started.

Ms. Voshell said it was a fitting, heartfelt tribute.

“I worked with him for 10 years so we were definitely colleagues, friends,” she said. “Lenny was always the easy-going guy. He definitely put Dover High on the spot for creating our drum line the way that he did and that will forever be a legacy.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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