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Band of Knights set to follow up season of many awards with encore performance

AMANDA SEBASTIANO
Staff Writer

Though the North Lincoln High Band of Knights is wrapping up its award-winning marching band season this week, the students’ aren’t hanging up their instruments just yet.
Thursday, they will present their “Never Ending Trail” production to parents and the Lincoln County community one last time before calling it quits and filing the American Indian-themed show away for the rest of the year.
The group, under band director Neil Underwood’s lead, has been performing the Trail of Tears rendition since the beginning of the school year. Underwood and his group are walking away with winnings including two Grand Championships and honors recognition at the recent Western Carolina University Tournament of Champions.
Last weekend, the group traveled over three hours to compete in Cary Band Day — the oldest and largest marching band competition in the state, Underwood noted. Thirty-six bands were invited, with performances also by the North Lincoln High alumni and the UNC-Chapel Hill band. Saturday’s event marked the last competitive show of the troupe for the season, before the community show and upcoming Veterans Day parade.
Aiming for a “little less cliche” title, rather than directly naming the show after the Trail of Tears, Underwood and his students agreed on a title and worked to tell the story of the forced relocation of American Indians in the 1800s, through costumes, instrumental and interpretive performances of the Cherokee point of view of the historical event. The band’s color guard will also perform a traditional Eagle Dance for parents this week — a part of the show the students did research for and are hoping to mirror for their audience.
“It has a little bit of everything,” Underwood told the Times-News last week. “There are moments of fun, intensity, sadness and an uplifting message at the end; we’re ending it on a positive note. I think it means a lot for the kids to be able to perform it for the community one last time.”
Underwood, who has been instructing for 30 years and has been at North Lincoln since it opened about 10 years ago, had been considering retirement. Thanks to his students, staff and the group’s performance over the last few months, he decided he wanted to stick around a bit longer.
“A record of success,” the band instructor has noticed the last couple of years have gone exceptionally well for his bands, crediting his students’ hard work and dedication, along with the help of North Lincoln Middle band director Jerald Lowe who teaches the basics to Underwood’s future students.
After their last two performances end, the students will have their eyes set on a trip that will take them out of the state, where they will be the band chosen to represent North Carolina.
Pending approval by the county Board of Education at its meeting later this month, Underwood’s Band of Knights, will begin fundraising for the National Memorial Day parade in Washington, D.C., in May 2013. Recruits for the event heard about the North Lincoln group by seeing the school’s performances at marching band competitions, and invited Underwood to submit a form of interest.
They were accepted earlier this year, soon after applying.
Now, in hopes of raising $500 per child in order to be able to go on the trip, the students are looking for sponsors who can donate as little or as much as possible. Those interested may sponsor the entire group or individual(s).
“This will be a life experience for the kids — a once in a lifetime thing for sure,” Underwood said.
The director commends his students for a “wonderful season” and looks forward to the opportunity to showcase all they have accomplished to their parents. Thursday’s event is free and will begin at 7 p.m. at North Lincoln High.
For more information on becoming a sponsor for the May trip, call (704) 736-1969.

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