Students learn the notes at summer band camp
Neil Underwood is an original.
One of the first teachers to sign on with North Lincoln High School when it opened in 2003, he’s been teaching band for over a decade to the proud Band of Knights. Prior to coming to North Lincoln High School, he taught for 20 years at East Lincoln High School. An education veteran, beginning what will be his 32nd year in the education system, Underwood is tackling the 2014-2015 school year with a musical program that students, faculty and parents are excited to be a part of.
While the music for the competition season for North Lincoln’s Band of Knights will seem familiar to audiences — with Underwood pulling from classical pieces by noted composers like Liszt and Ligeti and modern composers like Robert W. Smith —spectators will be given a notable performance in that Underwood developed the program himself. With the help of dedicated staff, including separate staff members for percussion, woodwinds, brass and the color guard, Underwood began to formulate the plans for this year before competition season was over
“We started talking as a staff last year,” Underwood said. “We went to a competition and the staff all rode the bus together so we could talk about this year. Then we started to get together, seriously, over the Christmas break, just talking about ideas of music and progressively we put it together.”
By April, the staff was writing music and putting the program together, with Underwood writing his own formations and drills.
The title of the show this year is “And Deliver Us From Evil,” and though it sounds to be of a religious nature, Underwood insists that it is merely about the struggle of good versus evil and the warring nature that man has within himself. Drawing inspiration from Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” and implementing cacophonous piano music in addition to the band, Underwood hopes that this program inspires people to hope for good to win every time.
“It’s a musically dramatic presentation,” Underwood said. “I think it will be music that the audience will enjoy and a theme they can really get into.”
The Band of Knights competition season begins the first weekend in September, ending six weeks later in November. The community will have the opportunity to see North Lincoln High School’s band, as well as the bands from East Lincoln, Lincolnton and West Lincoln High Schools on Sept. 20 at Lincolnton High School at 7 p.m. at the Lincoln County Band preview. All four high school bands will perform competition programs for the community. Admission will be free.
With so many years of music education to look back on, Underwood appreciates every student and every year that he’s been at public school, but retirement is something that is still on his mind.
“I’ve debated,” Underwood said. “I’ve thought real seriously about retiring but I love these kids. I love working with the kids. They’re a good group. I’m very fortunate, we have a strong booster organization. We have a lot of parent involvement. The administration has been very supportive. That keeps me going.”