A former high school band director who left his mark on the Lincoln County Schools band program, Neil Underwood has been named as one of three members of the 2021 induction class into the North Carolina Bandmasters Association Hall of Fame.
“When I was president of the North Carolina Bandmasters back in the early 2000s, two other gentlemen in the association were just forming the hall of fame,” he said. “They were putting it all together with the regulations and how it was to work. In my first year of president, we inducted 25 members – band directors who were historic in our association who had already passed away.”
In the next year, Underwood was able to nominate and have inducted his former band director, W.W. Jacobus.
“For me to be a part of that now and still be alive is pretty incredible,” he said. “It’s just full circle. For me personally, it’s been very cool.”
Underwood is currently the Associate Director of Bands/Director of Athletic Bands at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, NC. The “Spirit of LR” Marching Band has grown to more than 100 members for the 2020 season. In addition to marching band and conducting the wind ensemble at LRU, Underwood also instructs music education classes. In 2019 the LRU Wind Symphony was a featured performance group at the NCMEA Conference. Prior to his appointment to LRU he served as director of bands for a combined total of 32 years at East and North Lincoln High Schools. During that time, his concert bands twice performed in Carnegie Hall, once at the Lincoln Center, twice at North Carolina Music Educator’s Conferences, in DC for the 60th anniversary celebration of the ending of WWII and in 2012 for the ASBDA National Convention. Underwood’s bands have been the featured musical ensembles for the N.C. State Board of Education Conferences on two occasions. Marching bands under his direction have marched in the National Memorial Day Parade, the Hollywood Christmas Parade, were champions at the Gator Bowl National Field Show Championship and were finalist at nine Bands of America regional championships. In 2001, Underwood received the Award of Excellence from the South-Central District Band Association where he served as District Chairman for two consecutive years. He served as President of the North Carolina Bandmaster’s Association and was a founding member of the N.C. Bandmaster’s Marching Band Committee. In 2001, Underwood was recognized as East Lincoln High School and Lincoln County School’s Teacher of the Year. He received the N.C. Citizenship Teacher of the Year in 2008 and in 2013, Underwood was selected as one of School Band and Orchestra Magazine’s 50 Directors Who Make A Difference. He was a quarterfinalist for the 2021 GRAMMY Music Educator Award. Underwood resides in Lincolnton with his wife, Joanna. They serve as the music directors for Lincolnton First United Methodist Church. Both are also dedicated board members and participants with the Lincoln Cultural Center and the Lincoln Theatre Guild. Their two adult children are both professional musicians in education and entrepreneurial professions.