While Neil Underwood may no longer be a band director with Lincoln County Schools, he’s still influencing and mentoring both former LCS band members and band directors. While William Fisher would have been fourth generation Lenoir-Rhyne University graduate, he almost went to Western Carolina University, but Underwood recruited him to LR.
“I credit a lot of my success to Mr. Underwood,” he said. “I was the official ‘hype man’ of the band. If anyone came to a football game and saw the band, I was the guy out front getting everybody excited.”
Fisher brings that high energy to his directorship at Lincolnton High School.
Underwood retired from his position as band director at North Lincoln High School in 2015 and accepted a position as instructor of music and associate director of university bands at Lenoir-Rhyne in 2016.
“I had encouraged William to apply to Lincolnton High School because I thought he’d a great fit for the band job,” Underwood said. “There are several former LR band students who I’ve encouraged and am still helping to find the right position for them. We’ve been blessed with a number of outstanding future music teachers. It’s exciting to see them begin their careers teaching music and band. They’re keeping the arts alive for our students during some tough times in education, especially with the aftermath of COVID.”
A graduate, from “not too long ago” from South Caldwell High School, Fisher, who plays the tuba, was a member of the band while in high school.
“I don’t really know who I’d be without music and really education in general,” he said. “I felt that through music I could impact kids better and in a more drastic way than teaching math or history. So much goes into a successful band program.”
Fisher said that while music is important, the history of a program is also important to him. While he’s from South Caldwell High School, he knew about the success of Lincoln County Schools bands.
“I think I can build off that and continue the long, storied tradition of the Lincolnton High School band,” he said.
While school’s out for the summer, Fisher has been going through his inventory, has met some of the band parents and will be meeting with the band on July 15. There will be a band fundraiser in the parking lot during the Fourth of July parade which he plans to help out with.
“My goals for the program are to grow it, but in general, I want to make my kids better people,” he said. “It’s important to me to make lifelong musicians, but if they leave better people than they were coming in, that’s all that really matters to me.”
It’s not like one person comes off the bench, he added. If a band member doesn’t contribute, they’re hurting the band. There’s no substitutes.
“I have to count on all my kids, and they have to count on me to be available, on time and know my part,” he said. “Otherwise, we’re not going to be successful.”
Former band director Josh Belvin is teaching band at Lincolnton Middle School.