Filling a legend’s shoes isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but band direct Lewis Nelson is up for the challenge.
With a month under his belt, Nelson has already proved that he’s the right man for the job--taking leadership at assemblies, leading his pep band at games, and teaching the crowd to cheer are just some of the strengths he brings to the table.
Nelson is no rookie, however. He has taught in Arizona and Germany, but returning to Missoula to teach was always his goal. Now that he’s back, Nelson is very excited about Sentinel’s band program.
“I always find being a band director to be stressful whether new or not. Being new just makes the stress of the unknown more apparent. That being said, I love the challenge of starting at a new school. Sentinel is the best school in Montana and I feel fortunate to be here and to be able to make music with great young people, which makes the stress I put on myself worth it. I don’t feel pressure to fill anyone’s shoes. My main goal is to have a smooth transition and give each student my best, daily,” Nelson said.
Nelson has been teaching for 10 years, eight in Arizona and two in Berlin, Germany. Yet, the Missoula native always knew he would return.
“I’ve had a great first few weeks and I’m very excited about the future of Sentinel’s band program,” Nelson said.
What most people don’t know, is Nelson is also a hero.
“Some people know this, but many don’t. I saved my neighbor woman’s life 11 years ago who was being mugged in front of her house. I ended up getting my jaw shattered by a second assailant with a metal pipe. I’m glad to be alive,” Nelson said.
Nelson knows some students have been resistant to the changing of the guard, but he’s optimistic about he future of the band program at Sentinel.
His short term goal is “to continue and maintain the tradition Sentinel’s bands have always had since Fred Nelson was the director. Long term, grow the program to three concert bands and two jazz bands as well as take the students to festivals all over the world and expose them to things they never knew were possible.”
As for the students, Nelson promises to do his “best to listen to their point of view and compromise, when possible.”