Girl Scout’s ‘Gold’ project towers above band practice 

Published 4:38 pm Friday, October 19, 2018

By NANCY WILSTACH / Special to the Reporter

MONTEVALLO – Although Lindsey Underwood had become accustomed to directing band drills from precarious places, the old band director’s tower that greeted her when she arrived at Montevallo High School last year stood in a class by itself.

“From the top (of the cab) of trucks, atop painters’ scaffolding,” she recalled some of her perches. “A lot of schools don’t have safe towers.” And a bird’s eye view is essential to perfecting the order of a marching band. “You have to have a two-dimensional view.”

So, Underwood sucked it up and climbed the wobbly old tower.

Meanwhile, a quiet girl in the Troubadours’ dance team was noticing. However, unlike everyone else who, over the years, wondered when the tower would tumble, EmilyAnne Smith decided to do something about it.

“She came to me in January,” Underwood said, “and said she wanted a new tower to be her project.”

Smith, a junior, was eligible for the Girl Scout Gold Award, carrying the same prestige as Boy Scouting’s Eagle rank. Fewer than 6 percent of eligible Girl Scouts earn the award. Smith is set to receive hers in a formal ceremony in the spring.

“I noticed the tower was wobbling, and the band director before her went through one of the steps,” Smith said.

The new tower was dedicated with a formal ribbon-cutting Thursday, Oct. 18, on the band practice field between Valley Street and Main Street next door to Bobby Shunnarah’s dental office and hygienist school.

Smith familiarized herself with the city’s building codes and started sketching.

Smith’s uncle, Warren Dickerson, conveniently happens to be an architect. He took her sketches and her building code research and produced blueprints.

Smith, meanwhile, tackled fundraising for the roughly $3,000 the tower was expected to cost. Going out and asking people for money for something more lasting and more expensive than Girl Scout cookies made a significant impact on Smith, Underwood said.

“Before she started this project, it was hard to get three sentences out of her—she was so quiet! Now, she speaks right up,” the band director said.

The dentist next door had noticed the activity at the practice field and called Smith’s mother, Pamela. “When I got home one day she said, ‘C’mon, we are going to see a man.’ It was Dr. Shunnarah.  He donated the biggest portion of the cost,” EmilyAnne said.

The school system’s maintenance people, community volunteers and a contractor tore down the old tower and built the new sturdy structure entirely of treated lumber.

EmilyAnne pointed to a deck a little more than halfway up the structure: “The code requires a platform at the first 12 feet if you are going to 16 feet,” she explained.

That deck proves useful in many ways, such as an observation spot for the dance team’s and baton twirlers’ coaches. The tower has a built-in spot for Underwood’s practice notes—no more dropped clipboards!

“I brag on her (EmilyAnne) all the time,” Underwood said.  “She is leaving a legacy that is going be here over 20 years. She has invested in the future of this band for years to come.

“And all the other band directors are jealous of me!”