MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Students and staff at Whitehaven High School are mourning the loss of a beloved band director who left a lasting impact on the school and the community.

Andre Newsom, the longtime director of the Whitehaven High Sounds of Perfection band, died of medical complications Sunday morning while the band was on a trip to Atlanta, Georgia.

The band has been collecting trophies for years, but Newsom did more than help students with music.

Leaders say not only was he influential at the school, but he was also a pillar in the community. As students and staff mourn the devastating loss, they made it clear his influence extends far beyond the band room.

“He always had a smile and he had a way of getting children to buy into his vision that’s transformed from the classroom to the field of play. So he was a very special individual and he will definitely be missed,” said Principal Dr. Vincent Hunter.

A 1994 graduate of Whitehaven High, Newsom was proud to serve his alma mater, inspiring others like the band’s current Assistant Director Vincent Smith who was once his student. 

“He’s the reason I’m actually working in the school along with Dr. Hunter,” Smith said. “Father figure, he’s mentored so many people. He’s touched the hearts of so many people. He’s changed people’s lives.”

Scott Neal knew Newsom due to his involvement in the mass band program, saying he leaves behind an example for other leaders. 

“His influence is, in my mind, unmatched at this point just realizing the impact that he had on the city with his arrangements, with his field shows, with the way he affected the kids that he had. He sent so many kids to college, guided them with their careers, guided them, counseled them, and just went so far beyond being just a band director,” Neal said.

Students and staff at Whitehaven High School are receiving counseling. Events to honor Newsom are also being planned. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.