Celebrating the soul of America’s heartland, The Band Plays On is Rick Niece’s heartfelt tribute to friendship, community, and, most importantly, his father, Lewis Niece. When DeGraff, Ohio’s beloved band director is invited to conduct an encore performance, “Lewie’s Alumni Band” gathers to celebrate with gusto. As the band practices for its final parade, Rick, his baritone in tow, reflects on treasured memories, relationships, and the legacy of a small town with indomitable spirit. The second volume in the delightful Fanfare for a Hometown series, The Band Plays On provides an entertaining, inspirational glimpse into lives richly lived…and shared.




Following in his father’s footsteps, Rick D. Niece, Ph.D., is a lifelong educator who has served as a classroom teacher, a public school administrator, and a university professor, provost, and president. In 1997, he was named President of the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas, and has been steadfast in his devotion to the University’s success


Welcome to My Book Addiction and More, Dr. Rick Niece, Author, The Band Plays On!

      MBA&M: Please tell our readers a little about yourself?


I was raised in a small town (population 900) in Ohio. From age 9 until I attended college, I had a paper route with 72 customers. The route taught me the life lessons of responsibility, dependability, and customer service. My undergraduate degree is from Ohio State University, and my Masters and Ph.D. were received at Kent State University. My forty-five year career in the magical field of education has been as a high school English teacher, principal, college professor, dean, and university president. I am currently the President of the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas, where my wife and I are the “proud parents” of 630 students.



  MBA&M: What was your inspiration behind writing “The Band Plays On”?


The Band Plays On is the second book in my Fanfare for a Hometown series. Book 1, Side-Yard Superhero, was inspired by the influence of my hometown and by an amazing young man on my paper route. Bernie Jones was wheelchair-bound with severe cerebral palsy, and the book chronicles our friendship and adventures.


The Band Plays On also celebrates my hometown, but the focus is on the legacy of my father, Lewis Niece, who was the beloved band director there for 16 years. Dad was invited back to conduct an encore performance of “Lewie’s Alumni Band” when members of his bands, over those 16 years, returned to DeGraff to perform a halftime show during the high school’s football game, march in a parade the next day, and play a concert downtown. The Band Plays On is a celebration of the soul of America’s heartland, and a tribute to friendship, community, and my father, as well as a journey of humor, heartbreak, and hope.



   MBA&M: If you could make a movie of “The Band Plays On,” who would be some of the actors you would use and why?


I think a movie would be terrific, especially if it were actually filmed in my hometown of DeGraff and starred a number of DeGraff’s citizens who are feature characters in the book. I will leave the rest of the casting to the producers, but I would suggest, because of physical resemblances, that William H. Macy play me, and my dad be portrayed by Mickey Rooney.



  MBA&M: What were the challenges in writing this title? And where did you find your research?


The research comes from my upbringing in the small town of DeGraff, Ohio. The Band Plays On is an “automythography,” a term I did not invent but have defined for literature. An automythography is a work of non-fiction that looks reflectively at what we think we remember and how we think we remember it. It is an iridescent memory based upon the author’s truth and personal narrative. Soap bubbles are iridescent. As they float away from us, they change shapes and colors, but they are the same soap bubbles. Our memories change shapes and colors over the years, but they are the same memories. Those memories are our automythographies. I depend upon my memory of past events, and I trust my memories.





The title of the book references an old music classic, “The Band Played On,” written in 1895. That song begins with this lyric:


Casey would waltz with a strawberry blond

And the band played on.


The difference is that in this lyric, the band “played” on—a verb in the past tense. The title of my book is in the present tense, plays, to signify that this music continues on and on in hearts and memories of my father’s many students.



  MBA&M: Most people talk about the main characters, but the secondary characters help to move the story along, so we will change things about a bit, I think it would be nice to hear a bit about at least one of the secondary characters, tell us a little about one of your secondary characters?


Fern Burdette was a legend in DeGraff. She was a lady way ahead of her time in many ways. After graduating from DeGraff High School, she travelled the world as a journalist. She was a trendsetter. When she returned to DeGraff after her career, she continued to be a trendsetter. You see, old Fern wore nothing but a brassiere from her waist up—no shirt, no blouse, no sweater, just her bra. As hard as it is to believe, especially in a small and conservative Midwestern town, Fern was not considered scandalous. She was just bra-bearing, no blouse-wearing Fern. She was a customer on my paper route, and I found her to be fascinating.



   MBA&M: What are some of the things that influence you while you are writing?


My life continues to be influenced by that small hometown, its citizens of long ago, and by my father. Also, my major in English and years as an English teacher are influences. However, another factor has impacted my writing. I believe we are, at birth, divided into two groups and assigned our roles. In one group are the memory makers. In the other are my favorites—the memory keepers. I am a memory keeper and always have been. Even as a child, I sponged up and carefully pocketed the events around me. In my books, I share those nostalgically-kept memories for others to live and relive along with me.



   MBA&M: Who is your hero/heroine in your personal life? Why?


My father is a logical choice as a hero for me. I have modeled my career and personal demeanor with him as an example. Al Kaline, who played right field for the Detroit Tigers for 22 years, is my sports hero. His loyalty to one team and its fans is a lesson I wish current professional athletes would follow. My wife, Sherée, is my heroine. I would not be a successful university president without her by my side. She is a servant leader, community and campus volunteer, and role model for our students. Plus, she is the best proofreader I know.



MBA&M: Please tell our readers where to find you and where to find “The Band Plays On”?


Readers can find more information about the new book The Band Plays On and the overall series, as well as further information on my background online at I also enjoy hearing from fans or responding to questions on or  My books are distributed through Midpoint Trade Books, Baker & Taylor and Ingram and can be purchased on my own website at Amazon or any major book store. Both books are available in print as well as in electronic format.  Side-Yard Superhero is available as MP3 Audiobook, recorded by Alex Cord.  


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