10 to Watch: David Fish

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 1, 2011

One very bright spot at Catawba lately has been Dr. David Lee Fish’s thriving popular music program, which has been recognized in recent years as among the very best in the country by “In Tune Monthly,” whose founder, Irwin Kornfeld, praises Fish’s innovative approach in preparing his students for careers in the music business.
“The entertainment industry is in rapid transition and David, along with his supportive administration, is thinking ahead,” Kornfeld says. “We don’t see an awful lot of that in education.”
Under Fish’s leadership, Catawba’s popular music curriculum has successfully nurtured performers and songwriters like Dennis Reed, a gospel artist who recently signed a multi-album contract with Universal Music. Reed received national attention in the BMI Foundation’s John Lennon Songwriting Contest in 2006 when one of his songs was named the best among more than 1,200 entries. The following year, another Catawba student, Derek Daisey, tied for second.
In November, Fish organized the Association of Popular Music Education, a consortium that grew out of a College Music Society summit that Fish organized and Catawba hosted in Washington, D.C., last summer. It brings together for the first time a dozen schools with popular music programs.
Fish also organized the student group The Vernaculars. A rarity among college and university ensembles, the group performs contemporary popular — or “vernacular” — music. They performed the entire Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album last year at Catawba to a standing room only crowd. It was such a hit, they reprised it a few months ago, and in March, they’re taking it to the Hard Rock Cafe in New York’s Times Square.
— Katie Scarvey
Name: Dr. David Lee Fish
Age: 54
Occupation: Chairman of the music department at Catawba College and director of the department’s music business/popular music concentration
Favorite book: Zorba the Greek
Most surprising song or artist in his music collection: Eminem “Eminem is an artist I cannot help but have respect for. Although I don’t like some of the things he raps about, he is a consummate artist. I come away more impressed each time I listen to him.”
Who you will watch in 2011 and why: His cohorts in the dozen schools around the country that make up the Association for Popular Music Education — a group organized by Fish himself.
Reaction to making the list:?“I’m surprised and flattered.”