BREVARD, N.C. (WLOS) -- The new principal at Brevard High School gave students an earful on the first day of school with a drum solo for the ages.
"This was my first introduction to 760 kids, you know," Dr. Bryan Abernethy said of his Wednesday assembly. "As a musician and performer, you always feed off the energy of the crowd."
"When they saw the drums, they could see the spotlight come on and it was sort of like a reveal type thing," he recalled.
Facebook video of the performance has been viewed more than 16,000 times. The performance was the stuff of rock legends, but the message is something bigger than music.
Reports of racial tension paint a picture of Brevard High no one wants to hear. In July, the local NAACP chapter raised concerns about systemic racism.
"One of the mottos we have this year is strength in unity," Abernethy said. "We really want to unify our school and the community, celebrate our diversity."
Along with music, he's taken other steps to bring people together. Bethel A Baptist Church (290 Oakdale St.) will host a special presentation Aug. 27 about Rosenwald schools and African American communities.
"It really emphasizes the importance of education for everyone," Abernethy said. "And it will be a great history lesson, especially for this particular area."
We caught up with Abernethy in his office, where the drums are part of his daily routine. He's practiced an hour a day for 25 years and used to play in an Iron Maiden tribute band called Up the Irons.
"And also it was my message of choose what you want to do and establish a vision and work on it daily," Abernethy said of what he hoped students took home with them from his performance.
"I didn't wanna be on MTV or anything, I just wanted to be notable," said the administrator who's become notable in his own way.
"Anything y'all want to hear in particular?" he asked, before letting us have it with a frenetic display of drumming.
"Well, I think everyone can identify with music," he said. "It's the universal language."
Abernethy knows galvanizing the school will take more than a solo act. And it will take more than drums to bring harmony and healing, but Abernethy believes playing the drums sets a loud and clear tone for harmony.
"I think the ability to bring people together, I think music does that more than anything else," he said.