Murphy High School’s new band room was dedicated Friday to the memory of three prominent musicians who left their mark not only on the school, but on Mobile.
The $1.2 million, 8,000-square-foot facility, built last year to replace a building destroyed by the Christmas 2012 tornado, was dedicated Friday as the Coleman-Swingle Band Room in honor of two former MHS band directors, E.B. Coleman and Ira Swingle, Jr., and another Murphy alum who went on to musical fame, Ward Swingle.
“They were gigging musicians,” Murphy High band director Stan Chapman told a gathering of family and community members Friday, after his band opened the ceremony with a number composed by Coleman. “In the true spirit of them, when you guys finish (with the dedication), we’re going to finish our rehearsal.”
Coleman was the band director at Murphy during integration and was described by Chapman as being “a very calming influence” during that time. He was also a renowned conductor, performer, composer and arranger. He was the director, composer and arranger for the E.B. Coleman Orchestra and was a member of one of the oldest marching bands in Mobile, the Excelsior Band.
Ira Swingle, Jr., was Murphy’s band director in the late 1950s and also served as a music instructor at Bishop State and Spring Hill College. He and his wife, Pat-Ward Swingle, were also heavily involved with the Mobile Opera, where he was the chorus master and head arranger.
Mobile County Public Schools Superintendent Martha Peek described Coleman and Swingle as “two icons in the music world” who were “dedicated to music and dedicated to teaching.”
Swingle’s brother, Ward, graduated from Murphy a year after his brother in the 1940s and went on to travel the world with a ballet company directed by Roland Petit and ultimately form the Grammy-winning Swingle Singers. He was honored by the French government as an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters.
School Commissioner Robert Battles, whose district includes Murphy, told school band members the dedication presents “an opportunity for you to see what the roots of our history are. … It’s just an example of things you can achieve as students.”
The 8,000-square-foot, $1.2 million facility features two rehearsal halls, a classroom, teachers’ offices, a music library, restrooms and space for instrument storage and field equipment storage. It was designed by Jacky Bargainier of McKee and Associates Architects, Inc., and built by Youngblood-Barrett Construction Co., Inc.