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Tampa Prep's "Mr. Man": Music Shows No Color

drew alexander.JPG
Bobbie O'Brien

Lots of folks will tell you they have at least one teacher who affected them in a positive way on into adulthood.

Maybe that teacher taught you something that was not necessarily part of the normal curriculum. Such is the case with Drew Alexander, a WUSF intern, and his music teacher at Tampa Preparatory High School.

If you were to walk by the music room on the bottom floor of Tampa Prep, you’re likely to hear teacher Lyle Manwaring stepping out a rhythm for his students or playing his trumpet.

He has been at Tampa Prep for more than 10 years and this year will be his last. For Manwaring, or as the kids call him Mr. Mann, teaching was not his first career.

He first started as a performer with the American Wind Symphony. But, it was during that time that he got the opportunity of a lifetime - playing and touring with the legendary Dizzy Gillespie.

“I asked Dizzy if I could come watch him play, so I brought my flugal horn,” Manwaring said. “I ended up sitting in with Dizzy and his quartet at that particular moment.”

His face lit up as he explained the story of how he first met Dizzy and what happened when Dizzy invited him to tour on the road.

“It was kinda a neat experience and then after that he asked me how long this gig was gonna last?” Manwaring said. “I said I'll be done in August. He asked if I wanted to join on with his group and from there ... that’s how it started.”

From there, Manwaring traveled the county playing clubs and concert halls with Dizzy. During this time he found out more about the man he had previously known just as a jazz legend and as one of the greatest musicians of all time. He found out Dizzy had a message to spread that went way beyond his music..

“As a person, he was a humanitarian. To him, music showed no color. That was probably the greatest thing I learned from him,” Manwaring said. “And what he said to me, and I've passed it on here at Tampa Prep to the kids is if you're playing some music and if every audience member and every musician could just close their eyes...that's what we'd listen to. It's not about racial issues or anything like that ... it's not about race, it's about the music.”

Manwaring has spent the last decade trying to convey the messages he learned from Dizzy to his students. He credits that as his reason as to why he went into teaching and also says it is what he will miss the most.

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