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Long-time Co-Lin band director

By Bob Arnold

A long list of people is associated with the proud history of the Co-Lin band program, but no one has a longer association with it than Stanley Stewart, who landed at the college in 1970 and stayed on until 2012 -- eleven years after his official retirement.

When Stewart came to Co-Lin, its marching band, like others elsewhere, performed line drills. It was a show band focused on musical themes that featured its Collette dancers when he left, evolving through a period when it was influenced by the symmetrical sets and circular formations of drum and bugle corps that carried flags and rifles.

Stewart jokes that he "was born one morning when the sun didn't shine" at Kosciusko, Mississippi, the namesake of the Polish American Revolution general, and grew up in Vaiden, Mississippi, where he graduated from high school in 1963.

"I came to music under the influence of my mother, who played the piano, which I used to bang on," Stewart recalls.

In junior high school, Stewart, of slender build, learned that athletics was not his calling, as a guard on the football team. So he pursued band as a trumpeter.

After a year at Holmes Junior College, where he played in the band, Stewart transferred as a sophomore to Mississippi State University (MSU), played in its Maroon marching band, brass choir and concert band, enjoyed trips to LSU, Auburn and Ole Miss and graduated with a degree in instrumental music in 1967.

Before taking over the reins of the band program at then Co-Lin Junior College, Stewart directed bands at Eupora (Mississippi) North High School and Coahoma county (Mississippi) High School. He started at Co-Lin as director of the college's marching and concert bands and jazz ensemble and the Wesson Junior High School Red Knight band, and taught instrumental music to college students, all while working on his Master's Degree in music and education at MSU, which he received in 1972.

Stewart came to a band program largely known for its dancers -- the Colettes, who numbered about 60 at the time. Classes were taught on the second floor of the Mutton Building and the marching band practiced inside an old structure behind the administration building that has since been torn down and replaced by a parking lot. "We called it the desert," Stewart recalls. "It was a horrible building that featured 12 supporting square pillars, which the band had to maneuver around as it practiced."

The Colettes remain an integral part of the Co-Lin band program, but Stewart reduced their numbers by half so they did not dominate the musicians. He also moved the band program across campus to a new fine arts building and marching band practice field in 1973, and became the college's fine arts division chair as well.

Stewart retired as director of the Co-Lin band program in 2001, but continued to assist his successors with the marching band, or show band, as it has become known, and leading the jazz ensemble. He continues to live in Wesson with his wife Sheila, who worked in the registration office at Co-Lin when they met. He has a daughter, Angela, 46, by a previous marriage, who is an education administrator at Harding, Texas.

What are your hobbies? I enjoy stamp collecting, gardening, cooking -- barbequing particularly, traveling to Orange Beach and in Europe -- Paris, Venice, Spain. I have a small shop, where I do repair work.

Are you a reader? I read alot. Newspapers, history books on the Civil War, World War I and World War II with lots of pictures. I am not much into fiction.

Do you enjoy movies or theater? I am a Bill Murray fan. I like comedies, dramas, and war movies. My favorite movies are Dr. Strangelove, Where the Buffalo Roam, In Glorious Bastards, a war film. I like opera, too. I enjoyed Rosini on a European trip at the Venice Opera House.

How about music? Except for rap and pop 20 music, I enjoy about everything. Whalen Jennings and Willie Nelson country music. Classical -- Bach, Beethoven, Handle, Vivaldi, the Russian composers. Jazz.

How would you spend your lottery winnings if you were so lucky.

I would tithe to my church -- Beauregard United Methodist, where I serve as a Deacon. I would give to Co-Lin and Mississippi State. Sheila and I would travel.

How would you change the world?

I would get rid of all the illnesses, find a cure for the coronavirus; stamp out poverty and end religious conflict.


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