Alan Coleman, a retired Cincinnati Public School music educator and local church musician, died June 17 in Harrison after a long illness. He was 72.
His sister Vicky Coleman said he suffered from renal failure, Parkinson’s disease and other health issues.
Alan was the oldest of five siblings. He was born in Cincinnati before moving to Covington. He attended the Lincoln & William Grant Schools, a segregated elementary school and high school, before transferring to the integrated Holmes High School.
His sister Geraldine Coleman Tucker says he started taking piano lessons when he was seven or eight, and his parents bought an old upright piano for their home. Before the family moved back to Cincinnati in 1964 when Alan was 13, Alan was the pianist for North Star Seventh Day Adventist church in Covington.
“We didn’t have anyone else there who could play … It was like a storefront church with maybe at max 30 members back then,” Geraldine said. “He was looked at as a gift; somebody who could actually play something that sounded like something on the keyboard.”
Alan’s brother David said the music continued at home. The family would have sing-alongs Friday nights, with Alan as the accompanist.
Alan got his degree from Ohio University in 1972 after paying his way through college by driving a taxi. He played piano, guitar, violin, trombone and baritone horn. He taught vocal music for almost three decades, first at Dater High School and then at Western Hills University High School.
The school gave Alan an annual operating budget of $250, The Enquirer reported when he retired. Still, Alan did everything in his power to show his students that they were as good as anybody else, Geraldine said.
“To do that, you had to kind of put yourself out there and be judged by members of the music establishment … Not to be deterred by the fact that there wasn’t money for transportation and [bus] drivers, he got his license,” Geraldine said.
In 1998, Alan was attacked by a student and suffered an injury to his spine. He later retired on disability, but his sister Vicky Coleman says that didn’t stop him from volunteering at education conventions and churches.
“He wasn’t like a paid person who played at churches,” Vicky said. “He did that as just a ministry so that when he was asked for special music, that’s what he would do.”
Alan was a frequent contributor to The Enquirer, often writing letters about issues in education from investigating teacher misconduct to how Cincinnati’s magnet schools are funded.
Alan left a mark on countless students, many of whom became friends after graduating. Shaunda Dawson was in his choir throughout high school. When she graduated in 1999, he sent a letter encouraging her to keep singing, and he attended her nursing school graduation party in 2009.
A year ago, Alan was a patient in the hospital where Dawson works. She visited him, and they talked about her father, her job and his health struggles. He was in and out of the hospital, and she said it wore on him.
“He never had kids of his own, so even though we were his students, that choir group became like family to him because we were with him so much,” Dawson said
He was preceded in death by his brother Kenneth Coleman. He is survived by his sisters, Vicky Coleman and Geraldine Coleman Tucker; brother, David Coleman; nephews Christopher Coleman Tucker and Matthew Antoine; brother-in-law, Michael Tucker; and many friends and former students.
Visitation is at 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 28, 2022, followed by the funeral at noon at Clifton Avenue SDA Church, 3800 Clifton Avenue, Cincinnati. Interment will be at Vine Street Hill Cemetery.