Beating the Drums for Quiyan Murphy

Highlander Band percussionists embrace new coach’s energy

Highland Park High School set out to find a new percussion director for the 2023 season, praying for longevity and wanting the best.

“We’ve had so much transition,” said Alex Wagner, parent percussion band representative for Highlander Band Boosters. “(My son’s) a senior this year, and from eighth grade to now, he’s had three different percussion directors and a year of COVID.” 

Wagner saw “morale … sagging a little” in the drumline and wanted a percussion director to bring back the spirit and connect the band in ways that were missing over the past few years.

Highland Park drumline seniors got their fourth percussion leader with the hiring of Quiyan Murphy, who serves as director of percussion for both middle school and high school. Students often call him “coach.”

“(Mr. Murphy)’s got this experience, but he’s retained his passion and freshness and new ideas,” Wagner said. “It’s very infectious. Honestly, I feel like I can’t say enough good things about him because he really feels like the answer to prayer.” 

As a youth, Murphy played with the Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps, a world-class performing group based in Concord, California. He also joined the drum line at the University of North Texas, where he got his bachelor’s degree.

Murphy has taught percussion for 42 years and served at Lewisville High for 18 years.

“It wasn’t easy” to leave, but “the reputation of Highland Park, the quality of students and staff” helped his transition, he said.

Junior front ensemble captain Laya Mani said the drumline had “a very good impression of him” when they first met. 

After a year where the program was mostly “student-led,” they were ready for a new percussion director.

“Overall, he really cares about the students, and the culture is shifting, so it’s still rigorous, but things are going well under his leadership,” Mani said. “(He’s) making sure that students are genuinely enjoying what they’re doing. (He’s) a little more flexible for how students are feeling (and) … great with handling people’s stress.” 

Murphy emphasized that his teaching style is “people first.” 

“They always respond to being treated well and being treated with kindness,” Murphy said. “I would say I’m demanding of what I’m wanting … but never demeaning.” 

Murphy plans on incorporating more participation from the drumline after the marching season is over by having indoor concerts in the spring semester and encouraging middle schoolers to play with high school students. 

“It’s vital that you have them get a good start because whatever you start (in middle school), you’re going to reap the benefits at the high school later,” Murphy explained. “They’re getting the same messaging if they have the same teacher for seven years.” 

Mani added that Murphy had made it “more engaging” for the middle schoolers.

She is “excited for the future” of the drumline and feels like “a legacy is being formed.” 

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