ABOVE PHOTO: Alex Ingram at the piano during the “Wawa Welcome America” celebration at Independence Mall. (Photo courtesy: Alex Ingram)
By Arlene Edmonds
Alex Ingram is proving that there is life after retirement.
After working 35 years in maintenance for the School District of Philadelphia, Ingram retired last year. Since then, serving as the Minister of Sacred Music at the Deliverance Evangelistic Church in North Philadelphia, Ingram has more time to devote to his lifelong passion — music. He was able to see the fruits of his labor come to life while leading his ecumenical tri-state choir during a performance at the Wawa “Welcome America” Independence Day celebration on July 4th.
When not performing for concerts, you can find Ingram in a New Jersey-based recording studio late at night putting down the tracks for his work or producing others. He hopes to be able to put out a CD and possibly go on tour showcasing his music. He knows the gospel music business well; Ingram was an original member of the old Gabriel Hardeman Delegation and recorded with the Bishop T. D. Jakes & the Potter’s House Mass Choir, the Edwin Hawkins & Tri-State Mass Choir, and others.
“This is just a great time for gospel music,” Ingram said. “For many years I would perform at the “Welcome America” event when Dr. J. Donald Dumpson was in charge. Then for the first time this year they asked me to direct the choir. I was so excited to be able to do this. It was a wonderful moment to stand in that historic place to perform. The people responded overwhelmingly. Rev. (Alyn) Waller from Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church sang. There were so many in the choir from Deliverance and Enon, but it was a tri-state choir so they [came] from more than 15 churches all worshiping in song together.”
Ingram is excited now that he is devoting his life to music full-time; he is able to attend many national gospel music events. He said it felt it was imperative to keep the intrinsically African -American art form alive. So, one will find him attending and possibly performing at events like the Edwin Hawkins National Conference & Convention or the 85th Annual Thomas Dorsey Convention.
“I first got interested in music in the early 1970s when I was a student at the Strawberry Mansion Jr. High School,” said Ingram, an alumnus of Overbrook High School’s academic music program. “At first I was playing the drums. Hardeman was my gym teacher and since I was a drummer he asked me to play for his new group, that would later become the Gabriel Hardeman Delegation. I wound up playing for him professionally after I switched to organ. Then life kind of got in the way. You kind of get side tracked by working every day to get that income to take care of your family. So, I always looked forward to being able to leave the school district so I could devote my life to just music full-time.”
In 2014, Ingram received his first major recognition, an award from the Philadelphia Gospel Music Association at their annual Gospel Hall of Fame Honors Awards ceremony. The award was presented by PGMA’s longtime president Richard Stafford.
“We honor artists who are part of Philadelphia’s gospel community,” Stafford said. “Some just have not been recognized for all they have done, are still doing and will do. Alex Ingram just happened to be one of them.”
As for Ingram, he still relishes on how his life has turned around and his profile was raised ever since he received that PGMA recognition. He sees that moment as a pivotal stepping stone to being showcased at the “Welcome America” event.
“I am just so grateful to be sharing my music and blessed to do what I love.” he said.