Band director Ted Heller to march into retirement


Submitted Photo

North Penns Ted Heller conducting an ensemble at NPHS..

TOWAMENCIN – To band director Mr. Ted Heller, North Penn has always been considered home. He graduated from North Penn High School in 1982 and came back seven years later to begin his thirty-one year teaching journey in the North Penn School District. Shortly after the new year, Heller announced that he would be retiring at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.  

When Heller was a student at North Penn, he marched with the Marching Knights for three years and played trumpet in most of the music ensembles. Although he had a passion for music throughout high school, Heller originally attended Temple University as a Computer Science major.

Submitted photo
Ted Heller in the late 90’s working with the Marching Knights.

“I had no musical training other than playing in all of the bands. I didn’t take any theory classes, I was never in chorus, and I was not going to be a music major,” explained Heller. “I was going to make tons of money being a computer programmer, and then something major happened in my life: Calc 2.”

Following his life-changing struggle with calculus during his freshman year, Heller decided to change his major from Computer Science to Music Education. After graduating from Temple University in the fall of 1989, he filled former band director Mr. Frederick’s position for half a year. After a few years of of working as a substitute teacher in the North Penn and Pennridge School Districts, he received his first full-time teaching position at Pennfield Middle School. Throughout his career, Heller has taught at and elementary school in the Pennridge School District, Pennfield and Penndale Middle Schools, and North Penn High School.

While teaching at the high school, Heller introduced a plethora of new ensembles and music classes with the goal of making music a part of every student’s life.

With the increasing number of students in all of North Penn’s music ensembles, Heller started the Wind Ensemble in the mid-90s, which is still an audition ensemble at North Penn. He originally directed the Navy Jazz Band for five years, but he handed over the position to establish the Columbia Jazz Band, North Penn’s second jazz band.

On top of all of the music ensembles he directed, he also packed his schedule by teaching Solo Performance, Music Tech, and a conducting class. Heller also introduced a music careers class to show students all of the possibilities with a career in music.

Submitted Photo
Heller conducting with his two sons, Nate(left) and Luke (right) at North Penn High School.

“I took a summer workshop with a friend of mine from Hatboro Horsham, and he told me about his music majors class, and that was more of a selling point to get more people involved, so I created a music careers class instead of a conducting class,” said Heller. “Conducting only brought in people who were [thinking about] careers in music, but I’m trying to target everyone.”

After teaching at the high school for sixteen years, Heller moved down to Penndale Middle School to teach 7th grade band for eleven years. On top of teaching at the middle school, he worked with students for Penndale Television and he was the high school’s assistant golf coach for seven years.

“I learned to be a good teacher down at the middle school, because when you’re at the high school there’s so many things that go on. You’re trying to play the role of an advisor to the groups, you’re trying to teach, and you’re trying to keep the marching band going. And it was cool to teach [at Penndale] and then come up [to the high school] and see the growth of the musicians,” said Heller.

At the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, Heller transferred back to North Penn to teach and he has continued to leave a positive impact on the music program. He has continued to direct the symphonic band and wind ensemble, as well as teaching Fundamentals of Music, Careers in Music, and Solo Performance. Also under the direction of Mr. Heller, the Marching Knights have won state championships the past two years.

After retirement, Heller wants to travel more with his fiance and plans on spending more time reading, at the gym, and in the garden.

Submitted Photo
Heller with Marching Knights members after announcing his retirement in January.

Heller contributed a great amount of success to the North Penn music program throughout his entire teaching career. He found new ways to make music a part of every student’s life, led the marching band to success, established some of North Penn’s most prestigious music ensembles, and created a positive learning environment for all students.

“I’ve never looked back and said ‘wow, we accomplished all of this,’ it was always ‘we just won this competition but now I have to worry about putting the brass ensemble together and getting the concert ready.’ I’ve never relished in the moment that we achieved something,” reflected Heller.