Mr. Kevin Blanke joins music department for student teaching opportunity


Devan Baldwin

Mr. Blanke (left) has been teaching alongside Mr. Heller (right) for the past three weeks.

TOWAMENCIN- It is common for a student to hear the melodious voices of the choir or the vibrant sounds of the band while walking through downstairs F-pod. These pleasing harmonies can not only be credited to the North Penn music directors, but also to the recent influx of talented college students momentarily joining the music department as student teachers. For the past few weeks, University of the Arts graduate student Mr. Kevin Blanke has been teaching alongside Mr. Heller in the band room, and only has a few remaining weeks here at North Penn.

Blanke’s music journey began when he started taking piano lessons around the age of seven. Throughout the years, he has gone through a trial-and-error process between instruments such as the piano and alto saxophone. However, he found a passion for percussion, which he has been playing for thirteen years now.

“There was something about rhythm that was very appealing to me. I liked creating different sounds on the drums and being able to play all the different styles,” recalled Blanke.

During his high school years, Blanke was involved in jazz band, pep band, and theater, so it made sense for him to pursue a career in music.

“[Music] was the only thing that I was doing in high school. I started playing sports in high school, but by the time freshman year rolled around I had to make a decision to either try out for the baseball team or join band, which is the reason I transferred to La Salle [from North Penn],” said Blanke. “Stuff came and went but music always stayed.”

In the spring of 2018, Blanke graduated from University of the Arts with a degree in jazz performance and is currently working towards a masters degree in music education. Student teaching is required for graduation, so Blanke was eager for the opportunity to teach at North Penn because of the well-known music programs. What surprised him, though, was the level of professionalism from the band members.

“I knew you guys were going to be able to eat up very hard literature, I just didn’t know how well you guys were able to do it. I was very surprised with [the difficulty of] some of the music you guys are playing,” he added.

The wind ensemble is amazing, the symphonic band is great, and the marching band is world class.

— Mr. Blanke

Blanke has been spending his time learning here at North Penn with band director Mr. Ted Heller, who he says has been a great mentor.

“Mr. Heller has been great. He’s been giving me great advice about what it means to be a music teacher and a professional in the education world,” expressed Blanke. “I don’t have any marching band experience and I was very excited to see how it’s run. [Mr. Heller] has taught me a lot about marching band. He’s told me about the logistics of it like booking buses for trips, booking the trip to MetLife, States, and building a trailer to put equipment in and all that kind of stuff.”

Even with the competitive music scene in Philadelphia, Blanke is regularly booked to play percussion in outside theater productions, cocktail hours, and at restaurants on weekends. He admits, however, that a performance degree will not guarantee a full-time job and advises students to major in music education as well.

“If you’re going to major in music, definitely do music education. It’s always been hard to be just a performer if you have just a performance degree. Coming from a drummer’s perspective, there are hundreds of drummers in Philadelphia that all gig and work just as much as I do, but you can’t make a living off of it. Music education really sets you up for a career in the field,” Blanke advised.

Once he graduates and starts his teaching career, Blanke wants to strive to create a positive learning environment for his students, much like Heller has taught him.

“A lot of young educators want to do things their way and they want to bring in a ton of music and they say ‘you guys are going to play this and we’re going to do it this way,’ but that’s not what it means to be a teacher,” said Blanke. 

You have to make sure that the kids are happy. If they’re having fun, it’ll be fun for you.

— Mr. Blanke

Blanke has enjoyed his first three weeks teaching here North Penn High School and only has four more weeks remaining. Next semester, he will spend the first seven weeks taking classes at University of the Arts and then the following seven weeks student teaching at an elementary school. Blanke hopes to be back in the comfort of the North Penn School District for his second round of student teaching.