The College of Arts and Architecture

Ian Kenney

Ian Kenney

“The experience was life-changing.”

Senior music education major Ian Kenney is referring to his three years as drum major of the Marching Blue Band. Now preparing for his student teaching experience in fall 2013, he expects to be on the marching band field next fall, but in a new position as a student teacher working with a high school marching band in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. 

“I’m going to miss being on the head-set and calling commands; the game-day atmosphere in that role; the tiny traditions, the chants, the cheers, the camaraderie… And, there’s nothing more exciting than taking the field and going into the sprint out of the band prior to the flip. That one moment in the music—there’s nothing like it.”

Ian’s path to the leadership role of the Blue Band was a long one. He had served as drum major for two years at Wallenpaupack High School (PA) before entering Penn State as a voice major, but spent his first year in school trying to “find his place.” Also a tuba player, Ian marched with the Blue Band during his freshman year and, after that experience, decided that the drum major position would combine his potential for leadership with his interest in physical fitness. Once he finally decided to pursue the drum major post, he spent six months doing strenuous workouts until he felt that he was prepared for the physical exertion required of the job.

After Ian auditioned and became the drum major, other doors started opening for him. He became a staff member at the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy, where he taught conducting and classes on motivation, attitude, and leadership to high school drum majors, all the while learning from the best clinicians in the field. He was also hired by Wallenpaupack’s community education program to provide music instruction to students of various age levels. “This allowed me to combine the leadership skills I learned as drum major with the musical skills I learned in school. I taught voice, trombone, trumpet, piano, and guitar. The comprehensive nature of my preparation really allowed me to be successful in those various settings.” He also began to write marching band drill (the choreography of marching), and has provided marching band half-time shows for his hometown’s high school for the past three years.Ian Kenney as Blue Band drum maor

An extremely disciplined student, Ian accomplished all of this while still maintaining a high level of involvement in the School of Music. During his eight semesters on campus, he was a member of the Concert Choir, Glee Club, University Choir, fall athletic band, Essence of Joy, basketball pep band, and Concert Band. Ian also plays bass guitar in a local rock band named Public Domain, which covers music “from the‘70s to the present.” He was inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society last year.

After graduation next December, Ian plans to look for a full-time instrumental music teaching position where he can work with concert bands and marching bands. He would also like to find time to pursue freelance work as a bass player. “I’m in the process now of setting new goals–you can’t be afraid to fail,” he said.

He is still considering his alternatives, however, and may decide to return to campus next spring and pursue a degree in Education and Public Policy. He is also interested in the idea of going into educational administration. “I love that I have an arts background, and that I might be able to save an arts program that’s in danger of being cut.”

When asked to recall his greatest moment as the drum major of the Penn State Blue Band, Ian’s answer was no surprise to those who live and work here. “My greatest moment was conducting the band on the Old Main steps for the candlelight vigil in remembrance of the victims of child abuse. The power that the music had on me and everyone else on that day—and the setting—10,000+ people holding candles and coming together in the middle of a really dark time on our campus…something really positive came out of that for me as a musician.”

Good luck and farewell to Ian! Thanks for making us “Penn State Proud!”

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