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Alumni Spotlight

Ken DelmarKen Delmar
BS 1962 Business Administration

Drexel Memories and Milestones
1971: The Drexel Jazz Band is established and goes on a five-country European tour

Ken Delmar '62 played an instrumental role in the formation of Drexel's first jazz band in 1971.

After graduation, Ken spent time with the Army in South Korea. One day he saw an ad in the newspaper that caught his eye.

"There was a notice in the newspaper that Bob Hope was only coming every other year to entertain the troops," said Ken. "Since we were not in active combat at the time, they were looking for an officer who wanted to entertain the GI's during Bob Hope's off-year."

Ken grew up playing piano in his church, and while a senior at Drexel he was the student director of the men's glee club and was a member of the Varsity Singers.

"I figured I was qualified, so I auditioned for the job," he said. Ken was hired shortly after, and spent the next year directing a variety show for the troops throughout South Korea and Japan.

"It was a wonderful experience," he remembered. "We had singing, instruments, dancing and comedy. All of the performers were fellow GI's. It was very rewarding to do our job, and to help our troops forget that they were stuck in a bad part of the world at the time."

During his time directing the variety show, Ken kept in touch with Wallace Heaton, head of the Drexel's music department, and his assistant Clyde Shive. When Ken needed sheet music for his show, Heaton and Shive would mail it to him overseas.

After a year of successfully leading the variety show, Ken returned to the states, bought a home in Havertown, and worked at a plastics company. In 1968, he was asked to join the music department at Drexel to direct and lead a brand new group of student musicians on campus.

"The music department was really expanding and I was hired to start a jazz band," he said. "They told me that they would provide the students, and they did. I ended up directing the jazz band for almost a decade."

In 1971, Ken took the band to Europe to compete in an international jazz festival. They visited five countries, including England, France, Holland, Germany and the Netherlands.

London
The Jazz Band sightseeing in London.

In 1960, when Ken was a student, he toured Scandinavia with the Varsity Singers and he says that his experience with the Varsity Singers helped him a lot on his trip with the jazz band.

"I already knew about booking transportation, and coordinating where we would sleep. Many of the students stayed with host families."

Ken pointed out that this was the first time that almost all of the 17 students in the jazz band had traveled internationally. In addition, the jazz band was the first-ever instrumental group from Drexel to travel outside of the U.S.

"We had a fantastic time," recalled Ken. "The students loved it."

London
The Jazz Band performing on their international tour.

More than 40 years have passed, and Ken still keeps in touch with a number of students from the jazz band.

"Over the years, a lot of my students went on to play with me in my own band, The Cheers," said Ken. "In fact, we had a reunion a few weeks ago, and four of the students who went on the European tour were there. One of my former jazz band students plays trumpet in my current band," said Ken.

Music has been, and continues to be a big part of Ken's life. "I just sort of fell into it," he said. "It's always been a great hobby, and a great business."

Currently, Ken runs Cheers Performances out of his home, providing live music at events, fairs, and parties.


alumni@drexel.edu