Today we’re speaking to Jennifer and Arlene Kloos, the daughter and wife of the late Ted Kloos. Mr. Kloos was an impactful music teacher in the Bucks County school district for many years. While I never had the privilege to meet the man, I was lucky enough to attend a tribute concert put on for him by his daughter Jennifer, after he passed away. To say that experience was moving, would be a tremendous understatement (think Mr. Hollands Opus). When we decided to do a week on the importance of music in schools, I had to find out more about this man. Here is what Jennifer and Arlene had to say…
How long and where did Mr. Kloos teach?
Arlene: Ted began his teaching career in the Conshohocken School District in September of 1956. The district did not have a program at that time and was looking for a teacher who could bring the diversity of students together in the name of music. Ted taught first grade through twelfth. He was able to touch the hearts of many students by providing them with experiences of theater and the joy of putting on concerts for the community. He was able to put on shows at the elementary level which brought, not only the students
together, but the parents as well. Several of those prior students became life-long friends. From there, Neshaminy School District was seeking a teacher who could bring a much needed music program to their school. They asked many sources, and again, Ted’s name surfaced as the most desired candidate. Neshaminy actually came down to Conshohocken to seek Ted out. He was told that he could develop a music program to his liking and would get full support from the district. Upon visiting the school and driving up to the building through the tree-lined driveway, his imagination was tweaked and he took the job. He started there in September of 1963 and stayed there until his Parkinson’s disease robbed him of his ability to produce like he felt he should in June of 1993. He taught at Neshaminy Langhorne High School for 37 years.
Had music always played a role in his life to take him into that field?
Arlene: I think Ted was born with music in his soul. He was an only child and his parents were very involved in church. This left Ted alone a lot and the radio in his room became his constant companion. He loved to listen to music and talk shows. When he was nine years old, his Dad took him to the Academy of Music to hear a Wagner Opera. His love of classical music was born and would always be a major part of his life. While in elementary school he adapted A Christmas Carol into a musical using Christmas carols as the musical score. As he became a young adult, he was mentored by an organ teacher and his love of church music became imprinted on him. He began to play in church as an organist. His parents wanted him to be a minister but by this time, Ted knew he could touch as many people through his love of music and his gentle, kind ways. The rest his history. Through his love of music, he touched so many people who today carry that love into the future.
Tell me about what he taught exactly. Did he specialize in any particular area of music or general music knowledge? Were there any special projects he worked on?
Arlene: Ted taught all areas of music including giving piano and organ lessons. In Neshaminy, for instance, he started a program that embraced general music, Concert Choir, Symphonic and Freshman Choir, Musical Theater and Music Theory. Ted specialized in all areas of music. He taught chorus but was able to play several instruments. His love of music ranged from church to classical to theater to pop. In other words, music through any means was special to him. I will admit that when heavy metal came into his home, his ears were tested and he questioned the nature of that music. Ted had many projects as a high school music teacher. He started the Summer Stock program at Neshaminy which to this day, still exists and has become a wonderful venue for students of all ages to explore the wonders of theater. He started exchange programs with different choirs and actually took the students to Florida, Canada and Germany. He loved Ray Conniff arrangements and had Ray come from Hollywood to direct his choir on several occasions. He is a published composer and was a co-writer of a show called “Crossing” which was performed for the bicentennial in 1976 by the Neshaminy Players under Ted’s direction at the Washington Crossing State Park Open Air Theater, NJ. His Concert Choir performed on the Mike Douglas Show and numerous times on Captain Noah and his Magical Ark. He always had his hand in some project but the thing that he most wanted to produce was the love of music into the many people he touched through his church position of Minister of Music at the First Presbyterian Church in Levittown or the many students that graced his life on an everyday basis.
Why do you think he thought teaching music was so important? And why do YOU think having music and the arts in schools is so important?
Arlene: Ted thought that music was important because it definitely is the Universal language and can bring people together from all walks of life with just the simple desire to want to express themselves through the beauty of the human voice. Having music and the arts in school is extremely important because it is an avenue for creativity that rounds out the human soul. It is a place where students with all abilities can join together and become a part of a group that focuses on enjoyment and success. It does not exclude a person based on talent. It is an area of a student’s life where stress can be a foreign idea and joy replaces it with a feeling of carefree abandonment. Music and art are definitely important and should never be cast aside for in doing so, would exclude many of our most talented and most vulnerable students. Music and Art embrace the needs and enlightenment of students in all phases of their lives.
Mr. Kloos passed a couple of years ago and I was honored to be able to go to the concert you had in his honor. Would you tell us about that as well as some of the students that came in to be a part of that? And were there any other tributes prior to his passing?
Arlene: In 1993, when Ted retired from Neshaminy, he was celebrated by over 200 people at the Sheraton in Langhorne. The finale of the evening was Ted directing Concert Choir one last time before handing his baton off to his former student and lifelong friend, Roy Nelson. Roy took over Ted’s teaching position in 1993 and kept Ted involved with the kids during the concerts, winter musicals and summer stock . In 1996 Ted was honored by over fifty of his former students including his oldest daughter Jennifer putting together a show they called, “It’s Magic Time”. It could only be compared to the movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus” but was ever so much more. The love and gratitude shown to him that day was beyond any that words could convey. He touched so many people, not only through his love of music but through his wonderful and kind ways. He was repaid that day through the wonders of the many accomplishments that he was privileged to have seen and encouraged through his positive belief in each and every one of them.
Jennifer: In January 2013 my Dad ended up in St. Mary’s Emergency Room and was admitted into the hospital where he stayed for 6 long weeks until we lost his magical soul on March 6th. From the time he arrived in the ER, he was taken care of by his “Kloos kids”. From the critical care team, to hospice, to one of his church choir kids standing at his bedside right after he passed away. He was loved by so many, that we had a beautiful memorial service at his beloved First Presbyterian Church where his loving church choir performed and the Select Choir from Neshaminy performed “Once to Every Man and Nation” which brought chills and tears to everyone there. In November 2013 I gathered as many “Kloos Kids” as I could and put together a concert in Daddy’s Memory calling it “A Magical Musical Memorial”. Two of his former students who he considered “his stars” were Herman Sebek and his brother Christian. Herman, who was is in the original cast of Cats and the Engineer in Miss Saigon on Broadway, performed “Magic to Do” from “Pippin” and also “A Man Who Had A Dream” from the musical “Crossing”. He also performed an original song he wrote in memory of he and Christian’s Father. Christian is now currently the Opera Singer in “The Phantom of The Opera” on Broadway and performed a song from Mom and Dad’s favorite opera. Then there was the Neshaminy Langhorne High School Concert Choir “Ted Kloos Era” performing “The Ray Conniff Sound”. As I arrived that morning, all by myself in the Theodore Kloos Auditorium, I couldn’t help but feel daddy all around me. My first performance on that stage was when I was 3 1/2 years old in Summer Stocks Carnival. I performed in over 25 musicals with Daddy directing by the time I was 18. As I walked down the aisle it still smelled the same, and as I walked up the wooden stairs on to the stage, each step flooding me with memories. I could see Daddy directing me smiling with pride from ear to ear, I could hear him clapping his hands saying “It’s magic time people”, I could hear his laugh as my funny line was a triumph performed with the utmost driest Kloos delivery……Like he always said “Ahhh yes I taught her everything she knows”. He gave us all a magical musical life.