As a lifelong member of Temple Beth El, Alan Posner shares a passion for Jewish music that was instilled in him at an early age through Jewish culture and traditions.
Since fourth grade, Alan Posner has played the saxophone. The band director at Bloomfield Hills High School, who has been teaching for 13 years, was inspired by his own band director growing up, who encouraged him to pick up the art of teaching music.
Posner, 35, of Berkley, says music was a no-brainer when it came to his career. “I really just love playing,” he explains. “Both playing and teaching was something that came really naturally to me, and sharing my love and passion for music was important to me.”
As a lifelong member of Temple Beth El, Posner shares a passion for Jewish music that was instilled in him at an early age through Jewish culture and traditions. In addition to his day job at Bloomfield Hills High School, Posner was a founding member of the Kidz Klez Band of Michigan, directed by the late Cantor Stephen Dubov.
He’s also music director of Michigan-based klezmer band Klezundheit (Bless You!), which will be playing at the local Klezmer Folk-Fest on May 22 at the Society for Humanistic Judaism in Farmington. Klezmer bands play traditional instrumental music of Ashkenazi Jews, a sound Posner enjoys.
A Life of Music
Raised in West Bloomfield, Posner is no stranger to music education at Bloomfield Hills schools. He attended its band program and later received an undergraduate degree in instrumental music education from the University of Michigan, followed by a master’s degree in instrumental conducting from Oakland University.
Before his role at Bloomfield Hills High School, Posner spent three years at Suttons Bay, Mich., just north of Traverse City, where he participated in the small congregation at Temple Beth El playing music. After moving back to Metro Detroit, Posner taught at Berkley schools for four years before accepting the band director job in Bloomfield Hills.
Now in his seventh year of teaching at Bloomfield Hills High School, Posner has become a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to music education. Although his primary instrument is saxophone, Posner can play all wind instruments to what he calls “varying levels of success.”
Throughout the school year, he teaches some 170 students at Bloomfield Hills High School who are enrolled in the band program, who range from freshman to senior.
“I teach three different concert bands here,” Posner says. “I also teach jazz band outside of the school day.” In addition, he teaches an introductory guitar and ukulele class, plus a music technology class that works with music on computers.
Overcoming the Challenges
With teaching such a wide variety of classes, Posner says the biggest challenge is simply managing time. “There’s only so much time in a day,” he says, “and I’m trying to make sure I’m doing the best for all of my students.”
Navigating the pandemic has also been difficult, he explains, which has impacted many music programs nationwide. In addition to the challenges that mask-wearing poses for playing certain musical instruments, like wind instruments, teaching remotely and holding virtual band classes wasn’t always easy.
Often, teaching throughout COVID-19 required figuring things out with little notice or on a whim. Yet Posner confirms that overcoming the challenges was well worth the reward.
“Seeing the students’ growth is really rewarding for me,” he says. “Getting to see them mature from a freshman to a senior and hopefully go beyond that and perform in their college ensemble is tremendously rewarding.”
Posner’s effort and dedication haven’t gone unnoticed. In 2020, he was named a quarterfinalist for the Grammy Teacher of the Year, which honored some 100 or so music educators across the country. Grammy Music Educator Awards are a high honor offered by the Grammy Foundation that help recognize educators who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education.
“That was a nice honor,” Posner says.
While music plays an undeniably major role in his life and his hobbies, Posner is also passionate about sports. He plays hockey in his spare time and enjoys watching sports with friends and family.
Posner also loves to travel and is looking forward to his family’s summer trip to South Haven, where he’ll spend time with his wife, Michelle, and two children, Asher, 5, and Owen, 3.
Michelle, who plays flute, performs with Alan at Temple Beth El’s Music Shabbat. With music as such an integral part of his personal and family life, Posner says music (and teaching music) is a natural fit that he plans to pursue long-term.
“I just love teaching,” he says. “I want to keep my students performing at a high level and challenging them to be their best and play their best.”
The Klezmer Folk-Fest takes place at 3 p.m. May 22 at the Society for Humanistic Judaism in Farmington. A donation of $20-$30 is suggested. For more information, contact Melanie at firstname.lastname@example.org or (248) 417-6573.