Changing direction

Bucks educator Ken Silver embarks on full-time musical career after 17 years as New Hope principal

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Ken Silver doesn’t call it “retiring.” He’s simply saying goodbye to one career and embracing another that he put on the back burner for 17 years. After almost two decades as the beloved principal of New Hope- Solebury Lower Elementary School, the Warrington resident is ready to immerse himself in his lifelong passion of music.

A different tune: During his music career, Ken Silver performed for many political figures, including former President Bill Clinton. Despite the thrill of the spotlight, he always felt called to inspire young minds through education. PHOTO: STU COREN

From a young age, the multi-talented musician was attracted to the world of performing, and studied clarinet, saxophone and piano during his time at Temple University in the late 1960s. But he soon realized music wasn’t his only calling.

While continuing to hone his musical craft at night, Silver began teaching in the Abington School District, and after earning a graduate degree in education leadership, he became a young principal in the Centennial School District at only 25 years old.

Throughout the 1970s, Silver worked to maintain a dual career. While taking on more duties within the school district, he was fighting to keep up with his countless musical bookings at social functions and charitable events. It was in 1980 that he made the difficult decision to leave education to pursue a full-time musical career, and formed the orchestra The Entertainment Group.

For almost 20 years, Silver and his orchestra partners Eddie Bruce and Joey Roberts played throughout the country, making up to 150 appearances annually at events some musicians only dream of. The Entertainment Group performed at several political balls for President Clinton when he was in office and afterward, as well as other notables such as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Cardinal Bevilacqua, Frank Rizzo, Arlen Specter, Ed Rendell and John Street.

Despite the thrill of rubbing elbows with some of the most recognized political figures in the world, Silver missed the personal fulfillment he enjoyed as an educator. In 2000, he delved back into the classroom as principal of a high school in Springfield, but soon after found a home in elementary education in New Hope.

After spending so much time as a professional musician, Silver was able to integrate the skills and values learned on the stage into his role as principal.

“As a performer, it makes me more comfortable with myself and therefore more at ease in dealing with my students,” he said. “And being energized by my students allows me to carry that enthusiasm over to my performances.”

Similar to how he chose the best musicians to perform alongside him in his orchestra, he recruited the top talent to teach his students.

“Try to surround yourself with the best people and value the talent each individual brings,” he said.

Not surprisingly, Silver went above his duties as principal to have an integral part in the school district’s music program. He always had a hand in theater productions, and often accompanied the district’s bands and choirs on trips to places like California, Germany and Austria.

“I always made it a point to use whatever skills I had in my back pocket,” Silver said.

But all good things must come to an end. Recently celebrating his 70th birthday, Silver admits he started to see some pressures to leave. He was there the longest out of all the administration members, and felt he wasn’t receiving the same appreciation and value he once was.

Since he announced his resignation, Silver has received hundreds of letters from past students expressing their disappointment, and though he will miss his role as principal, he’s looking at the positives.

“When you’ve given so much of yourself, it becomes part of your DNA,” he said. “But this is a new beginning to be with people who respect what I do.”

Silver’s days of traveling the country performing at political balls may be behind him, but he is perfectly content sharing his passion for music in his own backyard of Bucks County. His current project, musical trio Ken Silver & Friends, performs light jazz and the great American standards of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett at local fundraisers and events.

“It’s definitely going to be a major change, but with my love of music and entertaining people, I know I’m really going to enjoy it,” he said.

In his spare time, Silver will continue to put his knack for inspiring young minds to good use. At Holy Family University, he’ll do some teaching in a graduate program for prospective principals looking to get their credentials. He’ll also work with schools throughout Bucks County as an interim consultant.

Looking back on his 17 years with New Hope-Solebury Lower Elementary School, Silver can reflect on many fond memories. Though this wasn’t his ideal way to part from the school district, he made sure to leave on good terms.

“It’s bittersweet but that’s life,” Silver said. “I’m blessed that throughout my adult life, everything I’ve been able to do I’ve enjoyed.” ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com