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Dave Allen: The Music Man of Cincinnati is an Elder High School Legend

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by Kary Ellen Berger

For more than 50 years, the name Dave Allen has been synonymous with the music at St. William Church in Price Hill and the Singing Panthers Glee Club at Elder High School.

“For someone who has been actively involved with teaching high school-aged students for more than 50 years, Dave is a legend,” said Kurt Ruffing, principal at Elder High School. “He continues to provide our students with a quality musical education in the classroom and on the stage.”

“As a student at Elder [from 1984 through 1988] I didn’t find what I was truly passionate about until I took glee club, and a lot of that has to do with Dave Allen,” said Tom Reiring, the director of development at Elder High School.

Allen came to Cincinnati from Youngstown by way of the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, where he graduated in 1957 with a performing arts degree. A few years later, he began teaching and leading the music ministry at St. William.

“I’ve been there for a few years now,” chuckled Allen.

The same can be said for his time at Elder, where Allen started in 1969.

“I got a phone call that the choral director was sick and was asked if I would like to fill in,” said Allen. “I guess they’re still looking for a permanent replacement!”

For 52 years, Allen has been directing the glee club at the high school. The Singing Panthers perform several times a year and have already performed twice this school year.

“Dave and the glee club are my go-to — always dependable to represent our school in the most positive way, not to mention the attendees love seeing them, talking with them and hearing them sing,” said Reiring. “It’s as simple as a call to Dave to ask if he could have the boys there to sing for a Mass, a dedication ceremony, an alumni picnic or some other special program involving our alumni and friends. Without hesitation, Dave and the boys are always there.”

The Singing Panthers not only perform as a group, but also sing with the choirs at Seton High School as part of the Seton-Elder Performing Arts Series.

While there is already a strong connection between Elder and Seton High Schools, there is also a special connection for Allen – his daughter, Kathy, is the president of Seton.

Allen and his wife, Carol, are the parents of three daughters – Kathy, Colleen and Mary Beth. They are also grandparents to eight children and young adults. In his free time, Allen enjoys traveling, including the European concert tours he has taken with the Singing Panthers choir. Every other year, Allen organizes the trip that has included visits to Italy, Ireland, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, England, Wales, Scotland, Canada, Austria and France.

“Dave is a father figure (maybe now a grandfather figure!) to many students and graduates because of the relationships he has established with them,” said Ruffing. “He truly cares about them and their families.”

Allen’s other accomplishments include co-founding and leading the Cincinnati Metropolitan Orchestra (CMO) and becoming an established organist and pianist. Allen showcases the latter weekly at St. William, where he acknowledges there have been some necessary changes because of COVID-19.

“There are no hymnals out right now, so we are mostly singing acclamations and there are organ interludes,” shared Allen.

Change is something though, Allen notes, that drives him to continue living out his passions.

“With teaching, it’s a wonderful vocation that’s constantly evolving,” said Allen. “There are new challenges each year.”

He added, “Teaching is not about us, it’s about the kids. They’re the real stars of the show – and that’s the satisfaction.”

This article appeared in the February 2021 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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