Local music icon receives teaching honor from rural school group
Blecha described as passionate about music, kids.
Kids and music in Gothenburg have become synonymous with a music teacher whose talents extend beyond the classroom.
That teacher recently received the Gary Fisher Outstanding Music Award by the Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association.
Most local residents have witnessed Ernie Blecha playing the piano, singing along with kids and directing major productions—all at the same time.
On Friday, the energetic 52-year-old directed his 29th Dudley Elementary musical in the Community Building gymnasium which was people-packed to the rafters.
Blecha came to Gothenburg Public Schools in 1982 to teach vocal music to youngsters in kindergarten through sixth grade.
When a position opened to teach high school students, he started out with 20 girls in chorus. Only 12 girls were signed up for junior high vocal music.
Since then, the program has grown to more than 90 students, both boys and girls, who are in the senior high choir while junior high singers number 116 out of 133 in seventh and eighth grades.
“Being in music is cool in Gothenburg, regardless of age or gender,” said superintendent Mike Teahon who nominated Blecha for the award. “He is passionate about music and passionate about kids.”
Blecha’s musical inclinations started at an early age.
Growing up on a hog and cattle farm outside of Humboldt—a tiny town of about 800—everyone in his family was involved in music, except for his dad.
When he was 5 years old, he traveled with his mother, who sang, and three older sisters to a piano teacher in town where he would listen as his sisters played.
The teacher would let him sit on the piano bench and play for fun until she finally said his mother needed to pay for lessons for young Ernie too.
Later, Blecha took organ lessons from the hardware store owner’s wife.
He still has the church bulletin when he played his first church service at the United Methodist Church at age 12.
“It was a wonderful pipe organ that I could barely see over,” he said.
Although playing the piano and organ comes naturally, accounting was what Blecha chose when he went to college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
But after two years, he decided he didn’t want to sit behind a desk all day and asked his dad if he could return home to farm.
“Dad told me I could but I had to finish my college degree,” Blecha said.
That summer, Blecha took a five-week music class and switched his major to music education.
He also chose the organ as his instrument of study.
Instead of returning to the farm when he graduated from college, Blecha moved to Gothenburg where he started his first, and only, teaching job.
“And I never sang a note in high school,” he said with a laugh.
Kids are what makes Blecha tick.
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