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Choose KU, Choose the World

Ian and Ilijah Denny

By Colin Jensen '17

As prominent leaders, trombone players and drum majors of the Kutztown University Marching Unit (KUMU), twin brothers Ian and Ilijah Denny strive to make a lasting impact on their band mates and KUMU as a whole. They do this through their dedication and love for making others feel loved.

"I wanted to be able to be a part of helping the band continue to be great," said Ilijah, who hopes to look back on the band years from now and know he and his brother had a lasting effect on the program.

They both strive to influence their friends and peers, to truly care and understand.

When asked to give the first three words that come to mind about their time at Kutztown University, Ian and Ilijah responded enthusiastically. Ilijah chose family, excellence and an all-around sense of love. In line with his brother's response, Ian chose family, perseverance and quality; family is a value which was nurtured by their parents and something the Denny brothers hold close.

Alongside the importance of family, Ian and Ilijah's hearts lie in the desire to help others grow. Ilijah Denny stands on a ladder as he conducts for the Kutztown Marching Band

"When you're playing music daily with people, you grow with them. You can grow together as a family," Ilijah emphasized.

Accompanying their study of a bachelor's in music, Ian is part of a leadership minor and Ilijah minors in social work. They are both influenced by their enthusiasm for working with people. 

Ilijah finds his passion in connecting with people on a personal level. As a member of the Kutztown Christian Fellowship (KCF), Ilijah hopes to obtain his master's degree in divinity at a seminary school. He aspires to become a pastor and potentially using his musical experience to assist in sharing the gospel.

For Ian, he hopes his desire to help others and his experience with the band will lead him to a career in working with children. His dream job comes in the form of a position involved with helping students, camps or any group of kids alike. He mentions singing, dancing and performing as a means of connecting with children and staying healthy.

When discussing their own influences, the Dennys immediately mentioned the director of bands at Kutztown, professor Daniel Neuenschwander. For Ian, professor Neuenschwander was the reason he chose to come to Kutztown. For Ilijah, he became a mentor, someone he respected and admired.

"You can tell he seeks to be an all-around good director, good professor, good trombone player, good father, a good husband," Ilijah said.

Ian, who completed his first year of college at another institution, said after talking to Professor Neuenschwander he made his choice to transfer to Kutztown, knowing he had found the right fit. Although Ian has, as he says, "different ways of learning," he commends Neuenschwander for sticking with him. For example, Neuenschwander used one of Ian's favorite pop culture references to lead him to a better understanding of his lesson.

"He was willing to keep trying until I got it."

Professor Neuenschwander says he feels very fortunate to have had so much time working with Ian and Ilijah.

Ian Denny in his uniform, conducting for the Kutztown Marching Band "They are two of the most sincere and deliberate people I have ever worked alongside."

Equally inspired by professor Neuenschwander, Ilijah and Ian have made much progress in their musical endeavors and learned the value of a good teacher. Growing together is something the twins take pride in and try their best not to take for granted.

People often wonder what it's like to share a college experience with a twin brother. For the Dennys, it has only strengthened their want to care for each other. Ian describes the twin experience as being "pretty sweet," saying it taught them both to be patient and learn about one other.

"It's really prepared us for a lot of relationships with other people," Ian said. Ilijah added that working with your brother isn't always easy.

"It adds a tinge of making sure you're always caring," he said.

The twins emphasized the idea that the pair cannot assume what the other is thinking. Rather, they must strive to truly understand one another, a key value which led to success with their marching unit. Ian talked about a valuable word to KUMU as of late, and one which can be applied to any life's challenges, "grit."

"Perseverance and grit through relationships, that's what builds a unit," Ian said.

Although Ilijah didn't expect to get along with everyone when coming to KU, he found the opposite, and takes satisfaction in knowing he is committed to growing with everyone, "even through the hard times."

The Denny brothers offered words of encouragement for incoming students.

"The people here care about you. We're not promising it will be easy but it's going to be worth it," Ilijah said with enthusiasm.

Ian advised anyone to give it a chance.

Finally, he adds, "The experiences here are some that I thought I would never get in life."