Performing Arts Bring New Faculty

New hires bring change

Anushka Srivastava, Contributing Writer

After the departure of Diane Landis, former Theater teacher, Brian Olson, former Music teacher, and Ben Henschel, former Choral teacher, Blake has an entirely new performing arts faculty. 

Landis and Olson had announced their retirements before COVID-19, so their positions were already filled by the time quarantine started. However, Henschel’s role was only filled in August, which made for a unique hiring experience. Luckily, there were many qualified candidates available. 

The new Choral Music teacher is Christina Howell. Howell has been teaching choir for over 10 years in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Brighton, England. She began singing at a young age, her first solo being when she was only 9 years old. She continued her passion, singing in church and school choirs throughout high school and college, where she majored in Vocal Performance and Music Education.

Taous Khazem is the new Theater teacher. Khazem has been teaching theatre for over 15 years. She is an international artist that has worked in Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, France, and Cameroon, alongside here in the Twin Cities. She is a dedicated theater teacher, instructing students in 3 other local theater production companies in the Twin Cities as well as in Blake. She has no short list of achievements; she has starred in the Algerian sit-com Sultan Achour 10 as the ex-Queen Maria, has acquired many grants and fellowships for her work in the United States as well as in France and Algeria, has worked with more than 9 theater production companies, and appears in print and television ads as well. 

Brian Lukkasson is the new Instrumental Music teacher. Lukkasson has been teaching instrumental music for over 17 years at Spring Lake Park High School. He initially got into music in grade school for the sense of community and collaboration. Once he started, he discovered a love for teaching students to engage with each other and celebrate their differences and ensembles’ skills.