Alfred Balkin obituary

contact: Jeanne Baron
| WMU News
Photo of Dr. Alfred Balkin.

Dr. Alfred Balkin

Dr. Alfred Balkin, professor emeritus of education and professional development at Western Michigan University, died March 23. He was 84.

Balkin joined the faculty in 1971 and retired in 1992 after 21 years of service to the University.

During his WMU career, Balkin earned national recognition as a song and choral composer for young people as well as a leader in encouraging creative and interdisciplinary learning through the arts.

Alfred Balkin

Balkin coordinated the integrated creative arts program for many years and conducted research on children's television as well as how the arts can be used to improve education. For his body of compositions, he won an American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers award in 1987-88.

The former New York performer honed his singing and piano-playing skills in Big Apple nightclubs using the stage name Alan Blake. Balkin went on to earn a Doctor of Education from Columbia University and to focus on an academic instead of a performing career.

He came to WMU already an accomplished composer, jazz pianist and writer of children's music theatre pieces and proceeded to build a large body of music, published journal articles, and workshop and conference presentations.

Balkin began his WMU career in the School of Music, where he taught piano and several music education courses. He affiliated with the College of Education in 1975 after two departments merged to form the Department of Education and Professional Development. This is where he would stay for the duration of his WMU tenure.

Music remained a fundamental part of his activities, however. He viewed the arts not as "the frills of elementary education," but rather as "the thrills of education" and sought to use them to energize language, social studies, mathematics and science.

Balkin is perhaps best remembered as a song and choral composer for young people, and many of his creative works mixed life lessons for children with songs containing jazz, pop and show music. His songs were regularly featured on "Captain Kangaroo," the CBS children's television show, and known by children across the country.

He often performed locally and for important campus and community functions, either as a solo act or with the Al Balkin Trio. After retirement, he moved to Hilton Head, South Caroline and became a local celebrity.


Services and burial took place in South Carolina. To view the family obituary and online guestbook, visit