Jeff Ball B.M. '03 & M.M. '08
[quote]When kids can’t afford instruments or lessons, they miss out on an opportunity to discover untapped talent. Using my music education degree from Ithaca College, I get to find the hidden stars of Brooklyn.[endquote]
Jeff Ball decided he wanted to be a band director while in high
school. That made Ithaca College’s renowned music education
program the easy choice.
“School districts know that Ithaca College is the best music education coming out of the Northeast,” he says. “A degree from IC puts you at the top of every pile of interviews.” After graduation, Jeff had his pick of jobs in multiple school districts but was dedicated to working in an urban setting. After starting as a general music teacher in the Bronx, he transferred to Grand Street Campus High School in Brooklyn to take over the band director position. The out-going director was an IC music grad who brought Jeff in because of their shared background.
“She told me, ‘I saw Ithaca on the diploma and I wanted to interview you,’” Jeff says. He landed the job and has been building the program ever since—from 45 kids to 180 currently. This growth is all the more significant considering the vast majority of students in the school are below the poverty line.
“These are kids who really can’t afford their own instruments and can’t afford private lessons. But the quality of performance is extremely high, even though the kids have only been playing for three years,” Jeff says.
This year, Jeff is coordinating the entire performing arts
department at the school. As if all that wasn’t enough to
fill his calendar, he also conducts the Brooklyn Wind Symphony, a
premier wind ensemble composed of 75 semiprofessional adult
musicians—many of them IC grads.
“Other people go to their jobs and in their spare time do the things that make them happy,” he says. “Conducting and teaching are the things that make me happy. I’m very fortunate that I get to do what I do.”
>> More on this story: Music Education Teaching Programs