Retiring Ballard band instructor ends career on high ‘note’

Marlys Barker, Editor of Tri-County Times
Retiring Ballard band instructor ends career on high ‘note’

Scott Keese said he was “touched beyond words,” as current band members and a number of former band members honored him by playing “Auld Lang Syne Farewell,” at his last official concert at Ballard High School.

Keese, who has been teaching and directing band at Ballard High School for the past 33 years, will end his 42-year career in education at the end of this current school year. It’s been a career filled with the rewarding enjoyment of experiencing music with kids, Keese shared, noting he will miss most the students, the staff and the music.

Joking a little, Keese said he will not miss marching band in 40-degree weather, something it’s likely most of his students and former students might agree with.

Music students would also no doubt agree that they have enjoyed having a band instructor all these years who has loved music as much as many of them.

“I’ve always loved music,” Keese said, adding that there was no other thought for him than to have some kind of career in music. “I had a college professor suggest to me that I consider going into music education. He was definitely a role model and mentor for me.

After graduating from Northwest Missouri State University, the Des Moines native took his first teaching job in Princeton, Mo. He was there three years, from 1974-77, teaching fifth-, sixth-, seventh-, eighth-grade and high school band, and also serving as the head boys’ golf coach.

He followed his job at Princeton by going to Manning for six years, and then he came to Ballard in 1983 and has stayed put.

At Ballard, Keese has taught seventh- and eighth-grade band, sixth-grade exploratory, high school band and music theory. The biggest challenge for him over the years, he said, has been “balancing the expectations we have for our music students with all the other academic and extracurricular activities that we want them to take advantage of.”

Despite the challenges, there have been many joys, and Keese said he has loved working in the Ballard community.

Keese said his wife, Jan, is also retiring this year from her third-grade teaching position at Ashland Ridge Elementary in Ankeny. He shares that her career included five years in the curriculum office, and the honor of being named Iowa Teacher of the Year in 2007.

The Keeses have seven grandchildren in Waukee that they can now spend lots of time with. Their family includes: two daughters — Megan Wetzel, and her husband Eric; and Allison Prohaska and her husband, Clint. Keeping education a family affair, Keese said both his daughters and his one son-in-law, Eric, are elementary teachers, and Clint (who graduated from Ballard) is an elementary principal in Waukee.

Scott said he plans to volunteer in his grandchildren’s elementary classrooms, and also plans a few other things — road trips with his wife, playing a lot of golf, practicing the piano and killing the weeds in his yard.

The last concert of his career was a wonderful event, which also honored the 19 seniors in the Ballard High School band and saw six specific band awards, which are presented annually, given to deserving students. When the current band members and former band members played the “Auld Lang Syne Farewell,” Keese said, he was “grateful and humbled” for the show of support. That song, he said, has been a traditional band night performance piece during football season to thank the senior marching band members for their loyalty. So it seemed a fitting song for his final performance event, too.

“It’s been a privilege to have been able to spend a lifetime of doing something every day that I love,” he said. “I’m proud to have been part of this district and community, and I’ll continue to stay interested in the accomplishments of our kids.”