Editor's Note: Oklahoma Baptist University alumnus Ray Ballew, a 1955 graduate, is a 2014 recipient of the OBU Alumni Association's Profile In Excellence Award. The award is given to a former student who has "demonstrated recognizable accomplishment in his or her profession, business, avocation, or life service in such a way as to bring pride and honor to the University." Each year, Profile In Excellence recipients are featured in OBU Magazine.
A Lifetime of Song and Purpose
Music has always been a powerful part of Ray Ballew's life. At an early age, he discovered the joy music gave him and the joy he could bestow on others through teaching.
Upon graduating from Classen High School in Oklahoma City in 1951, he was offered a scholarship to pursue a music education degree at OBU. He learned about the opportunity from Judson Cook, a member of the staff at the Baptist Children's Home, where Ballew resided from third through ninth grade.
Ballew journeyed to Bison Hill where he studied music under Warren Angell, legendary dean of the College of Fine Arts, whom he credits as being a great inspiration in his life. It was at OBU where Ballew began his journey to becoming one of the most respected voice teachers in the state of Oklahoma.
After earning his Bachelor of Music Education degree in 1955, Ballew began his teaching career at U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City. He then earned a Master of Music Education degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1960. He also taught voice and performed in opera productions at Inspiration Point Fine Arts Colony in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, for 10 seasons, while continuing his full time position at U.S. Grant High School.
"I taught private lessons for the fine arts colony and performed in operas every season," Ballew said. "After I studied and performed in a work at Inspiration Point, I then produced it at U.S. Grant and later at Oklahoma City Southwestern College."
"Throughout my career I taught private lessons in voice wherever I was," he said. "Private teaching is challenging because each person is different. Preparing students for competition such as NATS, district and state, and auditions for college scholarships requires mastering the use of foreign language and all the elements of correct voice production."
Jo Ann Butler is a friend and colleague of Ballew's, and has been a fellow collegiate voice teacher in Oklahoma. "Ray knows 'the voice' better than anyone I know," she said. "When one of my students would have a vocal problem, I would call him. He would tell me exactly what to do, and it worked every time."
She also spoke of his generous nature. "He shares his knowledge so freely," she said. "No matter how busy he was, he always found time to help anyone who wanted to sing better."
Ballew completed graduate hours toward a master's degree in church music from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and continued teaching music at Oklahoma City Southwestern College, Mid-America Bible College in Oklahoma City, and Southwestern Christian University in Bethany, Oklahoma. Southwestern Christian University bestowed the prestigious title of Professor Emeritus of Music to him in November 2011.
He also devoted his life to music ministry, serving as music minister or director in churches across Oklahoma since 1953. "When I was a student at OBU, I led music for Two Lakes Baptist Mission," he said. "It was part of my life to lead congregational music in churches and to work with choirs."
Ballew is an active member of the Singing Churchmen of Oklahoma and has performed as a soloist in numerous church oratorio and cantata performances. He and his wife, Patsy, reside in Oklahoma City.