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Sarah Barker Ball accepted the National Music Council's American Eagle Award on behalf of music teachers.

COURTESY PHOTO - Forest Grove's Sarah Barker Ball, long-time music teacher and enthusiast, accepted the American Eagle Award on behalf of music educators nationwide.Make no mistake about it, Sarah Ball loves music. So much so, that she's spent her adult life both literally and figuratively singing its praises.

"It's just a lifelong passion to be involved in music and pass it on," Ball said. "It's really just meant the world to me."

The native of Newport and current resident of Forest Grove learned to play musical instruments as a child, sang in the chorus, and later studied the art at both Lewis & Clark College and the University of Oregon as a young adult. But it's when she began teaching music that the wife and mother of three truly found her niche.

Yet, while teaching music has been exhilarating for Ball, it's what she's witnessed from others over the past year that's truly been an inspiration.

"The school music teachers have comported themselves heroically," Ball said. "The choir directors, band directors, general music teachers — it's just amazing how these people have adapted to keep the music going."

She's referring, of course, to the constraints of the pandemic.

For most of the past year, teachers like Ball have been forced to teach virtually. As a result, and as recognition for that hard work, the National Music Council honored music educators across America — along with the iconic a cappella group Take 6 — with the American Eagle Award for their heroic efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Past recipients of the award include: Dizzy Gillespie, Lena Horne, Roy Clark, Quincy Jones, Kenny Rogers, Clive Davis and many more.

Ball, as the president of the Oregon Music Teachers Association, was chosen by the NMC Board of Directors as one of 50 representatives to accept the award on behalf of music educators nationwide, as part of a virtual ceremony which was held July 15 and live-streamed from Nashville's Music City Center.

The honor didn't fall lightly on the music teacher and enthusiast, who says she was genuinely moved by the gesture.

"It was thrilling and heartwarming," she said. "They (National Music Council) really did a beautiful job of really poetically expressing their appreciation for what music teachers have done through the pandemic, continuing to nurture the next generation of musicians, and keeping our art going through really extraordinarily challenging times."

Don't let Ball's humility fool you. While she happily speaks to the virtues of others, she too earned her wings over the past year, along with the decades prior.

With a teaching credential in choral and general music, she enjoyed teaching music in the Lincoln County School District for many years, during which time she taught piano lessons and directed the choir at the local Trinity United Methodist Church. For several years, she also accompanied or directed the community-based Lincoln Youth Chorale and helped form the Lincoln County District of the Oregon Music Teachers Association.

Now in the West Portland District of the Oregon Music Teachers Association, she still enjoys attending workshops, meetings and conferences, teaching piano in the Forest Grove area, and entering her students in various festivals. Additionally, she participates in choir and occasionally accompanies music at the Forest Grove United Church of Christ.

For her service to the musical arts, Ball was selected as a "Community Arts Hero" in 1997, and as a "Community Legend" in 2016 by the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts.

After more than 30 years in the Oregon Music Teachers Association, Ball became president of the organization after moving to Forest Grove and realizing she had the time. Due to her more than three decades of service, to her working at the state level seemed inevitable. But while happy to serve, she saw it as more of a way of thanking her many associates for the help they'd given her over the years.

"It was a way of giving back," Ball said, "because I've received so much and learned so much from my colleagues through festivals and workshops. It felt right."

And now, as we slowly inch our way out of what has been a difficult and trying year, and Ball is once again able to safely meet in-person with her students and fellow music enthusiasts, she — and others — feel a heightened level of gratitude for what has and continues to bring them joy: music.

"It's profound appreciation," she said. "It's so heartwarming to sing together again, and it does the heart good to make music together."


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