“Marching to the Beat of the Community”
By Jamie Engle, printed in Connections Magazine, February/March 2012
When Rob Hunter and his wife Debbie decided to retire to Wylie from Chicago, it wasn’t so they could sit idly and watch the world go by. It was to pursue their passion for music.
“I originally intended to go to Dallas to continue my singing career,” Rob said. “When I saw how parents were so supportive of their children’s choice for music, I wanted to be right in the ‘thick of it,’ and decided to open a music store in historic downtown Wylie.” One year later, in 2006, they opened Ballard School of Performing Arts, offering music, voice and dance lessons.
“Our main focus is to use music to change lives,” Rob said. “Music is a way to bring people out of their shells and to interact with those around them. I feel that extracurricular positive social interaction strengthens communities at the grass roots level. Through this interaction we are more equipped to tackle the effects of global problems on our local society.”
Music has always been a part of Rob’s life. He’s been performing since he was five-years-old. In addition to singing, he plays piano, guitar, woodwinds and percussion. After getting his Fine Arts degree, Rob worked at the Veterans Administration for 29 years. Then he came to Wylie, which presented him with a new way of life and a new focus. He and Debbie are changing lives, one music lover at a time.
Since opening six years ago, more than 500 children have taken lessons through the school of performing arts. This year, there are more than 200 students.
“We feel so blessed to be able to bring music to people’s lives,”Rob said. “We appreciate the support we’ve received from parents, the schools, the city and the whole community.” He and Debbie strongly believe in being active in and supporting the community, especially for children, seniors and vets. They participate in nearly all the Wylie community events, and are members of the Downtown Wylie Merchants Association and the Wylie, Sachse, Murphy and Lavon Chambers of Commerce. Rob and Debbie are members of the First Baptist Church of Wylie and Debbie is on the Wylie Historical Society board of directors.
Through their Searching for a Star Foundation, Rob and Debbie have provided more than $25,000 in scholarships and donations to the Fine Arts departments in public schools.
Ballard Music’s newest program is bringing karaoke to families and seniors through the Wylie Recreation Center.
“It’s great fun!” he said. “I hope we see a lot of families and seniors out there, relaxing and having a good time.” The next Searching for a Star competition begins this spring.
“I always get so excited to see the great talent that comes out for Searching for a Star!” Rob said. “They come from as far away as Fort Worth and San Antonio just for the contest. Can you imagine that?”What’s easy to imagine is how a heart as big as Texas has, through music, touched the lives of so many in our communities.
Personal Words from Rob Hunter, The Founder of Ballard Street Music Company
Never Too Young to Learn!
Its not often that I use the Ballard Music website to send out personal thoughts, but sometimes there are messages too important to hold inside. With this message I want to encourage parents to involve their children as much as possible in music and the arts. I am certain that any band director, choir director or dance choreographer will agree with me that music and the arts can enhance and strengthen the lives of children.
Early Childhood Development is Key!
I was born into a musical family; my mother and father, both musicians, song writers and vocalists introduced me to music at birth. They nurtured me and my siblings in a home that was full of rhythm and sound. I don’t believe that they ever published any of their music, but they made sure that their children had music in their soul. Throughout my life music has been a faithful companion. Many times it was the pillar that I leaned on to weather life’s storms. As I look I can truly say that my love for music has helped to shaped and direct my path…My involvement in music has taken me on a journeys, introduced me to many people, and opened doors that would have been non-existent had my life been void of it.
My move to Texas has lead me to know and understand my Godly purpose, it’s all about the music! Why Texas, I would ask myself? I now knowthat it is to spread the news about the benefits of music to both the performer and the listener!
When carrying the right message, music has the power to up lift a heart that is down, provoke thought, inspire the soul and give direction to the seeker. A person need not be a musician to be touched by its power; there are Lawyers, Doctors, Airline Pilots, News Reporters and Architects that I know who play and love music… If you want to learn to play, find yourself or your child a good instructor!
Remember, instructors that have a true love to teach get paid for teaching, but… they don’t teach just to get paid.
“I believe that tears borne out of accomplishment and compassion are greater than tears of sorrow and fear; it’s natural to see tears when one is sad or afraid, but tears of joy are much more rare!
“I believe in the human spirit; in the capabilities of women and men to continually soar, reaching and searching to find ways to improve life… I believe in that!
“I believe in talent…Talent that is developed until it is so keen and sharp that the possessing man or woman is filled with extraordinary skills…I believe!
“I believe in technology and those that teach… Those that paint a mental picture and make clear the unrecognizable pathways that lead to knowledge…I believe in them.
“I believe in knowledge, the supreme tool… More precious than gold, it is the jewel by which all inventions, past and future were and are financed!
“I believe that in the future we will be greeted with many new and untraveled paths. Without a doubt, there will be hills to climb and valleys to span. My advice…spread your wings…Learn, and once learned, never forget how to soar!”
Written by Robert C. Hunter
To the 2000 graduating class of 2000 at the International Academy of Merchandising and Design
Delivered in the keynote speech at the Field Museum, Chicago Illinois in June 2000.