As a Music Education major at Ball State, Ben Yoder, ’07, remembers when his professors outlined an approach to teaching that spoke directly to his future.
The idea: create independent musicians—ones able to learn on their own.
Yoder shifted his focus to how to go about cultivating self-reliant musicians—a focus he now applies as orchestra director and music teacher at Hamilton Southeastern Intermediate & Junior High School in Fishers, Indiana.
Orchestras he’s directed have received superior rankings and earned top honors at music festivals in Indiana and beyond, and in 2020 Yoder was named the state’s Middle School Music Educator of the Year.
For him, “it’s about getting kids to play, enjoy, and appreciate music. My job is to get them ready to leave the nest. I want them to be able to figure this out on their own when I’m no longer there.”
Each year, Yoder teaches some 200 sixth through eighth graders. Most start not knowing how to read a musical note or hold an instrument. But before long, they’re preparing to perform in a school concert. “We’re going to go through this together,” Yoder tells them. “We’re a team.”
Several of his former students have even gone on to teach music, bringing Yoder’s nurturing of their future growth full circle.
For his ability to help create the next generation of independent musicians and learners, Yoder is grateful to the professors who put him on the right path.
One way he shows that appreciation is though service as president of the Young Alumni Council (YAC). Through social events, service projects, and career resources, YAC empowers and engages the University’s fastest-growing alumni population.
The council is also advancing the notion that giving back is not just about donating, but about guiding and shaping Ball State’s future.
Yoder’s own hopes for Ball State include continuing to build a community of equity and inclusion—“one that gives everyone the tools they need to succeed.”
Yoder’s term as president ends soon, and his service to YAC will also conclude when his 2007 class year puts him past YAC’s definition of a young alumnus: one who graduated 15 or fewer years ago.
But just as he plans to continue helping his young students meet their musical potential, Yoder knows he will continue to support Ball State’s pursuit of a bright future. — Susan DeGrane