Keith Ballard is an educator working in the Sweetwater Union High School District. Prior to becoming an educator, he worked as a pharmaceutical salesman. Early on in his career, Mr. Ballard saw a need to create music ensembles that would meet the needs of many of the ethnic students that attend the schools throughout South San Diego County, California. Several years ago, he started an African drum ensemble, steel drum band ensemble, and various mariachi ensembles. As a music teacher at Montgomery Middle School, he had approximately 135 students enrolled in his mariachi program - the largest mariachi school program in the United States. As a result of the success of the mariachi program at Montgomery Middle School, the district has expanded the mariachi program to an additional ten schools. Mr. Ballard is currently the director of the forty-member Montgomery High School "Island Steel Drum Band".
Mr. Ballard has received over thirty teaching awards and honors. Some of these include: California Music Educator of the Year, California Teachers Association "Si Se Puede" Human Rights Award, "San Diego County Office of Education Teacher of the Year", WalMart Teacher of the Year, Fox Television/Target Teacher of the Year, NFL San Diego Chargers Teacher of the Year, ABC Channel 10 "10 Leadership Award" winner, and a finalist for the California League of Middle Schools Teacher of the Year. Mr. Ballard has been published four times in national music journals in the area of multicultural music education. Mr. Ballard's music programs have been featured in the television and news press over seventy times.
Mr. Ballard's mariachi and steel drum band programs have both received the San Diego Business Roundtable "Best Practices Award". Additionally, the Montgomery High School "Island Steel Drum Band" has received the CBS Television "Cool School Award", the "California Golden Bell Award" and the San Diego Business Journal "Multicultural Heritage Award".