Ballard High School

High School

Performing Arts

Ballard Performing Arts  

Ballard Performing Arts text and Music and Playmakers Logos

Ballard Performing Arts Overview

collage of band, choir, and orchestra photos

The Ballard Performing Art (BPA) Music and Theatre Department is lauded throughout the Northwest and beyond for its high level of musical and performance excellence and supported by the parent run Booster Club.

Ballard HS provides one of the most complete high school music programs in Seattle – offering instruction in voice, wind and string instruments spanning jazz to classical. The Theatre Program consistently presents best-in-class plays and musicals.

The Ballard HS Music Program has gained regional and national acclaim for its outstanding ensembles and inspired performances. The Music Program includes over 300 students who participate in three concert bands, two concert orchestras, one concert choir, two treble choirs, percussion ensemble, two jazz bands, one jazz choir, fiddle ensemble and multiple chamber ensembles. We also offer piano and guitar classes as well. Performances are held in the Earl Kelly Performing Arts Center.


Uniform Fittings in August

  • Uniform fittings for those Performing Arts students wearing marching band uniforms, concert dresses, or skirts and tops will be held sometime during the last week of August.
    •  This information will be provided in the BPA Newsletter over the summer and/or by email. This year we will have a signup genius to choose specific times. Fittings for tuxes will be held during class after school starts.

Ballard Performing Arts (BPA) Newsletter

  • Don’t miss important news over the summer and at the beginning of the school year. 
  • Subscribe now!

BPA Marching Band in Portland Parade

“Early June, the band participated in the Portland Floral Parade (formerly the Rose Parade). The weather was beautiful, and the band looked sharp! Even the announcer noticed!

Ballard HS Performing Arts Staff 23-24

We are fortunate at Ballard to have four top-rate musicians/coaches/teachers who work to provide the highest level of music making opportunities for our students.

Music & Theatre

Daniel Valdez (Director of Orchestras), Jay Gillespie (Director of Bands), Courtney Rowley (Director of Choirs) and Miller Shor (Director of Theatre) are caring individuals who have high standards for the Music and Theatre department and high expectations for every student involved in the program. Read more and hear from the BPA Directors below.

The top music ensembles have typically traveled to festivals and performances across the country and have won multiple awards and recognitions for their high level of music-making.

Highlights include Concert Choir and Advanced Chorale’s performance at Carnegie Hall for the Nationals for Top Choirs Festival, Chamber Orchestra’s performance at the National Orchestra Festival in Tampa, Jazz Band’s participation in Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington Competition, and the Wind Ensemble’s performance at the 2017 International Music festival at Carnegie Hall.

Typically each year, Ballard’s Music and Theatre programs combine to produce a full-scale musical theatre production. In recent years, Ballard’s musicals with Director of Theatre Shawn Riley, have been nominated for over 20 awards from the 5th Avenue High School Musical Theater Awards, including Best Overall Musical, Best Chorus, and Best Vocal Direction, and winning in the categories of Best Costumes (Urinetown, 2014 and Bye Bye Birdie, 2012) and Best Orchestra (Cabaret, 2011).

Refer to the BHS Course Catalog for more information on courses offered as part of the Ballard Performing Arts. 

Courtney Rowley

Courtney Rowley is in her seventeenth year as Director of Choirs at Ballard High School, where she directs the Concert Choir, Advanced Chorale, Treble Choir, Vocal Jazz, Chamber Choir, and Tenor Bass Ensemble, vocal directs the annual musical theatre production and teaches AP Music Theory. Originally from Michigan, she earned a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance and Choral Music Education from the University of Michigan, and a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from Michigan State University.  Under her direction, the Ballard choirs have grown from 36 students to over 120 members strong, and have consistently received Superior ratings at both regional and national choral festivals.

The BHS Concert Choir was invited to perform at Lincoln Center in 2010 and at Carnegie Hall in 2016 and 2023, as part of the Choirs of America Nationals for Top Choirs Festival.  They were also honored to perform by invitation for the NW American Choral Directors Association Conference in 2014.  In addition, the Men’s Quartet won 1st place in 2013 and the Choir Concert won 2nd place in 2019 at the WMEA State Solo and Ensemble Contest.  Ms. Rowley was honored by the 5th Avenue 2012 Musical Theatre Awards with nominations for Best Musical Direction and Best Chorus in the state of Washington, and is a past recipient of the Ballard High School Outstanding Educator Award (2010), the Washington State ACDA Outstanding Emerging Choral Director Award (2014), and the Elliott Bay Music Educators Association Outstanding Music Educator of the Year (2017). 

Jay Gillespie

Jay Gillespie is in his 4th year of directing at Ballard High School where he directs 3 concert bands, a jazz ensemble, a New Orleans style brass band and a percussion ensemble. Originally form Eagle River Alaska, he graduated high school from Interlochen Arts Academy where he earned a fine arts award for saxophone performance and graduated with honors. He attended the University of Michigan as a classical saxophone performance and jazz and improvisational studies major studying under Donald Sinta and Donald Walden. Upon his departure from Michigan, Mr. Gillespie spent 9 years in the Navy Band playing for audiences exceeding 1.5 million as a clarinet and saxophone instrumentalist. Mr. Gillespie performed in, arranged for, and led multiple ensembles in the Navy Band including jazz combos, jazz ensembles, rock bands, concert bands, marching bands, and brass bands.  

After the Navy, Mr. Gillespie attended the University of Washington in Seattle where he earned his degree in music education Magna Cum Laude. Mr. Gillespie was honored with the PTSA teacher of the year award in the 2021-2022 school year and the Ballard bands were featured in a multiple page Seattle Times article that same year. The Ballard Marching Band won best musical/drill entry in the 2021 & 2022 Auburn Veterans Day Parade and the newly formed New Orleans style brass band, Ballard Brass, is the only such group in the Seattle area and is a crowd favorite. Mr. Gillespie lives on the Kitsap peninsula with his wife and two children and performs professionally with multiple ensembles throughout the region.  

Daniel Valdez

Daniel Valdez is the Ballard High School Director of Orchestras. In addition to directing orchestras he plays double bass and guitar in a variety of styles. Mr. Valdez has been directing orchestra programs for over 10 years. He has led successful programs in the San Francisco, Austin, Houston, and Chicago areas. Each orchestra he has led demonstrated musical excellence in a variety of competitions, festivals, clinics, and concerts. Daniel earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Double Bass Performance from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and a Master of Music and Human Learning degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

Daniel is originally from Northern California, where his first introduction to performing music was playing electric bass in a garage band with his friends. Immediately falling in love and wanting to learn more, he began studying jazz with a private tutor, eventually transitioning to the double bass and focusing more on performing classical music with orchestras. He has a deep passion for all forms of music and loves nothing more than sharing that with others.

Miller Shor

Miller Shor is the Director of Theatre and is in her first year teaching and is so grateful to have landed in such a warm and welcoming community for the beginning of her career. Before arriving at Ballard, Ms. Miller worked at Global Arts Plus in St. Paul, Minnesota, and at the Northwest School of the Arts as an educational assistant. At Global Arts Plus, she also worked extensively in the after-school program, working with her mentor and friend Eliza Rasheed to produce and direct shows like Mary Poppins and Seedfolks. Ms. Miller is glad to be continuing the work of her mentors, Ms. Rasheed and Nicole Brewer, in bringing anti-racist theatre curriculum to Ballard High School. Ms. Miller completed her undergraduate training at Macalester College, where she graduated with honors in theatre, as well as receiving an advanced playwriting credential from the National Theatre Institute. She completed her Masters in Teaching at Seattle University, where she was awarded the St. Ignatius award for education. Ms. Miller maintains a professional life as a playwright. Her plays have been produced internationally, and in 2019 she was a semi-finalist for the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center. 

As we begin the new year, I want to provide you with an update on our theater director position. I am pleased to share with you that Miller Shor is now officially the drama director at Ballard HS. I am confident that Miller will ensure that the Ballard theater program continues to operate at a high level while also prioritizing the needs and wellbeing of students. ~ Ballard HS Principal Abby Hunt

Please join me in welcoming Ms. Miller to the Ballard community! If you wish to contact her, her email address is

BPA Booster 23-24 Board Members!

President: Kelsey Fatland
Vice President: Cynthia Kemp
Secretary: Molly Brown
Treasurer: Jill Hansen
Band Rep & Student Directory: Karen Morse
Jazz Band Reps: Larry and Jennifer Fosnick Davis
Choir Rep: Sally Rampersad
Orchestra Rep: Connie Kelleher
Theatre Reps: Bonnie Moses & Karen Morse
Webmaster & Fundraising Chair: Stephanie Skinner
Newsletter: Laura Graham
Fall Direct Drive/Brewery Event Chair: Kris Bulson
Spaghetti Dinner Co-Chairs: Stephanie Skinner and Sara Stevens
Publicity: Karen Clark
Volunteer Coordinator: Beth Loots
Student ASB Accounts: Margaret Bagshaw
Student ASB Coffee Fundraiser Chair: Jenn Ruzumna

Performance Highlights


Subscribe to the Ballard Performing Arts YouTube channel where all our performances are uploaded!

Ballard Choirs

Interested in learning more about Ballard’s incredible Choir Program?  Concert Choir and Advanced Chorale will hopefully be traveling to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall again! Find out more by watching this video put together by current and former choir students. Email Ms. Rowley at if you have any questions.

Ballard Music Alumni

Ballard Music Alumni have attended many of the nation’s most prestigious performing arts schools and universities, including Manhattan School of Music, Berklee College of Music, The University of Michigan, Northwestern University, Oberlin College, The New School (NYC), The University of North Texas, Stanford University, The University of Oregon, The University of Washington, Cornish College of the Arts, Westminster Choir College, and Pacific Lutheran University.

Jean Smart Actress a Ballard HS Alunni

Get Connected!

Who We Are and Our Mission​

The Ballard High School Performing Arts Booster Club (BPAB) is a non-profit organization of families, guardians, and community members committed to maintaining and cultivating a tradition of excellence in the band, choir, orchestra, and theatre programs at Ballard High School. In partnership with the directors, we work to provide high-quality education and performance opportunities for all students.

If you are not receiving the school PTSA & BPA Weekly Newsletter sign up and select your Graduation Class and BPA Group to receive up-to-date information on programs, special events, meeting dates, fundraisers, and general information throughout the year.

You can find links on the Ballard Performing Arts website to Facebook, Instagram and YouTube