BALLINGER - The hard work, dedication and love of students will be forever memorialized when, during a surprise ceremony following two year-end musical performances at the Ballinger High School Auditorium, it was announced that the facility would forever be named the Dale and Ida Lee Ellis Auditorium.

BALLINGER - The hard work, dedication and love of students will be forever memorialized when, during a surprise ceremony following two year-end musical performances at the Ballinger High School Auditorium, it was announced that the facility would forever be named the Dale and Ida Lee Ellis Auditorium. The surprise was unveiled to the couple after performances of “Seussical KIDS” and the high school concert, Saturday, May 12.

Both lifelong educators for Ballinger ISD, the two beloved music teachers have 70 years of combined experience with the district.

Band directors Janet Wilson and Matthew Cleveland and Theater teacher Deidra Dallas organized the tribute and ceremony and secretly invited family, friends, former students and educators to be on hand for the presentation, which was attended by more than 200 well wishers. The time was right for the presentation after renovations to the auditorium have been completed in the last two years.

“Mr. and Mrs. Ellis, you are among the kindest, accepting and unassuming people I know,” said Assistant Band Director Matthew Cleveland during the ceremony. “Mr. Ellis is in his 50th year of teaching. He can bring out the best voice in any student he teaches. In his teaching he is incredibly graceful. Mr. and Mrs. Ellis you are truly wonderful people and thank you for the countless hours you give to your students.”

Dallas credited the couple for renewing her love of theater and performances.

“The traditions created on this stage have been and all of the successes I have had have been a direct result of the Ellises,” Dallas said during the ceremony. “The traditions created on this stage have been ones of passion, excellence, courage and sacrifice - in honor of that commitment , Ballinger ISD School Board faculty and especially the Fine Arts Family dedicate and rename this space the Dale and Ida Lee Ellis Auditorium.”

Band Director Janet Wilson was on stage while the honor was bestowed, but said she asked not to speak because she would not have been able to “keep it together.” She has been working directly with Dale and Ida Lee Ellis since 2004 when she became band director.

“I have always worked hand in hand with them - there has not been a single day I have not,” Wilson said. “They have taught me how to work with kids and parents and how to work with the community and the board.”

Wilson said the auditorium needed a name after lighting, sound, projection, seating and floors were replaced over the past two years. “There was really no one else that anyone could see fit to name that auditorium after. “No words can do justice for the amount of love and respect I have for them.”

Zakk Ottmers returned to Ballinger for the ceremony from Texas State University where he attended his first year of college as a theater major to give some history on the couple. Ottmers, studied music under Dale and Ida Lee Ellis from the third grade.

Ottmers said returning to honor Dale and Ida Lee Ellis was a tremendous honor since the musical educators had such a profound and lasting effect on him. He was the lead in the first elementary musical “The Aristocrats KIDS” and would go on under Dale Ellis’ direction to go to the State UIL Solo and Ensemble competition and win four times. Last year, Ottmers won the Outstanding Performer Medal at the State Solo and Ensemble.

Ottmers credits his success to them - wholeheartedly.

“They have given me the drive to work hard and get what I want or how to maintain confidence on state,”It was a tremendous opportunity to be part of the program - the Ellises mean a lot to me and I’m glad I got to do this for them.”

Dale Ellis, a native of McCamey and a graduate of Howard Payne University, has spent 50 years as the choral director for Ballinger ISD starting with the district in the fall of 1968 after teaching one year in Brady. He officially retired in 2004 from Ballinger ISD but remains part time as the secondary choral music director. He has also been the part time music director at the First Baptist Church in Bronte.

Ida Lee Ellis, a native of Bronte, attended college at Angelo State University and completed her music education degree at Hardin-Simmons University. She and Dale met at the Bronte church, where she was the organist and he was the music director. They married in 1977. Since then, they have been making beautiful music together - Dale often directing the choir and Ida Lee accompanying on piano. Ida Lee Ellis also accompanied the Ballinger Community Choir and she plays organ for First Presbyterian Church each Sunday.

The couple has received many accolades for the Ballinger ISD Vocal Music Program such as when the 1990 Ballinger Elementary Choir received top ratings at the Cisco Music Festival, and in the same era, the Ballinger Junior High Choir received a top rating at Cisco. At the end of the performance, the judge, who was clearly moved, began to clap. He wrote just one word on the comment sheet – “GREAT!”

Over the years, they have also received community honors, both being named Citizens of the year in 2001 and 2007 by the Ballinger Area Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. and Mrs. Ellis have also assisted Dallas with her high school fall musical productions by coaching the vocalists for the shows which included “The Music Man,” “The Sound of Music,” “Singin’ in The Rain,” and “Mary Poppins,” all of which were huge successes under Dallas’s direction. The band directors were also a viable part of these productions.

Both of the humble educators said the honor was overwhelming.

“The presentation was so special,” Dale Ellis said. “When it was announced it was very overwhelming.’

“It was a shock that they would think of something like this,” Ida Lee Ellis said.

After the presentation was made, the event took a meaningful turn - the audience sang to Dale and Ida Lee Ellis - a song that will forever be in their repertoire “Dona Nobis Pacem.”

And as they do, the couple applauded the students and teachers and all of the Ballinger ISD and all the performances on the auditorium stage.

“The most outstanding thing is to see the kids do well - it reflects careful preparation on their part,” Dale Ellis said.

“I really do love the musicals we’ve done,’ Ida Lee Ellis said.

“They have all been blessings to us,” Dale Ellis said.