Meet Ashley Ballou-Bonnema '09

Musician, teacher, blogger, student,
Sioux Falls
— music & French majors


Q. How did you choose Augustana? 

A. Augie felt like a natural fit from the very beginning. The focus on meaningful education, the lasting relationships with professors, an embracing community, and the abundant opportunities were all very influential in my decision to call Augie home for 4 years.

Life at Augie

Q. Favorite class and why? 

A. English 110 with Dr. Sandra Looney. Her passion for all things was contagious, and that passion still feeds a part of me today.

Q. Favorite professor and why? 

A. Cheryl P. Koch.  She had such genuine belief in me.   Her love for music and teaching was evident, but what has impacted me most is how she made each one of her students feel so truly unique and capable of great things.

Q. Best Augie memory? 

A. Having the great opportunity to travel abroad with Dr. Fish to Paris, France over spring break, and each time I got to travel with the Augustana Choir, domestically and internationally.  The friendships fostered, music made, and the world explored, are all things I will forever cherish.

After Augie

Q. Tell us about your journey after graduating from Augustana – first job, grad school, travel, etc.?

A. Following Augustana, I had the great opportunity to be a part of an intense summer vocal arts program in Europe, where I had the chance to work with and learn from some amazing musicians.  Upon returning, I had the great pleasure of sharing my love for music by working at Westminster Presbyterian Church as their full time Director of Worship and Music.  Following my time at Westminster, I focused on building a private voice and piano studio and my own vocal endeavors.  I’ve had the great opportunity of building a great studio, singing with a professional choir [The South Dakota Chorale], singing for a great local church, and pursuing my masters degree in music.  This past year has also given me great opportunity to become more personally involved with the mission of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.  Breathe Bravely, a blog chronicling my own journey with Cystic Fibrosis, has presented many incredible opportunities and has brought about some of the most meaningful relationships in my life. 

Q. Tell us about your career – what’s an average day like?

A. The beauty of my life lies in the potential for every day to be new and different.  No two days are the same during my given week.  Depending on the day, it can be filled with teaching at my private studio, graduate classes, graduate teaching, rehearsals, and blog writing. 

Q. Greatest challenges and best rewards of your current role?

A. The most rewarding parts of my current role are the meaningful relationships I have developed and the richness in life I have gained from each of them.  My life is filled with so many incredible people from all walks of life, and I continue to learn so much from each of them. 
The greatest challenge would be the continuing progression of Cystic Fibrosis in my life, and how it continues to more drastically make its presence known.  As it progresses, balancing my busy, focused, and driven life with my health can be quite challenging.

Q. Greatest professional accomplishment thus far?

A. My life has been filled with some amazing opportunity thus far, to name a single one that means the greatest is impossible!  A few accomplishments that mean so very much:  being a part of an incredible masters program, singing with the South Dakota Chorale, the amazing outpouring and response to my blog, and being published by the Huffington Post.

Q. What’s next for you professionally?

A. I will finish my Masters degree in music in May and continue to build my private music studio.  Also, I hope to continue to be a strong and encouraging advocate for the Cystic Fibrosis community through the premise of Breathe Bravely.  The future is filled with great potential whether it be in music, teaching, blogging, or fighting for all those impacted by CF.

Q. If you could offer a prospective or existing Augie student some advice, what would you say?

A. Seize every opportunity: great and small. The professors, the education, the experiences, and community at Augie are incomparable and will impact you more than you know.  It’s only when you can look back at those amazing years do you realize how meaningful and shaping they were.

At Home

Q. Tell us about your family. 

A. I am married to a fantastic guy, Mark, who also is an Augie alum.  He graduated from Augie majoring in Psychology and continued on for a masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.  He returned to school for a degree in nursing and is currently working as a RN. We have two dogs, Cooper and Kalvin, who bring a lot of life and laughs to our house.

Q. What’s given you the greatest personal satisfaction since graduating from Augie? And why?

A. My greatest personal satisfaction is a journey that continues to evolve.  It is something that I believe lives with me daily and is a reflection of the amazing relationships that have impacted me so, the experiences I’ve had, and the future that is filled with endless possibility.

Q. A foundation for life at Augustana begins with our five core values – Christian Faith, Liberal Arts, Excellence, Community and Service. How did your time at Augustana help to ensure those values remain central in your life? 

A. At the basis of those core values lies the people in which embodied and represented them during my time at Augie.  Their genuine care, guidance, and passion helped instill in me the importance of each of those values and how they impact not only my own life, but the greater world around me.