County Face: Larry Hall of Ashland
When Larry Hall, of Ashland, left Aroostook County for the University of New Hampshire in the early 1960s, he never expected to return after one year and begin a 33-year career as the music teacher and band instructor for Ashland District School. But that’s exactly what happened.
Hall had known he wanted to be a music teacher since he was a child growing up in New Sweden and attending summer concerts performed by the New Sweden Town Band. His father bought him a trumpet and he began taking lessons from Henry Anderson, the band’s conductor.
“I would watch those concerts on Thursday nights in the summer and I thought music was the coolest thing,” Hall said.
After his family moved to Houlton when he was 8 years old, Hall’s love of music grew under the guidance of many dedicated teachers. He remembers that in high school two of those teachers — Baptist Junior Choral Director Rheona Riley and trumpet teacher Joseph Robinson — encouraged him to practice his talents and apply to summer music camps. He thrived as a singer and musician in school and community groups and attended New England Summer Music Camp during his eighth-, ninth- and 10th-grade school years.
At the University of New Hampshire, Hall had planned to pursue his degree in music education. But his parents could not afford to send both him and his older brother to college at the same time. Hall returned home after one year, thinking that he would go back to college after his brother graduated.
Instead, Robinson told Hall about a job vacancy for the position of music teacher at Ashland District School. Hall initially declined the offer because he felt that at 19 years old he did not have the experience needed to teach students who were young enough to be his classmates.
“After two months of working at a grocery store, I realized that teaching music would be something better. But I only planned to stay in Ashland until I went back to college,” Hall said. “I started teaching in 1962 and today I’m still in Ashland.”
From 1962 to 1995 Hall remained at Ashland District School, and he now guesses that he might have taught over 1,000 students during his career. He led the school band to many local, regional and state competitions and they even were chosen as the official band for the Maine’s bicentennial celebration at the state House of Representatives in 1976.
Hall himself has had an accomplished career as a local musician. He currently plays trumpet or sings in five groups: Motown/pop band Star City Syndicate, the UMPI Community Band, the Northern Maine Chamber Orchestra, the Justfolks Singers and Aroostook River Voices. He has performed with everyone from his son Joel Hall, currently the principal at Ashland District School, to former students and their parents and folks he has known since the ’60s.
“The good thing about all these bands is that I’m not stuck with just one type of music,” Hall said. “It amazes me that in a county with a population not even close to the size of a city like Portland, Maine, we have all these wonderful music groups.”
Today Hall works part time at KMH Music in Presque Isle, a store that his former student and Star City Syndicate bandmate Chris Morton has owned since 2011. Hall was the store’s manager when the business was owned by Northern Kingdom Music. Though he doesn’t interact with young music students like he used to, the bonds he formed with many of his former Ashland band members still remain strong.
“Probably 40 percent of the people I’ve sang with in Aroostook River Voices have been former students or parents of students,” Hall said. “Many of them still play music and I’m always happy to see them do that.”