Personality Profile Percy Hall
Music director in harmony with adopted hometown

By George N. Constable
Sunday, April 12, 1981
News Journal, Mansfield, O.


Life, to Percy Hall, has been a song - as the saying goes - one long, sweet song. And it all started nearly 30 years ago. "After I received my master's degree from the University of Michigan I interviewed at four or five places," he says. "One of them was in Mansfield. I took the job at Madison High School and taught music there six years.

"It was in the fall of 1952. I'd never been in Ohio before. As you can see, I've just kind of stuck around here teaching music and having a good time," he says.

And for those long years of service to teaching, music and youngsters, Percy F. Hall has been "recognized" by the Ohio Music Education Association. The high OMEA award included a certificate and lapel pin, and there aren't too many of those honors passed out in this state.

How many youngsters would you guess he has taught?

"I switched to Senior High in 1958. Let's see, my classes average 40, perhaps 50 a year. Twenty-nine times that is what - 1,400, maybe 1,500," says Hall, with a broad smile wreathing his face.

"No, I have had no thoughts about retirement. I thoroughly enjoy what I do," says the Senior High music teacher, band and orchestra director.

That's what he means when he says life has been a song. And as you might guess, all of his hobbies involve music. He's played with the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra some 28 years - viola, flute, trumpet and percussion. He's vice president of the musicians union. He directs summer jazz band concerts in Mansfield, Shelby, Galion, Ashland and Crestline.

And his favorite music?

"All types," he says. ''Popular, old and new, big band, Symphony and brass band music. My favorite big bands are Tommy Dorsey, Herman's Herd, Stan Kenton, Duke Ellington and Count Basie, of course.

"I like classical music. I like Stravinski, Aaron Copland and Charles Ives. I don't like Maynard Ferguson, he's too screamy for me. I really don't dig him or the guitar-strumming boys and their singing.

"I try to be open-minded about them and their music, but I wouldn't listen to them at home. That's the test for me and the music I Iike," he says.

Who is this slim, angular man who sports a mustache and billy goat chin whiskers - which both are going white?

Percy Foster Hall is an Easterner. He was born in Beltsville, Md., March 6, 1928. He grew up in Laurel, Md., and went to school there. His late father, Reginald Foster Hall, was an Episcopalian clergyman as was HIS father.

"My grandfather, after whom I was named, came to America from England in the 1880s and settled in Maryland. Foster is a family name. Our chronology goes back to England in the 1200s, to a Thomas Foster who was a king's forester, from which Foster derived," he says.

Hall's older brother was a composer. He died a year ago in Massachusetts. His younger brother, William, teaches at the University of Rochester and is a "real brain."

Young Percy Hall was graduated from Laurel High School in June 1945. He sang in an operetta played in a dance band and was captain of the basketball team.

"We didn't have a school band or orchestra. The Madison band was the first high school band I ever saw," he says.

His music background started in the sixth grade when he took violin. The big bands of the '40s inspired him and he switched to trumpet. He and his two brothers had a dance band. "We were the Debonaires. We played in a lot of USO clubs during the war," he says.

He enrolled at the University of Maryland on a full scholarship in the fall of 1945, and says, "College tuition in those days was $65 a semester, would you believe it?"

"I didn't know what I wanted do, so I joined the Army in September, 1946. The good thing about it was the GI Bill education after I got out. I took my basic training at Ft. Lee, and 16 weeks later I was in Augsburg, Germany.

"I played first trumpet. We had a big jazz band with a lot of really great sidemen. It was a lot of fun. After I came home from overseas in August 1948, I went to Westminster College for three years.

"I wanted to be a music teacher. I got my bachelor's degree in June 1951 but felt I wasn't ready to teach. I enrolled at Ann Arbor and got my master's. That was a fantastic education I got up there," he says.

Hall and his wife, Nancy, met at Westminster College. She majored in psychology and is musical enough to still play the organ. She also is the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, he says.

The Halls married on Jan. 27, 1951. They have five children: David, John, Marcia, Barry and Kathy, ages 26 to 13. The Halls live at 56 Glenwood Blvd.

He reads very little. He doesn't smoke and his favorite cocktail is Seven Up. When he snacks, it usually is a dish of ice cream - butter pecan. He tunes in on a good movie now and then, otherwise, he watches very little television.

Hall says he is a leaky faucet fixer, but that's all. However, he likes woodworking and has turned out some bookcases and remodeled his attic. He says his wife is the family gardener.

Percy Hall likes being up in the air - in airplanes. He wants to visit Hawaii one day and says he has no craving to go back to Europe.

"We'd like to go to Las Vegas one of these days, because our son, John, is out there. He delivers newspapers and sits in on a band at least one night a week. He plays trombone," says Hall.

Is Percy Hall the type who would do the same thing again?

"Absolutely! I'm quite satisfied staying here. It's my community. We're part of it. I don't want to change that, because I'm not a changer," he says.

One of unforgettable moments in Percy Foster Hall's life?

"One of the nicest things that ever happened to me was my being asked to be guest conductor of the Ohio State University Concert Band. I conducted three numbers, two years ago in May.

"For a little high school music teacher, it was a high honor. I'll never forget it," he says.