When David Hall graduated from the University of North Texas in 2001, he didn't know what the future had in store. Armed with a shiny new bachelor’s degree in jazz guitar studies and not much else, Hall began teaching guitar lessons to make ends meet. By 2004, he had scooped up some office space, put up a sign and with that he founded Hall Music Productions.
A little over a decade later, Hall's roster of teachers is a who's'-who of local music talent, including Sudie, Jessie Frye and, until recently, M83 member Kaela Sinclair.
Hall’s goal is to further music education by creating an educational space that incorporates modern tools with basic foundational theory. The studio isn't a business; it's an educational institution. “You have more of an opportunity to make a bigger impact on music by making a big impact on some kid and getting them excited about music,” Hall explains.
However, Hall wanted equally passionate, well-educated teachers to give students the best possible snapshot of what it means to be a musician. “If you look at any of the masters of music like Bach and Beethoven or Mozart, or pretty much anybody before music was exceedingly commercialized, everybody taught,” Hall says.
Currently punching the clock at the Hall Music Productions are Sudie, Jessie Frye, Androo O’Hearn of Shaolin Death Squad and Jesse Chandler of Mercury Rev and Midlake, among others. To Kaela Sinclair, who recently left Hall Music Productions after six years due to her new position with M83, the overall vibe of the studio made for a perfect learning environment.
“We’re all friends and we’re all professional, working musicians,” Sinclair says. “It was a really, really good thing for me to be teaching there because it was flexible and it let me teach the way I wanted to teach. It was also compatible with a life of gigging and working and devoting yourself to music.”
Frye, who has been teaching at Hall Music Productions since 2012, says that Hall has created a “no-pressure environment” that encourages the uniqueness of artists. “It’s an atmosphere that he allows us to teach the way that we deem appropriate per individual student,” Frye explains. “There’s no ‘by-the-book’ lesson plan. It’s very focused on allowing people to be themselves.”
While Hall and his instructors are professionally trained musicians, they haven’t forgotten what it was like to start learning from scratch. Rather than forcing students to hammer out “Für Elise," the instructors at Hall’s encourage originality and imagination. “Whatever the kids are interested in, that’s what we’re going to lean towards,” Hall says. “Whatever gets them to build their repertoire of music that they like.”
To instructor and Concord Music Group recording artist Ashleigh Smith, this is one of the best parts of her job. “I may work out an easy piano version of a pop song that they know,” she says. “They’re still learning the theory. I’m still going through the basics with them, but it’s a song that they can relate to and they don’t feel like they’re doing another song that their grandmother plays.”
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Hall is still driven by his classical principles, though; he wants his studio to serve as a "corrective wave" to the mentality of reality TV shows like American Idol and The Voice. “Art being commercialized or being made into a competition kind of goes against the spirit of art, in my opinion,” Hall says. “As long as you feel truthful about the art that you’re creating, I don’t think it matters if you have a huge audience. Chopin never played for more than 15 people and his music is played all over the world everyday.”
As a result, Hall's students are often placed in ensemble groups to help promote collaboration amongst students. Additionally, pupils are also able to record and produce their tracks using atypical tools, like synthesizers and smartphone apps — like the one Sinclair used to record her viral SOHN cover earlier this year after a day of lessons at Hall Music Productions.
To Hall, there is no higher gift than the gift of music education — and those who've had one should want to pass it on. “That’s really what the more talented musicians should be doing: teaching the kids,” Hall stresses. “Because the kids are the ones who are going to buy records. And if the kids are uneducated musically, they’re going to buy bad music.”