After a guided tour of the REES in January of this year, Michael and Barbara Smith made a donation to honor the memory of his mentor and former Junior High and High School Music Educator, Ken Hallman, from his days as a student at Plymouth’s Lincoln High School. “I hope everyone has at least one significant teacher who made an impact. Regardless of their public ability everyone has a private opportunity to impact life.”
Co-chair of the REES committee, Randy Danielson conducted the tour and was delighted to hear Smith’s connection with Hallman. Hallman’s son, Jack, is a friend and classmate of Danielson’s, Plymouth High School (PHS) Class of 1972. It did not take long for the two to key in on the perfect tribute for Smith’s mentor.
The donation will provide for the Conductor Platform and other Orchestra Pit amenities for the renovation. Smith said, “When I found out about the REES Project, I thought it was time to honor my teacher who spent more time with me than any other adult in my teen years. When I heard that Ken’s son, Jack (Hallman), was also interested, it became an opportunity to pay that debt back to the most influential adult in my career.”
Danielson said, “While providing a tour this summer to the PHS Class of 1958, I mentioned this honor of Mr. Hallman taking shape and only heard accolades of his teaching abilities. It is rewarding to witness how entwined our lives are and how these acts of kindness are taking place that allow the legacy of The REES and individuals to live on.”
According to his son Jack, from documents and records that his mother had kept over the years, Kenneth “Con” Hallman was born at Aurora Hospital in Illinois on March 20, 1924. He was given an honorable discharge from the United States Army on December 31, 1945. He graduated from Northwestern University in 1949 with a Bachelors Degree in Music Education. Hallman completed his Masters in Music from Northwestern in 1951.
He was married to Mary J. Heinlein on December 1, 1951. They had four children, Mary Lou, Daniel James, Jack Arthur and William Coleman.
According to the Plymouth High School History 1876-1976 Centennial Edition published in 1975, Hallman was listed as a vocal teacher in 1950 with Robert Kuite as the Instrumental Teacher. During that same year he is listed together with Kuite as “Dance Band” teacher.
In 1951 Bill Shemberger, his close friend, was cited as Instrumental Music (Band & Orchestra and Girls Glee Club) with Hallman as Vocal Music instructor.
It was during his career as Director of Vocal and Instrumental Music for Plymouth High School that Hallman would mentor Smith, who would carry the memory of that mentorship through his own professional music and educational career.
According to Smith, it was at that time that the 7th and 8th grades were added to the PHS campus, which at that time was Lincoln High School, and the band room was located below the stage of the Centennial Gym where they rehearsed. “I was in the first class to matriculate from the new Jefferson Elementary located next to the Centennial Park.”
During that time, Shemberger instructed the students in instrumental music. By 1953 Hallman was listed as Director for the Choir and the Band while Shemberger started his local music store.
Hallman directed his first Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, “Trial by Jury” while beginning instruction on the Christmas portion of Handel’s “Messiah”. Smith said, “We repeated that work almost as a tradition again until my Senior year 1957 when we performed all three sections, never did any other High School attempt such a difficult task!”
Smith said that Hallman showed that music was as important as sports and had a knack for recruiting athletes to the choir to make music more appealing to youth. “One of Ken’s best tactics was to recruit some of the athletes into the choir which helped make choir appealing to the younger boys. I remember many football players singing on stage.”
By 1954 Hallman is listed as “Music” with no division of responsibilities. That year, music students presented the operetta ‘HMS Pinafore’, which Hallman had scored in 1951 as part of his Master Degree from Northwestern University. “The choir also raised money to buy the school a Hammond Organ, a major donation project.”
The program continued to expand and by 1955 Lee Evans was added as a music teacher. Hallman was listed as teaching Dance Band as well.
Smith remembered performing in the Variety Show, cowritten by Hallman and his senior students in 1955. “I played a role as Delbert, a mischievous little kid reading the newspaper to his family and recalling the years past events like the ‘flood’ that had been a major event in Plymouth the previous year.”
By 1956 Hallman was still sharing musical instruction responsibilities with Evans. That year the musicians performed Menotti’s “Amahl & The Night Visitors”, a dramatic and musical challenge for high school students.
They performed Camille Saint-Seans “Christmas Oratorio”, a challenging vocal feat. That same year they hosted a concert by the Northwestern University Band with some students, including Smith, sitting in to perform alongside them.
That same year Hallman also organized a field trip for his students to hear the Chicago Symphony. He established a Girls Glee Choir that performed with the Culver Military Academy.
Smith remembered Hallman’s passion. “Ken was always working with us.” Rather than spend his time in Study Hall, Smith eagerly consumed the training from his mentor.
Smith said that he believes the most productive year was Hallman’s last. “In 1957, his most ambitious and challenging year, with four choirs, we presented Kurt Weill’s ‘Down in the Valley’, Menotti’s ‘The Telephone’, and Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘The Mikado’ in which I played the part of Pooh Bah.”
That year Hallman shared band duties with Georgia Guynn, a recent graduate from Indiana State Teachers College. Guynn introduced Smith and Ken Crysler to the Indiana State Music Department where both young men would earn music scholarships. “I attended Indiana State College with great confidence because of Ken’s training as performers.”
Hallman left the field of education in 1957 when he went to work for Shemberger Music Store.
Smith said, “In the summer of 1957, Ken took a job with Bill Shemberger who owned the music store down the street from the Rees Theatre where my mother took me as a little kid to see the original screening of “Bambi”. As much as Ken enjoyed his teaching, he could earn much more working for the store. He had married and had a growing family to support and school teaching was not enough. He taught piano and sold them at Shemberger’s Music Store. I took some piano lessons from him in the summer.”
Smith added, “My suspicions are supported by the fact that I started teaching at Bourbon in 1961 for $4550 after signing a contract at Grovertown for $4,500. The superintendent said, ‘I would take the money too!”
Hallman later died during a tragic accident that occurred while he was delivering a piano on March 22, 1960.
Smith left Indiana in 1963 to continue to pursue his musical profession and career in California. He was devastated to learn of his beloved instructor’s tragic passing, but his influence remained. “Every time I had a big professional decision to make Ken was sitting on my shoulder. I don’t believe in ghosts but I believe in the attitudes he instilled.”
Smith married his wife Barbara, who was an elementary school teacher, in 1966. They had two sons, Nathan and Justin. Nathan posed as a model for Norman Rockwell when he was six years old. Justin is an accomplished artist, musician and film writer.
Though Smith has had numerous musical accomplishments, his passion was for teaching. “I love teaching. It is difficult to be a performer and a teacher and teaching was more important to me. I wanted to see my students succeed as Ken did.”
JAZZ became a focus of Smith’s which he considered a special extension of his own career. “I raised funds for my music program by sponsoring jazz concerts by such luminaries as Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton, Count Basie and Woody Herman. I created the ‘All City Jazz Festival’ hosting 12 High School Jazz Ensembles.”
That event led to Smith’s appointment as the California Music Educators JAZZ Representative in 1978-1980 whose duties included forming the ‘All State Honor Jazz Band’ which featured the best High School musicals in the state. He also coordinated Jazz workshops for music educators across California.
Smith was selected as Assistant Director of Bands at San Diego State in 1968-1969 where he completed his Masters of Music work.
While on Sabbatical from City Schools in 1980, he was an Adjunct Professor where he did research, taught, and coordinated a trip to Mexico City for the Aztec Concert Band.
His students have competed and won honors including Grammy nominations. “I have many former students who either became music teachers or professional players; better yet, some just kept playing and singing.”
His final year teaching at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, the music program was nominated as one of the top 100 music programs in the country.
He retired from active teaching in 2000. After his retirement Smith ran a 17 piece Big Band called the “Jazz Project” for 19 years which included several of San Diego’s most notable musicians, professionals and former students. They recorded an album that is included in the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. “As an 82 yr old who has now been retired since 2000, I have the time and the inclination to honor Ken.”
Smith concluded, “I have had a blessed life because of Ken Hallman whose memory was always present despite his tragic death that occurred while I was still in college preparing for my career. I wanted to share with Jack, his son who was denied his time with his father during his own teen development to let him know that I revered his dad.”