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Instructor Spotlight: Laurel Hall

This month, The Slice profiles LPIE instructor and professional musician Laurel Hall, who has worked with music students at Stanley Middle School since 2010.

What do you do for LPIE and how long have you been doing it?

I have been assisting Bob Athayde in his wonderful music program at Stanley Middle School in Lafayette for the last five years. I help test and give mini lessons to all the students in Stanley's five bands as well as organize and rehearse sectionals and chamber music ensembles. I help develop new teaching programs and materials and evaluate student's progress and needs.

Tell us a little bit about your background in this area.

Teaching music is my passion. To share my love of music with students, I draw on 40 years of experience as a professional clarinetist/teacher. I maintain a private studio consisting of students of all ages and ability levels. My teaching focus is on sharing enjoyable, engaging and efficient ways to practice and grow.

I received my education at Michigan State University, California Institute of the Arts and Yale Graduate School of Music. I have performed with the San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco Symphony, Honolulu Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and virtually all of the Bay Area’s different ensembles. I have recorded on the Deutsche Grammophon, New Albion, Varese Sarabande and Koch Classic labels.

I have taught at the San Francisco Conservatory, U.C. Berkeley, Music and Arts Institute San Francisco, Branson High School, Hamlin School for Girls, Waldorf School Marin, Los Angeles Public Schools, Iolani High School in Honolulu and locally at Los Lomas High School, Hillview Junior High, and Stanley Middle School where I am a Lafayette Partners in Education Artist in Residence.

What is your favorite thing about teaching the age group that you work with?

Middle School music students have a real excitement and joy for the music they play. They have 2-3 years of proficiency under their belts and are now shifting from "what finger do I put down?" to "what does this passage make me feel, and how can I show that to the listeners?" It's a lot of eyes-lighting-up experiences as these students gain more control of their instruments more confidence and pride in their abilities and performances.

What is the most surprising thing about your students?

I am surprised by how advanced their abilities are at this young level. Music making is the ultimate multi-tasking art. Each note requires a host of skills - where does my tongue go, which fingers are down, how much air do I need to take in, how long do I hold this note, how loud do I play this note, is the attack accented, am I in tune, am I in balance and blending with the others, am I expressing the emotion behind this note, am I in rhythm with the ensemble and the conductor? It's amazing what is going on behind playing just one note let alone a whole piece! And yet the Middle School band students tackle these challenges daily and the reward is evident in their smiles and joy when they are able to make it through an exciting piece of music.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

My favorite thing to do in my spare time is walking Heather Farms Park with my sweet 12-year-old Labradoodle Sophie. She keeps me grounded and reminds me to enjoy the moment and appreciate the beauty of nature and the outdoors.


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