Grammy-Winner Charlie Hall '92 Shares Notes on Kindness, Compassion, Connection
Last week, GFA students got the lesson of a lifetime from rocker alumni Charlie Hall ’92, Grammy award-winning drummer for the band The War on Drugs. Hall was the inaugural Janet Hartwell Fellow and spent four days speaking to and engaging with kids at all grade levels. Highlights of his visit included assemblies with Middle and Upper School students focused on life’s twists and turns and the importance of peer-to-peer networking, workshops with music classes, songwriting seminars with literature classes, and a drum circle with GFA’s youngest learners.
“The time Charlie spent with our kids, faculty, and community reminded us all that the most important experiences in our lives are about connections — between people and with ideas,” said Bob Whelan, Head of School. “That spirit of connection defined Charlie’s experience as a student at Greens Farms Academy nearly 30 years ago, and it still holds true at GFA today. We feel deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to learn with and from such a remarkable person.”
Hall reminisced about the uniqueness of the GFA experience throughout the week. “A big part of my upbringing here was playing in bands with people who were six or seven years older than me. That is something that we have here that is really special, that broad range of people to connect with,” he said. In addition to all that he shared with students, Hall reiterated what a learning experience returning to Beachside Avenue was for him. “As much as I'm here this week to share my stories and share my music, I'm here to hear your stories and hear your music,” he said.
Throughout the week, Hall listened to a host of students' music and spent time in several performing arts classes. "Charlie has a remarkable and touching generosity of spirit in speaking with students," remarked Performing Arts Department Chair Rex Cadwallader. "I'm sure that what we all will take away from Charlie's residency is his kindness, humility, and passion for music."
Hall certainly left his impact on several current GFA students, one of who is a musician and senior Avery Duer. "This past week, Charlie Hall really stressed finding different mentors, and I can say that he has definitely become one of mine. His ability to connect with people and bring them together is unmatched and my conversations with him showed me his incredible sense of empathy, which is a clear embodiment of the spirit of GFA," Duer said.
"It is quite difficult to fully explain the extent of Mr. Hall's impact on me, but to put it fairly simply, he has reminded me of why I love music as much as I do and triggered huge inspiration within me, and for that I am very grateful."
Hall spoke with the Upper School about music as the "connective tissue" that binds him to the critical people in his life, and his talk demonstrated that this "horizontal networking," as he called it, has been a guiding principle for him throughout his life and career. “This generous spirit is, to me, the foundation of our community at GFA,” said Andrew Jones, Head of the Upper School.
To cap off his week at his alma mater, Hall was celebrated with GFA's Distinguished Alumni 2019 Award. Click here to watch his acceptance speech. The evening continued with Hall, joined by more than 20 fellow alumni from the classes of ’82 to ’96 (as well as three current students and Head of School Bob Whelan on guitar), as an all-alumni band to headline reunion festivities. The ensemble band played hits like “Ooh La La,” “Into the Mystic,” and “Whiter Shade of Pale,” among many others to the largest reunion group the independent school has gathered in recent history.
To see the full album of photos from Hall's visit back to GFA, click here.