Plenty of things have changed during the 35 years that Dale Hall has taught guitar at Mesa High School. But the songs he uses to teach have remained the same.
“Most of the kids like 'Light My Fire,’ by the Doors,” he said. “We do a little bit of John Denver, Peter, Paul and Mary, quite a few of the Beatles. When I start the class, I say that their grandparents probably loved this music, and they all laugh.”
But Hall, 65, said the students all like the music, too.
Hall will leave his career on a high note when he retires at the end of this semester. His last student concert on Dec. 3 will serve as his farewell.
Since the start of his career in 1972, he has taught more than 5,000 students to play the guitar.
His is no ordinary music course. He doesn’t focus on music theory or reading notes. What he does, he said, is get teens playing guitar and loving music. One requirement is that they sing the songs, in addition to play them, in public.
And the rock songs he teaches were plucked from the list of songs he played in his own rock band in the 1970s.
Through the decades, Hall said he’s had to fight the idea that his somewhat unorthodox approach to music education isn’t legitimate music.
“We get right into playing,” Hall said. “We get into it a lot faster and get a lot further. Some do it more with method books … but I’ve always had my own method.”
Armed with a degree in music education from Arizona State University and decades of full guitar classes, he said he’s been able to convince people he knows what he is doing.
In addition to teaching guitar, he’s also taught traffic safety courses and, for a period, was in charge of that department for the Mesa Unified School District.
“Each day he comes to work with a positive attitude and a smile on his face, and his students know he genuinely cares about their success,” said Mesa High School principal Pete Lesar.
He said Hall is also well-known for his habit of getting a list of every staff member’s birthday each year.
“On your birthday, you get a phone call and he says, 'I need to tell you something.’ And then he sings 'Happy Birthday’ to you,” Lesar said.
Hall said he’s looking forward to spending more quality time with his wife, Janet. But he’s leaving some time for the other love of his life: music.
“I have that on my list, to spend at least one hour a day with music, so I don’t lose that,” he said.
Guitar class concert
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 3
Where: Mesa High School auditorium, 1630 E. Southern Ave.