WYPR personality Tom Hall has always been a music man. His father sold records for RCA, introducing Hall to many entertainers—both in person and on the turntable—from an early age. At 13, he had already begun his career as a paid musician, and has worked in the industry ever since. Now, after a 35-year tenure as director of the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, Hall, 61, will abdicate the full-time music world for the first time in decades. In advance of his farewell concert March 11 at Goucher, the “Midday” host talks stepping down and loosening up—and reveals his secret talent.
You’ve had an incredible term with BCAS. Why leave now?
It’s been a huge and wonderful run, but I think it’s good for organizations to have new leadership and new energy after a lengthy tenure. My job [at WYPR] is demanding, and it has become apparent that it’s very difficult to do both, to concentrate and give my full time to the Choral Arts Society. We’re doing so much more than were doing in the ’80s and ’90s, and that expansion has made it difficult to do both. It’s time for me to step back and keep my finger on the pulse of the creative community as a broadcaster rather than a performer.
Do you worry that music will become a lesser part of your life now that you’re no longer directing?
Well, I’m going to continue to guest conduct—I’m doing a Verdi requiem in July at the Berkshire Choral Festival. But I’ll also be able to go home and play a little bit, to sit at the piano or pick up my guitar and enjoy music that I’m not necessarily preparing for anything. Once you’re a musician, you always do that. Music will never be out of my life. It can’t be.
What are you listening to?
I listen to a lot of NPR and C-SPAN. I’m not a big listener when it comes to recorded music. The music that I hear is the music I’m playing or rehearsing with the Choral Arts. When I do listen to a recording, though, it’s more often than not pop music—but I’m interested in hip-hop, jazz, singer-songwriters. I’m interested in it all.
Is there any one artist that’s speaking to you right now?
What’s something else you’ll have more time to do now?
I’m a big fan of the Downtown Athletic Club. I’ve been working out there every morning with some friends of mine.
Who is your co-host in this photo?
Her name is Sylvie—and she’s my 13-year-old beagle.
What’s on your workout playlist?
I don’t have one. I wouldn’t dream of exercising with headphones on. When I go for a run to the Inner Harbor or Fells Point, I’m listening to nature, the cars, the world. When I listen to music, it’s never on in the background—I have to concentrate. When I listen to music, I listen to music.
What’s your secret talent?
I can juggle.
Photograph by Justin Tsucalas