Jazz Marine

Trombonist Matt Hall’s journey to San Diego

Matt Hall says “being in the Marine Corps Band made me a much more consistent musician.”
  • Matt Hall says “being in the Marine Corps Band made me a much more consistent musician.”
  • Photograph by Y.C. Wong

“It’s all because of music, really,” explains trombonist Matt Hall, contemplating the journey that brought him from East Tennessee to San Diego.

Hall has been playing the trombone since he was 10-years old and it might be an understatement to call him a prodigy in those days. “I met this local jazz hero named Rick Simerly when I was a kid, and he kind of took me under his wing, where I became a sponge for all things straight-ahead jazz. I loved it and I got more addicted to the horn.”

Before long, his hobby became a profession.

“I started gigging at a very young age. I started leading my own groups and playing around town when I was just 13 years-old. We played all over the area and recorded two albums before I even got out of high school.”

A sense of wanderlust started to set in for the young player. “All these experiences really made me want to travel — to get out of Tennessee — so the idea of the military was always an option. I really wanted to join the Air Force, but that didn’t work out. I was directing a high school jazz ensemble in my hometown when the Marine Corp recruiter came to give his pitch to my students. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was in his office enlisting.”

Hall has no regrets.

“Being in the Marine Corps band made me a much more consistent musician. We were doing 300 performances a year, and you really have to deliver every time, in my opinion. On top of all that, I was trying to gig as much as possible here in San Diego as a jazz player. Sometimes it got exhausting but it was worth it. After four years, it was time to go, even though leaving the security of a steady job and place to sleep was hard.”

Hall received an honorable discharge in 2015 and spent two years in New York earning a bachelor’s degree. Now he’s back in San Diego attending grad school at SDSU. “”New York is awesome, but it’s a challenge to live there.”

What’s next?

Past Event

Renato Diz & Maria Quintanilla

“I’m recording an album this year with [fellow former Marine] Charlie Arbelaez. I’m performing with New York vocalist Maria Quintanilla at Dizzy’s on November 26.”

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