A Valpo Life in the Spotlight: Philip Hahn

A Valpo Life in the Spotlight: Philip Hahn

Philip Hahn is a retired schoolteacher living in the Region. He was not born in the Midwest, though, as he grew up and went to high school in Westfield, Massachusetts. What initiated his journey to this area was his decision to attend Valparaiso University (VU) on a Luthern Laymen’s League scholarship. 

For several summers, Hahn would work at U.S. Steel, which goes in line with his original inspirations, and what started him on the track of getting a degree: chemistry. He bounced around between majors, eventually making a decision that’s lasted a while now. His hopscotching may have pitted him as being behind others, but nothing’s wrong with being somewhat of a late bloomer in one’s respective field. 

“I started out as a chemistry major. My sophomore year, I changed to a math major, and then in the middle of my junior year, it really struck me that I was president of the music fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha. I was playing horn in the band, in the orchestra, and I was taking horn and piano lessons. I was spending all my time there, so I ended up changing to a music education major in the middle of my junior year. Then I did my student-teaching in the fall of my ninth semester,” he said. 

By and by, Hahn went on to spend 20 years as a band director in Boone Grove, a little town just south of Valpo. After attaining a second degree, a new high school had been constructed, but Hahn wished to stay in the middle school, changing into teaching computer applications. Because of the merry-go-round that had become his life, he spent quite a lot of time in the classroom. 

“I taught the seventh grade for nine years, and then I taught in eighth grade for another six years. From there, I spent two years as what they called a ‘data warehouse manager’ before I finally retired from the school completely,” he said. 

Hahn was an early adopter of computers. However, there was so much to love about life as a band director. Though it came with a whole lot of duties and obligations to fulfill, the rewards received through and after all the hard work he performed with his students have since denoted themselves as blessings. He, for example, has seen some of them off to schools as prestigious as the Berklee College of Music in Boston, therefore instructing and thus surrounding himself with professional individuals. 

Now being a retiree, life has offered Hahn the luxury of living peacefully in the house which was designed by him and built for him on a small lot in Valparaiso. He even has a private music room all to himself. He uses a good bit of his time to play instruments with those whom he’s come to call friends. He is also a lifelong learner.

“I perform with some of my former students. I've been with the Valparaiso Community Band from day one. Right now, I play in a lot of musical organizations. Ever since my retirement about 10 years ago, I’ve played the French horn in the South Shore Brass Band, as well as in Windiana, and in the Michigan City Municipal Band, and I go to band camp for adults,” he said.

Playing all over the place has allowed Hahn the chance to do all kinds of traveling. It has let him seize tremendous opportunities, like performing onstage at the 50th anniversary of Woodstock and this past year in Carnegie Hall with the concert band Windiana. He has visited countless, playing music from New York to Virginia to Michigan. He has also traveled to China seven times, playing concerts and teaching, as well as Germany, France, Belgium, and other European countries, with various concert bands and orchestras.

Hahn’s also involved with certain matters at Christ Lutheran Church in Valpo. Come June, he will be venturing to Costa Rica on a mission trip to live in an intentional Christian community, primarily to spend quality time with Central American refugees, with the hopes of learning about and understanding their culture. 

As he’s made his way through life, Hahn has come up with four philosophies to always follow to the best of his abilities. Their collective essence mimics that of Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs in that they center themselves on one’s pursuit of a natural state of perpetual well-being. 

“There are four important things in your life that matter. Number one is your health; you have to take care of yourself. Number two, you have to use your time well, whether it's vacation time, Sabbath time, free time, or whatever. The third thing is that you have to have enough money — not a lot of money, but you have to have enough money so that you’re comfortable, not worried about where your next meal is coming from, or where shelter is coming from. Number four is what I feel is the most important: you must surround yourself with people you love, not anyone who’s toxic. To be happy and to live a good life, you have to be mindful of those things all the time,” he said.

When he first moved into the city of Valparaiso from the rural areas outside town, where he had lived most of his adult life, Hahn was a little shocked, as he wasn’t used to the steady lifestyle that makes up the ambiance of a small town like the one he soon came to know. It’s safe to say that he’s remained in shock, because he’s constantly being surprised by what this tight-knit community has to offer. Two of his daughters reside in the area, too, which has granted him plenty of special family time with them and especially his two grandchildren. He likes to go bicycling, do gardening and be involved with their lives.