EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — A township resident has marked another milestone in the classical music career he has pursued later in life.
Robert Haller, 62, found out that one of his cello compositions received a federal copyright when the official certificate arrived in the mail late last year.
“(I) cried at the mailbox. I couldn't hold back the tears I was so happy,” he said. “I felt like this was the biggest accomplishment (of) my life. I mean I've done some pretty big things and trying to help God and country and community in church, but this was like really a big milestone for me.”
A veteran who served in the U.S. Navy and in the U.S. Merchant Marine from 1974 to 1992, Haller is now semi-retired and is applying this same dedication to his new musical pursuits.
Haller started playing the cello in February last year and has been playing classical violin for about 10 years, four under the tutelage of an instructor.
He said he decided to start composing and writing his own scores last year around March 31, in honor of Johann Sebastian Bach’s birthday. Haller said he has been inspired by the influential 18th-century German composer.
“I heard a cello piece that he said he scored and wrote. It really touched me in a really deep, beautiful way that inspired me to write from Bach,” he said.
But while writing his own music is a new endeavor, Haller is no stranger to the written word.
He is the author of two memoirs about his military experience while serving in the Cold War. Haller completed another book about life lessons learned from playing the violin. The autobiographical "Life of a Violinist," which he self-published through the Morris Publishing Co., took him two years to complete.
He has also dedicated significant time to writing music.
The now-copyrighted cello piece, titled “Roberts number 10 in D Major,” took him about 10 days, working about eight hours each day to complete, Haller said.
Haller turned to videos for help to keep him motivated throughout the writing process, including “Cello Sundays” and “Composer Wednesdays.”
“By the time I was done, boy that was one long, complicated piece," he said. "It was very, very complex. Actually, (I) had a headache for a hangover for three days, and I don't drink or smoke or nothing like that, but it was from composing so hard and concentrating so hard that I had (to) still take Tylenol for three days before I went to bed before I (got) rid of my headache."
Haller sent out “Roberts number 10 in D Major,” and 16 other pieces for publication in June 2019. He finally received his official certificate for one piece Nov. 12. He is still awaiting the others.
Haller said he had a lot of support from family and friends in the process, too.
“I've been composing for about one year now, and I can tell you it was a great feeling having all these people support me, and the more I wrote the more I kept saying I was mailing pieces off one month to month, June, July, August 2019, September. I didn't stop (until) around almost October 2019. It felt good and very supportive,” he said.
Now semi-retired from driving school buses, Haller wants his accomplishments to serve as an example for others in the area to work hard for their goals no matter what.
“This shows that you can do a lot with your time (if you) stay concentrated and focus on one thing, you can ... accomplish a lot. It's a great conversation, (not) only for myself, for my friends, for the people that live in Atlantic County, New Jersey. A person can do this. This is a great, great honor to be bestowed upon oneself.”