His name was Jordan Howell Hallmark. Jordo. Jorkablobs. His light began to shine on May 13th,1987. Since that day, he has been showing us the right way to live. He was born knowing what was important. He was always smiling. Always. Like his grandfather Grover, he never met a stranger. And in short order, each stranger became a friend. As Jordo said, “Because after all, aren’t we here for love?” He was one of those few people who helped others, not for personal gain, but simply because he wanted to and because it was the right thing to do. He gave love freely and without reservation, and more than anything he loved his family and friends. He saw the good in everyone around him. Words are inadequate to convey how special he was.

Music was his great passion. He got his first guitar on his 15th birthday, and he never looked back. He proudly graduated from Appalachian State University’s Hayes School of Music with a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Industries in 2011. He immediately put that great education to use and started setting up a recording studio to produce his own music. He spent the next several years working in San Francisco and Austin and touring all over the country working for a band. And he had recently returned to his roots in the mountains of North Carolina and bought new studio equipment and a beautiful new Fender guitar. . . he was SO excited at the prospect of finally concentrating full time on writing and recording the music that flowed out of him.

"So I say to you, live by the Spirit...and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control." Galatians 5:22




To my Jordo: 
The day you came you took our breath away. 
We held hands on the way to kindergarten. 
Did you cry? Did we? 
Hurling yourself at every task
you climbed so high
and sliced the water with your praying hands. 
In your green eyes we saw the joy in everything
and wondered when you would, at last, 
admit your own great worth. 
You found the sweetness of your song
and stunned us with that gift. 
Now you wear your papa’s hat. 
You are so fine. 
You are so tall. 
You take our breath away. 



Our goal is to establish an endowed scholarship in Jordan’s name for a qualified and inspired Music Industries student at Appalachian State University. We are already on our way. An anonymous angel, who loved Jordan, has committed up to $50,000 to match any funds we raise for the scholarship. Jordan would have loved this. . . loved that the music will go on. And we are so grateful for your help in making it happen.




Checks can be made out to the Appalachian State University Foundation

Appalachian State University Foundation
P. O. Box 32014
Boone, NC 28608-2014

Please be sure to note "Jordan Howell Hallmark Memorial Scholarship Hayes School of Music" on the check


Jordan had a passion for music and it flowed out of him. He started playing the guitar at 15 and graduated from Appalachian State University’s Hayes School of Music. Jordan was only beginning to fully embrace his talent and potential as an artist and left us many gifts of his talent in the form of written word and recorded song. An ASU scholarship in Jordan's name will support and inspire gifted young musicians to follow their own musical passion. 






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Jordan Howell Hallmark (1987-2015) was a gentle, loving soul, under whose modest exterior lurked a feverishly creative mind and a multi-talented musician. All of this comes through clearly on his CD Leaving, his legacy of poetry and song. Many who knew him well did not fathom the extent and beauty of that legacy.

Jordan left notebooks filled with poetry he probably meant one day to turn into songs, as he did—thankfully—with many on this album. He played acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, keyboard, and violin; his voice was versatile, and he sings here in a wide range of styles, including folk, country, pop, and even rap. He wrote and sang of the joys and heartache of love and friendship, of ties to home and family, of his uncertainties about himself and where he was headed in life. There are bittersweet songs of love; spunky, streetwise lyrics; introspective, philosophical songs; and comical numbers. (Four of the fifteen tracks are purely instrumental.) The whole album is alive with an engaging whimsicality. “The listener is pulled through highs, lows, conflict and resolution. Each song carries an element of exploration into the life of a shining individual,” wrote a close friend. 

Complexity and ambiguity are interwoven within the rich tapestry of themes in this album. One sees Jordan’s affinity for city life in “Concrete” (“this is our home…Let’s go get lost out in the city”) and “You Make Me Smile” (“In the night on top our bikes the city provides the light”) even as he cherishes his southern, mountain roots—“the hills they fade from view” in “Leaving,” “blackeyed peas and collard greens” in “Stone’s Throw.” We hear Jordan’s anguish and ambivalence over love gained and lost, especially in “Concerning Her Heart,” “Stone’s Throw,” “Why,” and “Back n Forth.” (“I want you close…but I’m sticking to the east side as you’re off to the west coast.”)

Jordan’s love of family shines through in “Big Boppa” (“I come from folks who both create/Build their life off things that they make. I can only hope to do the same…”), “Leaving” (“Just remember where you came from”), and “Hathaway.” He invokes his mother in “Concrete” (“if momma sees that’s it for me”) and “Box By The Sea” (“To my…mom and my God”). In the same song Jordan evidences his fierce loyalty to friends (“To my girls and my boys…), and also in “Concrete” and “You Make Me Smile.” His self doubt and self searching are apparent in “Shiftlessness” (“…I gave it all up So I could tend to being shiftless”) and “Excuses, Excuses” (“Excuses don’t make the man…but walking the walk is something else.”) We even hear intimations of death in “Leaving” (“…any last words?”) and “You Make Me Smile” (“you’ll be my friend till the day I die”).

Jordan characterized his style as “Appalachian pop,” true to his upbringing in the gorgeous Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. We know that among the artists Jordan liked are the Indie pop/rock/folk musicians Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver), Elliot Smith, Jack Johnson, and Andrew Bird, all of whom sing with high voices and make use of the complementation of acoustic and digital sound. Jordan’s vocal range is wide, carrying beautifully into his head voice, and is sweeter and prettier than theirs; his guitar playing is at least a match. Like Bird, Jordan sometimes colors his songs with the violin—as in the country fiddle in the opening of “Concrete”—and with whistling—as in “Excuses, Excuses.” Picked banjo figures prominently in “You Make Me Smile.” 

But Jordan did not slavishly imitate other artists. His creations are securely his own. Characteristic are his slow vocal and instrumental slides, which flavor many of his songs and even become a signature gesture, as in “Shiftlessness” and “I Don’t Know Why.” His melodies are easy-going, the harmonies largely conventional (though sprinkled with unusual progressions and some spicy counterpoint), but the textures he creates are endlessly new. Listen carefully and you’ll also find haunting, enigmatic features like the minor key choral ending of “Concerning Her Heart,” and the instrumental tune at the beginning of “Concrete” that is played as a recurring motif at least four times in the song, but never sung. The leading four notes of the tune in “Concerning Her Heart” return, wordlessly, near the end of “Back n Forth,” linking these two songs of lost love. Sometimes a song teases by seeming to come to an end, only to start up again after a moment’s pause. Occasionally Jordan inserts an unexpected pause before the last word in a line, giving the tune a whimsical hiccup. Like many a medieval and renaissance composer, Jordan enshrines his name within a song (near the end of “Big Boppa,” itself named after the popular 50’s singer of “Chantilly Lace;” the song ends with Jordan’s imitation of Big Boppa’s voice as a phone message). The album contains some straightforward verse and chorus pieces, but also songs that do not hew to standard forms. “Hathaway,” whose lyrics tell the story of Jordan’s grandmother’s pet crow, becomes a tale of a romantic drifter, and its form “drifts” appealingly. After its initial conventional AABA, an instrumental interlude of new material proceeds to another A, and then the song breaks into an extensive section of narrative rap (!) before fading away over the verse’s harmonies. A friend characterized Jordan’s songs as “well groomed but freedom filled.” 

Each of the tracks must have been laid down by Jordan during hours of painstaking work, most of them featuring complex overlays of his singing (solos, but often overdubbed duets and trios with himself), plus multiple acoustic instruments, plain and digitally enhanced, synthesized sounds and sound-effects. Jordan did all this himself in his home studio. (Think of Justin Vernon holing up in his remote Wisconsin cabin for three months.) Technically, as well as musically, the CD is an impressive achievement. Despite all the digital mastery, there is, as a friend observed, “an acoustic flavor baked into” the music.

Jordan’s life was tragically cut short by a freak automobile accident. Leaving is a compilation produced from his digitally stored recordings by students and faculty of The Hayes School of Music, Appalachian State University. Proceeds from sales of the CD will go to the Jordan Howell Hallmark Memorial Scholarship Fund in Music Industry Studies at the Hayes School. The jacket features endearing photographs of him as a toddler, as a young boy with his grandmother Sara Mae (mentioned in “Hathaway”), and as a handsome, smiling young man in his late twenties riding his bike. 

We who are shattered by Jordan’s death can take joy and comfort in the legacy of this album. He may be gone, but his music and poetry will remain in our hearts.

Rufus Hallmark, professor emeritus, musicology, Rutgers University
Anne Hallmark, retired faculty member, musicology, New England Conservatory


Life is comprised of many precious moments with the people we love. These are a few of Jordan's moments...with the people he loved.

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Jordan certainly had a way with words. This is a glimpse into his wisdom.

“My best moments in life came when I had friends by my side.”

“The one thing I’ve learned is, though life is lived best with the ones you love close, you can’t depend on them for happiness…that comes from within.”

“Remember to wear your smile.  Open the blinds and let the sun in. Show your teeth.”

“Focus your mind on a goal…one that will help your heart grow.”

“Maybe I’ll leave something in a song, on a page, in a note, some sort of form which someone can relate to someday.”

“Keep chugging on — Singing your song  — Don’t waste time with hate — Hold on to love — What else do we got?  It’s never too late.  So make every day — a good day.”

“Brush your teeth and tie your shoes and call your mom to tell her you love her.”

“Whenever you have a question — ask DAD.”   

“Songs are a good way to capture an experience whether measly or profound.  Frame it in time and keep it forever”

“Don’t you ever let go of that’s all that you are made up of”


1. Concrete

Keep out…well bullshit

I’ll kick in your fence

If I can’t get over it

Whatever it takes to get in

Just wanna skate

We’re tryin to ride

Them girls be callin “Hi!”

When we passin by

We ain’t got time

We’d rather skate


Me and my pal, we make one mighty fine team

Struttin our shit like it’s royalty

Him and my board’s about all I need

Let’s go get lost out in the city


Run red lights and stop signs

I’ll show you how to fly

With no wings

I’ll show you how without ever leaving your feet


I tripped and hit the concrete

Thirteen, blacked out, crowded streets,

Sweet dreams, a lady screams,

I ripped my jeans from seam to seam,

I scraped my knee geez

If momma sees, that’s it for me

That’s just my luck…which sucks

But I’m gonna get back up, I’m gonna get back up

I’ll get back up


Me and my pal we want to live our dream

One day I say we’ll both be kings

This is our home, you can’t make us leave

We belong out on the concrete


Me and my pal, we make one mighty fine team

Strutting our shit like it’s royalty

Him and my board’s about all I need

Let’s go get lost out in the city.

Sure, the jacket, it’s gettin nippy.


2. Box By the Sea

I’m goin start right here where I am

Turn around, muse on the length of my path

The things I’ve seen

And them folk that I’ve met

It all sits along that which led me here where I stand


To my girls and my boys and my mom and my God

Whoever hears louder



On my way

I discovered the chi

And the beauty and the life we both give to receive
I gathered it’s here

But it seems I took more than I need

To the earth and its life

And those who died

And the sun and its life

and the stars in the night


Inland east to this box by the sea

Waitin for the change the fall will bring


3. Shiftlessness

It’s probably time to get on,

Get on these plans I’ve drawn.

The sun at dawn peeks above,

Comes right around

And leaves me with nothing done.


The monkey mind makes its way

back and forth across the stage.

It keeps me here

I’ll pass the blame

It’s exactly why I’ll probably stay


The door sits on its hinge

Making light with every inch.

Just enough to let it in,

A little light lights my den.

She brings me back to where I’ve been

Before I gave it all up

So I could tend to being shiftless.


The river runs like a tireless child

I watch the ride there at its side


4. Concerning Her Heart

Such a delicate plate

One that would undoubtedly break

If I had a hold

I thought I saw you look this way


Don’t give it up to a shiftless wretch

who isn’t ready for love.

Stick it out

til you find the one who lifts you up.


Please don’t give in

Even at the bare and dark bottom of your

Loneliness is only what you make of it,

If that’s the case

Then you should find the thing to fill the hole in

It’s often made

Givin up your love is such a common mistake

It’s best to avoid that which causes the heart to break


It burns my skin to the bone

To see such a lovely lady crawl on the floor

Beg all you please

But I will leave you there, down on your knees.


That moment might come

But that moment will surely be gone.

When you feel it hit,

you look to the clock

To get your fix.

Take your time before you get yourself hitched

Well I been looking out for me trying to play the part

When it’s more about her and my concern for her heart.


5. Stone’s Throw

I know I’ll never know

Exactly where this road

Where she’s likely to lead me

Which way I’m likely to go

The only thing I’ve ever known

Is that I want you close

Within a stone’s throw

Or even close enough to hold

But I’m stickin to the east side

As you’re off to the west coast

For a bit of time on your own

To give me mine to grow    

But I won’t let go

Can’t let go

Gotta hold on to the hope

I won’t let go


I gotta let go


Mm-mm, Blackeyed peas and collard greens


6. Why

Sometimes my baby cries at night.

I don’t know why, why it is she does that.

Sometimes when the morning brings its sunlight

My baby, my baby cries


I don’t know why

I don’t know why

I don’t know why


Sometimes when we fight

I drift off to the place up in my mind

I glide across the sky, above the trees

The leaves are green

I’m free

I’m free to do me


I wanna get high

I wanna get high

I wanna get high


And I don’t know why

I don’t know why

I don’t know why


7. You make me smile

In the night on top our bikes

The city provides the light

We’ve got time why not ride a while

Don’t the air feel fine

I got the chills linin up to make the way on down my spine


You’ll be my friend until the day I die

You make me smile


8. Big Boppa

Even all the way all she’s likely to break and fade

What a shame that’d be


I come from folks who both create

Build their life off things that they make.

I can only hope to do the same

In this game.

In this game.

What’s his name?

Jordan is my name.


9. Untitled [instrumental]


10. Leaving* [instrumental]

My suitcase is Blue – it carries a certain hue

Like the sky in June – when the hydrangeas bloom

I packed my life into this bag and made my move

The hills they fade from view


Do I define this life or is there something greater

Guiding me along the line

Did I do right by saying my goodbye


She held that gun up to my head and said

“Get on if yens* any last words”

My mind went blank like the page of the poet

Whose hand is cast from being smashed in the window pane

Patience ain’t her thing, I’d say six seconds passed

Before I heard the gun go bang

Right then and there I became her slave

I’d give her all of every single last one of my days


You always would have wondered how boy

Your life had made its way around boy

If you hadn’t done chased it down boy

Get on and go live it up

Just remember where you come from

Don’t you ever let go of that love

It’s all that you are made up of


*These lyrics were found in Jordan’s papers, but hadn’t been recorded.


11.  Hathaway

A silver pendant reflected the sun's light

and caught the interest of a bird's eye 

I might not be telling it quite right, but either way, on that day

a young Hathaway met Sara Mae.


Back then Fort Bragg harvested the sugar pine

cuttin down soft wood just to open up the sky.

When his tree came down it hit the ground harder than the heart pounds 

when you make eyes with your true love for the very, very, very, very, very first time


Lucky for him, she heard his cry

and brought him in for the night.


And they drank wine…

sweet, sherry wine.

Stayed up til five

dancin 'round a glass of sherry wine.

Friends for life,

just sharin smiles


Didn't even take a week before he was just another member of the family…

Rufus, Eugene, Alexander the G, Ms. Sara Mae, 

and their dog of the short legged long bodied breed…Toby.


Anyway, Hathaway he passed his days chasin shiny things 

like trinkets, rings, and even my daddy's keys. 

Not quite like a thief, but don't stealin seem appealin

when you're dealin with nothin but feelin?

Feelin's what he felt when he stood above his treasures of old,

silver and gold, pieced into a bowl,

or rather a nest in which to sit upon.


See, Toby showed him how to bark just like a dog,

He'd right that which was wrong, 

Proficient in the ancient art of song.

See, he specialized in lullabies, it helped her to sleep at night.

With him around life was just that much more nice.


We'd watch him glide through the sky flyin higher and higher 

He'd pull them clothespins from the clothesline drinking sweet sherry wine 

Venture out for a while, even out for the night

which turned into days and then weeks at a time

until eventually he didn't return.

But either way, it needs sayin,

Love abides and so does his light.

That was Hathaway.


I guess he headed south

Wherever crows go in winter once it gets cold.

Joined a murder, maybe met himself a girl.

Perhaps he's livin on his own down on a beach in Mexico


12.  Ellipsis [instrumental]


13. Back n forth

Say what you will,

But it won’t change a thing

We had a deal.


I play by the rules.

If I’ve got the shot I’m gonna shoot.

There ain’t nothin you can do

There’s simply nothin you can do.


I know you wanna gloat

For the very fact alone  

You’ve got me doin as I’m told

Well, how’s it feel to have control?


Take two

You’re gonna do just what you wanna do

Anyhow, what’s that about

You know I doubt I’ll ever come on back around

To taste a crippling kiss

Those smoky lips

Leave me ripped


So you’ve come to give more

Always back n forth, back n forth, back n forth, back n


14. Excuses, Excuses

If time would only give I’d give myself the chance to sit

And dwell on that which once was what my passion resided in

That thing that came so painlessly it’s now wearing on me,

But who’s to blame when me and mine are all that’s gettin in the way


If only I’d put my pride to the side

I might see it for what it really is

But despite all of it there is only this

I’m not sleeping til I put it to rest


Excuses don’t make the man

A man is made in confidence

Talk the talk all you will

But walkin the walk is somethin else


15.  Gone Today [instrumental]