By Shruthi Franklin
This year, Byram Hills welcomed its newest staff member, Mr. Hochler. He is a 27-year-old coffee enthusiast who likes to sport wacky socks. Mr. Hochler is Byram Hills’ new band instructor.
Mr. Hochler first became interested in band when he was in fourth grade. Constantly being compared to his superstar older brother, he found that the trumpet was something he was quite good at. The trumpet was something in which he could excel at all on his own. He knew then that this was what he wanted to continue to pursue. Mr. Hochler had also always known that teaching was one of the passions he wanted to pursue when he was an adult. So, he thought, why not combine the two?
But before jumping into the waters of teaching, Mr. Hochler spent one year on the Royal Caribbean Cruise playing his trumpet for the passengers. He recounts the time as incredibly fun because he “basically got paid to tour Europe and play the trumpet.”
Finally, after two years, Mr. Hochler made his way into the teaching business. He taught for two years in Brooklyn and another two years in Long Island before arriving at our school this year. However, starting to teach at Byram Hills during a pandemic is very challenging — especially for a band teacher.
Unlike most classes, being in band requires the removal of students’ masks so that they can actually play their instruments. This limits the way band is conducted due to COVID restrictions. To ensure everyone’s safety at all times, students are required to keep six feet apart at all times. Not only do many band members wear special masks, but some instruments must also wear masks of their own. This puts a damper on the experiences meant to happen during band in a normal school year because, as Mr. Hochler says, band is a “social activity.” But even with these restrictions, the band plays on.
As many students witnessed, the band played during the big Homecoming game. The whole preparation had been stressful to say the least. Where Mr. Hochler grew up, Homecoming was never a big event, so coming into Byram Hills’ enthusiastic approach was a major shift. There was also pressure weighing on the band’s shoulders, as some of their musicians are on the football team and weren’t able to play in the stands. But due to the band’s persistence, they were able to play quite well by the time of the big game.
As for future plans, Mr. Hochler is excited for this year, even with the ambiguity it brings. He would like for the band to have in-person concerts, provided the situation allows it. He would also like to expand the size of the band. He said he has had so many ex-band members come up to him, apologizing, wishing they could join the band, but aren’t able to due to scheduling issues. As of now, there are 34 kids in the high school band, but next year, he hopes for 40, or even 50.
Of course, he doesn’t want kids to push themselves to join the band, especially if it causes more stress in their lives. Mr. Hochler is a very big mental health advocate. He is well aware of the immense pressure students in this district face, both in terms of getting good grades and participating in as many extracurricular activities as they can.
If Mr. Hochler could give his students one piece of advice, it would be to always take care of yourself mentally. He encourages putting your mental health before anything else because he knows what it’s like to be an overworked high schooler. He wants everyone to know that everything will be alright in the end and work out. And if it doesn’t feel like it is going well, therapy is a great solution to deal with such problems. Mr. Hochler himself goes to a therapist.
Mr. Hochler has done an amazing job so far teaching the band and bringing a positive energy to our school and the middle school. As he said, “Everyone at Byram has been supportive to me so far, and I hope I can be just as supportive to my students.”
Welcome to Byram Hills, Mr. Hochler.