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For Chris Hoch, background in math and music education is a winning combination

TBDBITL director has earned 5 degrees at Ohio State

In honor of Ohio Stadium’s 100th anniversary, Ohio State News is looking back at notable figures and moments in the stadium’s history and what these mean to the university community. 

The Ohio State University Marching Band director Christopher Hoch has not one, not two, but five degrees from the university: bachelor’s degrees in music education and mathematics; master’s degrees in instrumental conducting and music education; and a doctorate in music education. While his math degree may seem like an anomaly, Hoch does not view it that way.

“Believe it or not, there’s a lot of mathematics in music, whether it has to do with musical pitch or rhythm, those types of things,” he said. “There’s a lot of correlation and unification between the two.”

For as long as he can remember, Hoch had an aptitude for math and a love of music. From a young age, he was involved in every band available to him. With two teachers as parents, music education seemed like a natural fit, but it felt too familiar.

“I wanted to not do what Mom and Dad did,” he recalls, “so music education was on the back burner for me.”

Upon arrival at Ohio State, Hoch took math and science classes. It was through his involvement in musical ensembles at the university, however, that made him see he was resisting the inevitable.

“I realized after a year of being at Ohio State that music was my true passion,” he said. “You know, the heck with it, if I’m going to be like Mom and Dad, I’m going to be like Mom and Dad and be a teacher. I found that I have a passion for teaching students as well.”

This passion for teaching led Hoch to a successful music education career, including seven years as director of bands at Rutherford B. Hayes High School. In 2016, he was named director of Ohio State’s marching and athletic bands. Unlike Hoch, many band members are not music majors.

Any given year, he said, 15% of the band are music majors. In fact, the largest portion are engineering students. Hoch believes this leads to students having a wider variety of educational experiences, which only benefits them.

“If you can find a major here at Ohio State, there’s probably been somebody from that major in the marching band,” he said. “If you’re studying something that may seem like it doesn’t relate to music, to have that musical experience to make you a well-rounded person, I think is all to the good.”

Hoch exemplifies this versatility, using his math background regularly with the band.

“When I’m writing drills, when I’m creating patterns and images on the field, whether it’s geometric shapes or spacing, I think there’s a part of my brain that’s been developed over the years that thinks very mathematically about how those things should come together,” he said.

An impressive example of this practice is what Hoch calls “step-two drills,” where students step off a circular formation on counts of two, allowing them to create intricate patterns.

“Calculating the step size, the percentage of expansion or contraction of certain parts of the image … is definitely an example of where I’ve used some mathematical background to make it work,” he said.

Drills like this are time- and labor-intensive, and Hoch knows it. He credits the band as a whole for its successes, including recent kudos from actor Tom Cruise for the band’s “Top Gun” tribute last fall.

“What we do here is an extremely collaborative thing,” he said. “It’s not just one person who has a super creative mind coming up with everything. It really is a lot of communication and hard work. … It really is collaboration and hard work that makes creativity come to life.” 

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