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

In honor of Ohio Stadium’s 100th anniversary, Ohio State News is looking back at significant people and moments in the stadium’s history and what they mean to the college community.

Ohio State University marching band director Christopher Hoch has not one, not two, but five degrees from college: a bachelor’s degree in music education and math; master’s degrees in instrumental conducting and music education; and a doctorate in music education. Although his math degree might seem like an anomaly, Hoch doesn’t see it that way.

“Believe it or not, there’s a lot of math in music, whether it’s to do with musical pitch or rhythm, that sort of thing,” he said. “There’s a lot of correlation and unification between the two.”

As far back as he can remember, Hoch had an aptitude for mathematics and a love for music. From an early age, he was involved in all the groups available to him. With two teachers as parents, music education seemed like a natural choice, but it felt too familiar.

“I didn’t want to do what mom and dad were doing,” he recalled, “so music education was on the back burner for me.”

Upon arriving at Ohio State, Hoch took classes in math and science. It was through his involvement in college musical ensembles, however, that he realized he was resisting the inevitable.

“I realized after a year at Ohio State that music was my true passion,” he said. “You know, too bad, if I’m going to be like mom and dad, I’m going to be like mom and dad and be a teacher. I discovered that I also had a passion for teaching students.

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

Each year, he says, 15% of the group are music majors. In fact, most of them are engineering students. Hoch believes this leads to students having a greater variety of educational experiences, which only benefits them.

“If you can find a major here at Ohio State, there’s probably been someone from that major in the marching band,” he said. “If you’re studying something that may seem unrelated to music, having that musical experience to make you a whole person, I think that’s great.”

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

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

An impressive example of this practice is what Hoch calls “two-step drills,” where students come out of a circular formation counting to 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 where I used mathematical knowledge to make it work,” he said.

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

“What we’re doing here is an extremely collaborative thing,” he said. “There isn’t just one person who has a super creative mind for everything. It really is a lot of communication and hard work. … It’s really collaboration and hard work that brings creativity to life.

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