Ms. Kochan Leaves to Train for Army National Guard Band


Photo submitted by Ms. Michelle Kochan On Oct. 4, Ms. Michelle Kochan, the seventh- to twelfth-grade band teacher, left for basic training for the Wisconsin Army National Guard Band.

Karin Juhl and Hale Miron

The Chilton School District seventh- to twelfth-grade band teacher Ms. Michelle Kochan left for basic training for the Wisconsin Army National Guard Band on Oct. 4.

Ms. Kochan had made the decision to join the Army National Guard Band over two years prior, but her deployment was delayed almost one and a half years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was originally assigned to leave March 30, 2020.

Student Mariyah Broehm, a sophomore who plays the flute in Symphonic Band, said, “(Joining the band) was a good decision, I’ll miss Ms. Kochan while she’s gone.”

     She has wanted to do this since college, but she said what pushed her to join was seeing the 132nd Army Jazz Band perform when she invited them to Chilton a few years ago to work with the jazz band. “I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got to do that before I can’t anymore,’” Ms. Kochan said.

When her shipment was first delayed at the start of the pandemic, Ms. Kochan said she was relieved as no one had any idea what was going to happen. “Looking back, it actually would’ve been a perfect time to go, but I believe the timing of things happened for a reason.”

     In the meantime, Ms. Kochan has been spending a lot of time in the gym to make sure she can pass all her physical fitness tests and at home on solo practice of her music.

To qualify for the band, Ms. Kochan had to pass an audition, which consisted of two prepared selections that showed two different musical styles. She also had a 24-hour sight reading, where she had received the music 24 hours before the audition and was asked to play it as correctly as possible.

Even though she can play several different instruments, Ms. Kochan decided to specialize in saxophone as it was her first instrument and the one she feels most comfortable on. “It also gives me opportunities to play not only in the concert band but the jazz band and army rock band, too,” she said.

Ms. Kochan is expected to return to Chilton sometime in March.

Junior Auggie Knaus, the drum major, said, “As sad as I am to see Ms. Kochan leave for such a long period of time, I’m very happy for her and her decision to join the U.S. Army Band. Although, as it would be with any other long-term sub, learning to work with a new teacher with a different teaching style will be difficult. However, I am staying optimistic as we all adjust to Ms. Kochan’s absence. Overall, I am wishing Ms. Kochan the best over these next few months.”

Until Ms. Kochan’s return, the district has hired long-term substitute teacher Ms. Megan Steer.

“She’s incredibly knowledgeable, talented and kind, and I can tell she genuinely cares for others and students,” Ms. Kochan said of Ms. Steer. “She’s had a wide range of experiences and really great ideas that make her very qualified for this job.”

After Ms. Kochan finishes training, she’ll be playing once a month with the Army National Guard Band all over Wisconsin. The band has also played all over the world. “I’m hoping to get to be a part of some of those trips, too,” she said.

The band also marches and plays for different government events such as governor inaugurations, military school graduations and when troops return from overseas.

They play the most during annual training, a two-week training period at the end of June. A large concert ensemble plays as well as a bunch of small ensembles, such as jazz band, rock band and a woodwind quintet.

On her last day at school before leaving, the high school staff and band students planned a surprise goodbye assembly for Ms. Kochan.

CHS principal Mr. Shawn Rude and sophomore percussion player Pamela Siech each spoke and gave Ms. Kochan their well-wishes. The high school bands played Hawaii Five-O, the Chilton School Song and ended with Kiss Him Goodbye.

Afterward, Ms. Kochan addressed her band students, “Thank you for making my life better.Thinking of you all will really help me get through my training. Don’t worry, you’ll all blink, and I’ll be back.”