Band Teacher Returns from National Guard Training


Photo submitted by Ms. Michelle Kochan Army Specialist Ms. Michelle Kochan (far right) performs during her training last month at the U.S. Army School of Music at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Hale Miron

After five months of training for the Wisconsin Army National Guard Band, Ms. Michelle Kochan, the Chilton School District seventh- to twelfth-grade band teacher, is back in the classroom.

As The Prowler has previously reported, Ms. Kochan had made the decision to join the Army National Guard Band in 2019, and was scheduled to ship out March 30, 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the beginning of her training until October 4, 2021.

“It’s been a bit surreal coming back. It feels both like I’ve been gone forever and also like I just left yesterday,” Ms. Kochan said. “But I’m so glad to be home! In training, you get used to having a very regulated schedule, and it’s freeing to have my own schedule again.

Ms. Kochan’s first day back was March 15.

“Also, when you’re away for so long and you’re going through the worst parts of basic training,” Ms. Kochan said, “you rely a lot on happy thoughts of people and places you love, and I love and missed my job and my band folks so much.”

Ms. Kochan is now a member of the 132nd Army Jazz Band, which trains and rehearses in Madison once a month.

“Training was crazy! And oh, my goodness, I have stories for days! When you eat, sleep and breathe on someone else’s schedule for five months, you have to find something to look forward to, and it really makes you learn to appreciate the little things,” Ms. Kochan said. You meet a lot of interesting people along the way, and you learn a lot.

The 132nd Army Jazz Band is next scheduled to perform in July at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

“I’d definitely recommend it, although it’s not fun. It strengthens your discipline, patience and perseverance,” Ms. Kochan said. It’s empowering to be in an environment where excuses are not an option. You really learn to do things you never thought you could.”

Ms. Kochan also had this to say about the band’s long-term substitute teacher, Ms. Megan Steer, “I thought Ms. Steer did a wonderful job. There’s a lot of facets involved in a band program, and I was definitely nervous to have someone else take over for so long. But, she did a great job preparing the band and brought in some methods I’d like to continue using.”

Junior Auggie Knaus, the band drum major, said, “Seeing Ms. Kochan back for the first time after so long was almost surreal, but it immediately felt just as natural as before she left. It certainly took some time for us to adapt to her absence. But, eventually, we got used to Ms. Steer’s different style of teaching and directing. I want to thank Ms. Steer for putting up with us for those five long months. We certainly aren’t easy to deal with.”