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Inspiring Stories from ESL Business Banking Clients: Hochstein School of Music

Interviews with Peggy Quackenbush, Hochstein President and Executive Director, and Debbie Tretter, Hochstein Marketing & Communications Manager

April 2022

Music for All

Before the pandemic, music and dance lessons, group classes, and ensembles at Hochstein were bustling with students of all ages.

“Hochstein's greatest strength is the indescribable spirit of the people and the place that make Hochstein what it is. There is a quiet peace and a genuine sense of life that permeates through the building. Hochstein is a supremely positive place," shared Hochstein President and Executive Director Peggy Quackenbush.

Surviving the Pandemic

Once the pandemic hit and all in-person instruction had to stop for an indefinite time, the building at 50 North Plymouth Avenue in Rochester echoed with silence. But the spirit of the people lived on in Hochstein’s faculty and staff! Together, they remained committed to making sure that the majority of the School’s offerings would be available to all.

“We were able to keep families and students engaged with online classes and offering tuition assistance to those in need. If you wanted to be here and continue to learn, we were going to find a way to make that happen,” said Debbie Tretter, the Marketing & Communications Manager at Hochstein. “Our faculty quickly and successfully pivoted to teaching virtually, and because of that we were able to retain a majority of our students.”

The music school also expanded its marketing to target potential students outside the Greater Rochester region, and with the transition to online classes, the School attracted students from Florida, North Carolina, and China!

Working with ESL

President and Executive Director Peggy Quackenbush says ESL has played a crucial role in making it possible to support people of all socio-economic backgrounds, especially local students.

“Hochstein is fortunate to have received regular support from the ESL Charitable Foundation for our tuition assistance program. This program helps us to increase access to arts education and arts therapy services for students of all ages, abilities, and levels of experience. It's such a key aspect of our School's mission, and we're grateful for this support.”

Through Hochstein’s community engagement initiative, programs are in place with the Rochester City School District, several group homes, and other organizations.

“ESL has also been a valued partner in sustaining our non-profit business operations, by providing two important resources: A Line of Credit and access to financing options for capital projects,” said Peggy Quackenbush. “ESL recognition of our service to the community and their interest in and support of our programs, capital needs, and financing resources has been outstanding. It's a pleasure to work with such a professional team at ESL.”

Relationship Manager, Business Banking, ESL, Carly Lauricella: “Our community is richer and stronger because of programs offered by Hochstein. We are deeply grateful for the opportunities to collaborate with the School.”

Community Engagement

Knowing the positive impact that music has on people, especially during difficult times, gave the Hochstein staff a feeling of empowerment to do whatever they could to continue making a difference in people’s lives. Music therapy is often used as a strategy to treat a variety of physical, emotional, cognitive, and social issues. Researchers have discovered it can lessen pain, reduce depression, and decrease anxiety.

Through Hochstein, dozens of students continue to enjoy the sweet sound of music, pushing individual enrollment back to similar numbers before the pandemic. One of the many lessons learned by the Hochstein staff is that the last two years have undoubtedly changed what was once considered “normal” class offerings.

The Future

Debbie Tretter, “There really is no more normal as we remember it. What was normal before is not going to be what we transition to and we’ll work to create a new way of operating the School. What we have learned is that there are many people who are willing to have a hybrid learning experience. The weather is one factor that now allows people to say, ‘I want my lesson online today.’ It’s just great that we’re able to have those options available for our students.”