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Peggy Quackenbush, 69

She is retiring after a career of 42 years with The Hochstein School

By Todd Etshman

Q: What are some of the highlights you’ve experienced at Hochstein?

A: If I’m looking over the entire span, it’s the success we’ve had in adapting our building; an old 19th century church, a beautiful facility. We had to work to adapt it to our purposes through various phases of renovation. A major highlight was creation of the performance hall more than 20 years ago. It showcases what we do in the education program; which is to present our students and faculty and share it with other organizations as a performance venue. The most satisfying thing has been working with the faculty to grow our programs to meet the needs of the community.

Q: Who gets a Hochstein education or takes its courses?

A: We’re a community school. Our philosophy is everyone who wants to learn should have the opportunity. We’re very welcoming of beginners and all levels of ability and of every age. We’ve got a lot of adults coming back for lessons later in life or starting something for the first time. You’re never too old. Bagpipe is one of our most popular classes for adults, also ukulele and harmonica. The typical participation level in a year is about 3,500. We also work with people with disabilities.

Q: What changes have you seen in student musicians in your tenure?

A: Interest has grown quite a lot in the time that I’ve been here. The interest in music making with new people has grown. It’s exciting to learn a new instrument individually but there is further joy to be making music in community. The same goes for dance. Working with other people to create something is one of the most satisfying things humans can do. Smaller ensembles in which you’re not following the lead of a conductor are the most intimate way of making music. Our orchestra program really flourished; also chamber music, choral groups, rock bands, guitar and jazz ensemble.

Q: Tell us about the quintet you play clarinet in.

A: Antara Winds is a woodwind quintet I was lucky enough to be a part of when it was founded in 1982 among faculty members. We’ve been going continuously since then. We had a blip due to COVID, but expect to resume performances this year. There seems to be a natural interest in the clarinet. There’s always a need for them in a band. I play a little piano, too, but that’s not for public consumption.

Q: What would you like to accomplish before you leave?

A: I’d like to see us return to our full complement of courses and programs, to grow beyond where we were before the pandemic. That would be the most wonderful thing, but part of that is depending on what happens with COVID-19.

Q: Did you grow up here? Will you stay here?

A: I grew up on a farm in Minnesota. I moved to Rochester to do the doctorate of musical arts program at the Eastman School of Music in 1979 when I was 27. I was fortunate to get a part-time teaching position at Hochstein as soon as I moved here. I’ll stay in the area.

Q: Anything else you would like readers to know?

A: I’d like the community to know what a great organization of dedicated people I think the Hochstein is. There’re opportunities here for everybody. I feel fortunate that we’re in such a rich cultural environment in the Greater Rochester Area. I can’t imagine a better place to live.

Margaret (Peggy) Quackenbush is retiring after 42 years with The Hochstein School. She joined the school in 1979 and became director in 1992.