Memories of My High School Hero

There are those outside of family who shape your life, and most of them are teachers.

There are those outside of family who shape your life, and most of them are teachers.

Besides training me to become a pharmacist, my teachers trained me to become a better human being, which goes a long way in community pharmacy.

In my heart of hearts, I wanted to become a professional musician. Because I didn’t want to starve to death, I went to pharmacy school.

My high school band teacher Joe Kaschak is a big reason why I became the man I am today. When I found out about his recent passing, I was saddened.

Between the music, Mr. Kaschak taught us more about what we needed to know to survive adulthood than we would learn in the next 7 periods of the day.

Mr. Kaschak would read Psychology Today religiously. I don’t know his formal education, but he performed psychological evaluations for troubled students, so I imagine that a child psychology degree figured in there somewhere.

While he rarely played music in front of students, it was a spiritual experience whenever he did. His cornet would absolutely scream, playing riffs and scales better than Dizzy Gillespie, and without the cheek puffing. Mr. Kaschak was a true Renaissance man, a beautiful melding of science and art.

I was right on the cusp of being inducted into the National Honor Society, and I found out after the fact that he was my deciding vote. It certainly was not the only time he did something amazing for me.

When I was a freshman, my dad and I had a disagreement for which I wound up far on the losing end, and I was visibly upset. Mr. Kaschak wrote me a pass out of first period, and I got to play the first hour of my day with the senior members of the band—a rarity for freshmen.

When I was a junior, I contracted the flu at school. My parents were both at work, but they verbally signed me out and I started walking home, with every step taking supreme effort. As I was rounding the corner, I heard Mr. Kaschak’s trademark voice say, “Need a ride, Sam?” I graciously accepted.

In my last class with Mr. Kaschak, we played Mozart’s “Magic Flute Overture” as fast as it could be played. He put down his wand at the end and clapped at us. It was the highest musical compliment I was ever paid.

I’m the best musician and human being I could ever be, and I have Mr. Kaschak to thank for a lot of that. I hope that he joins the Great Gig in the Sky.

Jay Sochoka, RPh, is a proud band geek.