East Bakersfield High will induct its fourth class of distinguished alums at a ceremony Saturday evening (tickets are still available). This year's group of honorees have made names for themselves here in Bakersfield and beyond in the fields of athletics, law enforcement, banking, teaching, music and more.
The 13 newest members join 39 fellow Blades whose names already have been enshrined.
One of the inductees, Paula Hochhalter, is arguably the most accomplished cello player in the United States. The 1972 EBHS graduate, after continuing her education at the University of Southern California, has toured with Barbra Streisand and Andrea Bocelli, recorded with artists such as Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson and Cher and has played on movie soundtracks such as "The Lion King," "Pirates of the Caribbean" and has a solo on the "Swimfan" soundtrack. Hochhalter has also performed at the Academy Awards and Grammys.
Hochhalter answered a few questions about her career and how her education at East prepared her.
When did you start playing the cello and who influenced you the most when you were growing up?
I started playing cello at the age of 9. My dad, Byron Hochhalter, who was a jazz pianist and a music teacher, was my biggest influence early on. I have four siblings and all of us played an instrument ... it was in our blood and considered part of our education. Another influence was my cello teacher, Beverly Lambourne.
What do you remember most at playing in the orchestra at East High?
My best friend was a cellist whose father, Robert Manning, was the orchestra director at East High in the 1960s. I should point out that Robert Manning went on to teach and conduct orchestra at San Jose State University ... that was the caliber of musicians who taught at East High. After he left, Dick Southwick was the orchestra man and we did some great concerts. I attended all East High's orchestra performances and musicals from 1964 to 1972 (from the time my sister Sarah entered high school until I graduated). Robert Beltran was a classmate of mine who had the lead in "South Pacific" ... what fun that was to play! I remember we always had a strong showing in the all-city and all-state orchestras and also had the support of the other teachers at the school.
What was your first professional job, or gig?
My first professional job was with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, which is highly regarded in the classical world. I think my first movie scoring was with John Barry on "The Betsy" as well as the movie "Rocky" in the late 1970s.
When did you know you wanted to play music professionally?
I think I knew by junior high that I would always play the cello. I just knew there was a connection to music that made everything else pass by. ... I could enter a world so beautiful and beyond words that painted pictures from the way notes are placed together. ... There is power in music for joy, for healing, for comfort. It deepens everything in life.
You have worked on musical arrangements for countless big name stars. Are there particular projects you worked on that stand out over others?
There are so many, but I will name a few: I toured with jazz great Chick Corea and have played on recordings ranging from Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, James Taylor, Barbra Streisand, and also classical musicians like Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, and Jascha Heifetz, just to name a few. I continue to play. From all genres of music I have had some fantastic experiences.
What do you think about music education?
I've always believed the arts are not just extracurricular but so important for life and at East High I feel like that was valued and encouraged. It is such a wonderful outlet for expression for anyone, but kids can use math skills and communication skills and learn how to work well in a group with a very gratifying outcome. It also teaches a work ethic; each individual needs to learn his part for the whole to sound beautiful. There's kind of an honor system learned there and it just enriches the soul for life.
Bakersfield is known for its country music. Have you ever played on country albums?
I have played on some country albums like for Dolly Parton, Shania Twain, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban ... I'm sure more that I have forgotten. I think there are a few good tunes out there. Oh yeah, Faith Hill.