Cockeysville man uses technology to put a light touch on holiday music

150,000 lights dance to holiday tunes in residential display

  • Phil Hoesch, 23, sits outside his Cockeysville home, which he decorated with thousands of lights for Christmas Friday, Dec. 17. The lights move to music that Hoesch broadcasts for passing cars to listen while they watch.
Phil Hoesch, 23, sits outside his Cockeysville home, which… (Photo by Steve Ruark )
December 18, 2011|By MaryLee Saarbach

Santa Claus isn't the only person who works the whole year to get ready for the holiday season.

For the past four years, Phil Hoesch, of Cockeysville, has spent nearly as much time — and for a task almost as daunting as Santa's — to prepare his family's home in the Springdale community for a holiday light show that's also a musical concert.

Hoesch, 23, wraps more than 150,000 lights across his home and front lawn at 920 Coteswood Circle, and uses computer programming to orchestrate them to "dance" to music on his own personal radio station.

Every note of "Jingle Bells," "Carol of the Bells," "Amazing Grace" and others is matched by changes in the lights, providing a visual display that draws hundreds to his neighborhood each year.

"I get a lot of people saying 'thanks for doing it.' People say it really brings Christmas to life," said Hoesch. "I see a lot of kids hanging out the (car) windows in awe."

The lights, of course, can be seen throughout the neighborhood, but Hoesch said reaction from his neighbors has been "all positive."

"I've never gotten a single complaint," he said. "I have really awesome neighbors."

Being kind to neighbors is important to Hoesch. He said visitors have been respectful and considerate as they come through the neighborhood circle where he lives.

"I wouldn't want it where we had 70 cars lined up and people blocking the driveways," he said. "Everybody's been great."

Hoesch choreographs 150 different sections of lights, or channels, to create effects fitting the songs. He spends months programming the lights — he said it takes about two months to choreograph each song with different aspects of the lights. In total, he invests up to 400 hours of manpower into this production.

Hoesch said he drew his inspiration from an online video of a similar display.

"I was watching a YouTube video, and I was like, 'I want to do that,' " he said. "It took me two years to get it to what I have now."

He started the display in 2008, and in 2009 started posting videos of some of the musical light shows on his website, http://www.philsnet.net.

The holiday hobby carries a great deal of creativity and satisfaction for Hoesch, who has been in the information technology field since he was 11 years old — after he built his first computer at age 6. Currently, he works as the network administrator for the Jemicy School.

He boasts that the dancing light display uses less electricity than if the light just stayed on steadily, and he said much of his own enjoyment of the project comes from the creativity of designing the system and making it work.

Hoesch said next year's edition will certainly have some changes, possibly with the use of some theatrical lighting that will take the display to the next level.

"That's fun," he said. "There's always new things I can do with (the equipment) I have."

Jim Joyner contributed to this story.

Tripping the lights

Every night through Dec. 31, the Hoesch house at 920 Coteswood Circle, Cockeysville, is illuminated from 5 to 11 p.m. with more than 150,000 lights.

A sign in front of the house gives instructions as to where to set your radio dial.

To view some of the videos of the light displays from this year and previous years, go to http://www.philsnet.net.

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