by CARMINA FAUSTINO
It is tough being the new kid at a school, but imagine being the new band director of a state-winning band. Imagine being afraid of heights when you are supposed to be raised up high on a platform in order to see the band from above. It can be intimidating to accept this role with all the rigor that a 4A band is expected to face. However, Kristen Pallas is not one to back down from a challenge.
On August 24, 2016, I interviewed the new director and discovered that she is quite determined to bring these band kids to the second day of championships for Western Band Association (WBA).
But what is the background, the foundation, of which this woman built her career on before coming to El Diamante?
Pallas stated, “I’m a Fresno State graduate. I worked on my degree in music education and teacher credentials there as well. I’m currently working on my masters degree in wind conducting through the American Band College of Sam Houston State University. As far as teaching goes, this is my seventh year teaching. I spent my first two years at Riverdale…that was my first day out of college. It was rough, and I wanted to get out of there and try something a little more exciting.”
During the time that she was searching for a better opportunity, the economy was down. There were not a lot of jobs opened. She worked with the Ceres High School band, a 1A band. “I had to really rebuild that band. I spent the last four years there. We were pretty successful. They were doing pretty well in that class.”
Pallas was aware of the program at El Diamante; she would visit her friends who live in Hanford, one of them being the band director at Sierra Pacific who spoke highly about the program at El Diamante. She wanted to take over a program of “this size and this caliber” but not a program over at a Clovis school. “There is a sort of vibe in that district that I didn’t want to be a part of. El Diamante has a Clovis type program, and I like this city a lot… I’m excited to be in Visalia itself.”
To take over a four-time state-winning band can be a lot of pressure to bear. “I think I felt a lot of the pressure before actually meeting any of the parents. I was very nervous coming into this program. That pressure still exists. I’m the kind of person who likes to win. I’m nervous. I knew how to play the 1A game really well. I don’t know the tricks and trades of a 4A band. The kids have been really welcoming and gracious with me.”
With knowing the students for about a month, Pallas already “feels at home with them. [she] care[s] for the kids [she’s] working for.”
She was worried about getting to know the students personally. Back at her other job, the 1A band was fairly small, so it was easier to bond with them. However, the students already show that they care about her and find her easy to approach.
Her students and the parents enjoy messing around with each other. “The scissor lift and I have an interesting relationship. I haven’t gone all the way up yet. The first night, or relatively early during band camp, Jacob (one of the saxophones) drew a target on the dirt mound and told Pallas to aim for it. I don’t mind when the kids tease me because I tease them back.”
Later on, the head drum major made a comment on Pallas being “pretty sassy”. In response, she clarified and said, “I’m pretty snarkcastic. You know, snarky and sarcastic.”
With an easy-going, yet type-A personality, the new band director is certainly one to watch out for. This is truly the start of something new.