Chris Nalls, a longtime music veteran, took over as band director this week, replacing longtime director Diane Wyant, who quit earlier this year after 11 years at Branham.
He was chosen by a panel consisting of parents, band students and administrators. As he was settling in, students had been stepping up for the past six weeks, leading the Symphonic Band, Jazz Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, Concert Band and Guitar classes in Wyant’s absence. After Wyant’s exit, classes were taught by substitutes with little to no musical background.
“In the first two weeks, we had a substitute that was moderately experienced, but still didn’t do anything to help us, so students have been stepping up to lead the band,” said senior Alexandra Masegian, one such student leader in Symphonic Band.
In place of the director, these students distributed the syllabus, arranged concert dates, and have been conducting and leading the band in learning the new pieces. This new role, without an official transition of power or music instructor, has not come without challenges.
“It’s really hard to get the whole class in order,” said sophomore Mia Janosik, a student leader in Symphonic Band. “Because [we have been] running so long without a teacher, there’s kind of no solidified rules or boundaries.”
Without a definition of classroom conduct, the classes’ student leaders have been growing fatigued.
“There have been days where we have sat on the podium and been like ‘we don’t want to do this anymore’,” said Janosik.
Without a director, the band classes were left without concert dates and without a concrete
plan for the rest of the year.
“We have some pieces that Wyant gave to us at the end of the year,” said senior Ryan Ashe,
who is in Wind Ensemble. “Obviously, she’s not running the concerts anymore so we don’t quite know when our next concert is gonna be […] We don’t know what the new band director’s going to want.”
The student leaders have attempted to keep the band on a normal routine until Nalls starts.
“We try to teach the music to the best of our abilities,” said Janosik. “It’s not great; obviously, we’re high school students, and we attempt to keep everyone in order, but at the same time, it’s a really difficult position. We’re trying not to have people hate us for it.”
With confirmation of a new band director, the classes are no longer without a qualified leader.. Concert dates are scheduled and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Despite the teacherless start to the year, students are hopeful.
“I think it will definitely take a while for some adjustment,” Janosik said, “but I definitely have hopes.”