PaliHi Bandleader Alex Dale Reflects on Year One

By Laurel Busby
Staff Writer

As a Palisades High School student, Alex Dale won the John Philip Sousa Band Award.

“It’s for the kid who spends too much time in the band room,” said Dale, 23, now PaliHi’s director of bands. “So much of my life has been spent here in this room.”

After graduating from Pali in 2011, Dale did leave that band room for a bit. He studied music at Northwestern and taught for a year in the Chicago suburbs. But when Pali’s previous program director Arwen Hernandez left, Dale was happy to return to his alma mater and take charge of the encouraging learning environment he remembers from his student days.

“I love that now that I’m back, I still see that supportive environment,” Dale said. “It’s an inclusive community. Everyone who is part of this program immediately has 100 friends and a group in high school, and I think that’s really important.”

Alex Dale Photo: Lesly Hall Photography
Alex Dale
Photo: Lesly Hall Photography

During his own high school days, Dale, who grew up in Pacific Palisades, was a student leader for the drumline and a student conductor for the marching band in which he played trumpet, an instrument he took up in fourth grade at Marquez. He started his first instrument, piano, at three years old, and it is still his main focus outside of band. However, he continues to play trumpet sometimes with local concert bands, and he can play all of the band instruments to some extent.

“In order to be a band teacher, you have to teach every single instrument,” Dale said. “I like learning new instruments. It’s a passion of mine. It works well since there are so many different instruments in band.”

Teaching at PaliHi has been a transition as he became a peer to many faculty members who used to be his teachers. However, knowing the music department so well made taking charge of it relatively easy, Dale said. Some of the students already knew him, and he already knew how the whole program was structured.

Just as in his student days, the pull of music and the band program continues to inspire him. 

“I think it’s a mixture of the challenge of it—it’s very interesting and physically demanding—and also it’s that community that you can work on something together with a bunch of people,” Dale said.

For his first year leading the marching band, he chose not to enter the major championship competition, but the other ensembles did well in theirs. The drumline, led by Jeremy Miller, placed fifth out of about 50 groups in the recent Southern California Percussion Alliance Championships in Ontario, and the color guard, coached by Samantha Dobson and Jack Trieger, has been undefeated all season, including a recent win at the Sharp International. The wind ensemble, led by Elizabeth Stoyanovich, also earned unanimous superior ratings at a recent festival at Walnut High School.

Perhaps the most important aspect of these competitions is the opportunity not only to share the skills they’ve developed but also to check out other high school ensembles, Dale said.

“For many students, the competitions are one of the only chances they get to perform,” he said. “It gives them a chance to perform for a new audience and a new school.”

During the week of June 2, many of the music program ensembles will have a chance to entertain the public at their spring concerts. The marching band will play on June 2 at 7 p.m. in Mercer Hall, and other bands will also be playing throughout the week. 

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