The SCF Percussion Ensemble is hosting a percussion concert and a canned food drive on Tuesday, November 16, at 7:30 p.m. in the SCF Neel Performing Arts Center. In lieu of tickets, patrons are asked to bring two canned food items to the lobby of the Neel as a donation to the SCF Food Pantry.
This concert will feature the SCF Percussion Ensemble, under the direction of Tomasz Kowalczyk, the Buffalo Creek Middle School Percussion Ensemble, directed by William Reaney, The Bradenton Christian School Percussion Ensemble and Drumline, directed by Rhea Skaggs, and the Venice High School Drumline, directed by SCF Music major Jarek Vogt.
Take a listen to this podcast episode as Tomasz Kowalczyk tells us all about the SCF Percussion Ensemble and Michelle Puls, SCF assistant director of athletics and student life, explains how the SCF Food Pantry got its start and how it serves so many of our SCF students, faculty, and staff.
Come along and join the club!
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Robyn Bell: I have with me today, the SCF percussion instructor, Tomasz Kowalczyk, who is also the acting principal percussionist with the Sarasota orchestra and has taken on an additional duty here at the state college of Florida this semester and conducting our SCF percussion ensemble for the first ever beat hunger concert. Get it beat hunger. Which will be Tuesday, November 16th, at 7:30 PM in the SCF Neel performing arts center. There are no tickets to this event. Admission is totally free, but patron should bring two canned goods to donate to the SCF food pantry. As the point of this concert, my friends is to beat hunger. An added bonus for folks that attend this performance. Not only will they hear the SCF percussion ensemble, but we have three special guests joining us, the Bradenton Christian school, percussion ensemble and drum line, the Buffalo Creek middle school, percussion ensemble, and the Venice high school drum line that is going to make this inaugural beat hunger concert, so special for the entire community. So Tomasz, welcome back to the club.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: It was good to be back. So you probably told me this before, but actually they didn't know that there was going to be other ensembles there. Well, let's, let's first,
Robyn Bell: It's all coming together kind of quickly as I continue to reach out and they're filtering in and yeah. Yeah. So we're, we're going to know. Yeah. And one of the things I'm going to talk to you about today is sort of the coordination of all the equipment for percussion, because that's kind of one of the gnarly things about it now.Tomasz I say welcome back to the club because when we hired you here at SCF to be our new percussion instructor, we did an entire podcast interview with you. That is in season one, episode 36. So if people want to know all about your background, your experience and your favorite places to eat here on the Suncoast, they can go check out that episode. Oh, yes. I know you promised to make me some, but I haven't had that invitation yet. Maybe, next weekend. Anyway,Tomasz, today, I want to talk to you about your experience this year, teaching our applied private percussion lessons and putting together this percussion ensemble program for the beat hunger concert. So first let me say that with the opening of the new studio for the performing arts, which is the new addition to our SCF music building. That includes our new recital hall. We also got a new percussion studio. And for me that was the impetus to plan a concert of just percussion music. I approached you with the idea and you jumped on it much to my excitement. So it wasn't until several months later that you told me, although you had previously played in many percussion ensembles, you had never actually conducted one. So tell us, what has that experience been like for you this semester?
Tomasz Kowalczyk: It's actually been great. So I was really worried about doing it because I never done it before and I was already playing, you know, you're not sure. I remember I was asking my friends about like repertoire and things like that. And also like, I didn't know, the students, you know,
Robyn Bell: Pick the right music when you don't know how well they do or don't play.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: I never heard them play and they didn't do any, any auditions or anything like that. You know? So I was just kinda like, all right, let me just pick something at random, , so I basically, I, I decided like, okay, well, I'm gonna, I'm gonna try to find the stuff that's gonna. Not too hard to put together, but still have some musical quality to it. And you know, and I basically went through our, our little library of percussion music that you cataloged over the summer. Thank you for that. Um, All right, good. We're doing it for the charity, right? We're doing it to beat hunger. So there's add to that, you know, at least two canned goods, right.
Robyn Bell: People could bring 20 or a
Tomasz Kowalczyk: hundred. I mean, however,
Robyn Bell: like, yes, there's actually a competition here at the school for which department can raise the most canned foods for our food pantry. And so I'm hoping through this concert that we ended up winning that that competition. I don't know what we get, but.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: Well, I don't think we get anything from it. I think we just get a satisfaction from it.
Robyn Bell: No, I think there's something, whatever the department. Well, we're going to find out because I'm going to interview Michelle Puls after you. She's the lady in charge of the food pantry here at state college of Florida. She's going to tell us all about it. Yeah, not yet. Yeah.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: Okay. So I mean, you know, so I found some, you know, I went through the process of elimination and, you know, Picked, I like out of the hall, like 20 pieces, then I kind of like an audition. I went from a hundred items in the catalog to like 20 and then 10. And then I, then it was like five, you know? And of course what's so great now is that, you know, even though I didn't know those pieces, it's like, yeah, I'll just go on my iPhone and go on YouTube and found it. It's all there. It's all there. You know? So it's, it's, it wasn't really like, you know, I was worrying, I don't know why I got this in my head. Like. Oh, I, I'm not going to get this wrong, you know?
Robyn Bell: Well, I mean, that's a huge issue. , I have that fear with the band and the orchestra here because you pick a program and what if they just literally can't play it? Or what if it's so easy, you have six weeks to rehearse it and you're ready. And week two, then what do you do? That kind of thing.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: I was also worried about like timing about how long the program is going to be, but I didn't know that there's going to be other performers too at the concert.
Robyn Bell: I think it's going to be about a three and a half hour.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: Wow. Bring your lunch. No, it won't be that loud. Well, there'll be food there. So
Robyn Bell: a lot of food in the lobby. Yeah. So,
Tomasz Kowalczyk: I mean, it could be a marathon. We can do it all night and we have food. We have water there's bathrooms. I mean, what else could you want? And maybe some beds.
Robyn Bell: No. Yeah. Well, we're not going to put anybody to sleep with this concert.
No, well, in addition to the percussion ensemble itself playing, I asked you to play marimba solo.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: Yeah, you did.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. And then we have two students that are taking lessons with you that are music majors. They have both played on recital hour and I asked them to also play solos. And so my concept is that we have a visiting group, one of our soloists, a visiting group, one of our soloist, a visiting group, one of our soloist, and then the percussion ensemble from SCF ends the concert. That's kind of how I see it planned out.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: All right. Well, we'll, we'll talk about it. Separately. Just like figuring out then exactly the timing and what pieces.
Robyn Bell: Yeah, because with the other groups that are playing, they, you know, like drum lines are coming, they're just playing cadences and I, they don't know how long it's going to be.
Really. I don't know. And we don't worry about it. That to me, that's one of the best things about music is that music is art through time, right? The, the clock has to be ticking. The world has to be spending for music to happen.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: Right.
Robyn Bell: It's art like, like painting is art on a canvas. Architecture is art in space. Music is art and time, but when you're playing music, you have no idea how much time has elapsed. It could have been five minutes or, or 55 minutes. You just don't know. So yeah, when you're playing music, time stands still, but. Music is art in time. I always find that I have a tough time wrapping my head around that concept sometimes. So my point is when people go, how long is this going to be the timing I'm telling you? I never think about it. I never worry about it.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: W it's a seven 30 concert.
Robyn Bell: Yeah, we'll be done by nine.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: Yeah. Yeah. We don't want to be there past nine or 10. I mean, like not nice.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. I mean the restaurants close at nine 30. We gotta be done at nine. Okay. Tell me how many students are in the percussion ensemble.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: We've got five students.
Robyn Bell: And that was a question too, right? When I asked you to do this, you said how many? I said, well, I don't really know now.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: And then I was like, well, then I don't know what we're going to play because. How am I supposed to plan as well as information?
Robyn Bell: It's one of the unique challenges of the community college system, because we, I, maybe I thought for certain, we were going to have four and then we show up for band the first day and two more have added the class. You're like, oh, we're up to six. So, I think you've done a really good job. once we said we definitely have five, then you were able to better pick the literature they were.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: Right. And even, you know, it wasn't like it was awkward. Ted's I just, you know, there's one quintet and there's one quartet. It's two two quartets
Robyn Bell: and someone can just. When there's a quartet, you have five people, two people can just play the same part.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: I'm not even know, like one person can just not play one piece. It's fine.
Robyn Bell: Oh, they just sit there.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: That's something that actually brings me back to. My undergrad when I was studying with Bhagavan size, because his, I don't know if we talked about in the last pockets, I remember everything, but the, kind of what he called the centerpiece, the cornerstone of his program was champion music. Right. And the way it would work, it was different. It was different than will you normally consider percussion ensemble? It was. We called it, you know, it was chamber music. First of all, there's percussion ensemble has a certain connotation that to me, at least that's CIM a chamber music what's different. And yeah, so it would happen like that. There'll be a group being coached. They Bob, but everybody else in the studio will be in there, you know?
Robyn Bell: Yes. You're learning by observing and
Tomasz Kowalczyk: not well. And then you have to pay attention to. Every now and done, you know, a blob would like turn around and be like, look. What did you think? What did you hear? Yeah. Do you think that now that was better? Or do you have, like the other one you're
Robyn Bell: actively listening in? The other thing I think is a bonus is, I mean, we have to plan a little bit for absenteeism because not everybody is able to come to every single rehearsal. They do get sick, they do have car problems. And so if you have a quartet and you have five people in, one's not there, then that fifth person can possibly cover apart.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: Yeah. That actually happened. I was one of the rehearsals. Yeah. Somebody wasn't there. And I just, I think again, in like, Come in and sight read despite cause you know, you also know how to sight read. And so there's that, and there was like one time when I think we did the quintet, but Jerrick or somebody wasn't there. So I just jumped in and played because like, why not?
Robyn Bell: Yeah. And it's interesting of the five students. You have two are music majors. And the other three, just like plan percussion and they're in the band. And, and we should probably talk about how the rehearsal schedule happened, because really it's what I call a pull-out situation. You're at the state college of Florida. We have symphonic band class on Tuesdays and Thursdays from two to three 20. And so Tomas you and I looked at our schedules and I said, what if every Tuesday during band, they were with you. And then every Thursday they were with me rehearsing the band music. And so they kind of liked that schedule. They were getting a little bit more, you know, individual attention with the percussion teacher and doing the goal that worked out for you.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: I feel it worked out for me because normally at the orchestra. On Tuesdays, we normally only have one rehearsal there was a few days when I couldn't make it on the Tuesday, Thursday, or we had already had yay. Come in to coach. A couple of times recently, right? Yeah. Instead of me, which was great. I mean, I think, I think they liked her too, so, yeah. Yeah.
Robyn Bell: And it was good for the student's schedule. Cause we weren't scheduling yet another hour class for them and they didn't, you know, you can't really sign up for extra courses with credit hours and stuff. And so it was a class within a class. Yeah.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: Because he does the whole community college thing. For me, I'm not quite understanding how it works because I went to, I went to a conservatory. Right. So it was, you know, it was. You take everything you want me to tuition? I mean, I had a scholarship or whatever, and you had a minimum amount of credits you got to take, but you could also think about as many credits as you wanted. I think, I don't think there was a limit.
Robyn Bell: Probably not, no, but here it's very little pay per hour. You pay per hour and we're only allowed to offer so many classes and they all count as electives in the AA degree. So we just have to be, cognizant of that with the students in their number of credit hours, but we've, I think we've handled it. Well, I do this often in the spring semester, I do a poll chamber music concert where the band. Really divides up into every chamber music group you can think of including percussion ensemble. And then we do a concert of just a little chamber music groups.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: Yeah. I mean, I think honestly, like what did I think about now of the community college system kind of makes more sense .
Robyn Bell: So one of the things to watch that I've always loved about percussion. It is the variety of the instruments. And as you were saying, if you have five players and maybe one or two are just really good and two are, are pretty good. And then one like just, okay, but the great thing about percussion ensemble is there's a place for anybody, whether you're playing really hard marimba part or a really hard timpani part or the triangle part, which is important, but maybe doesn't need the technical skill. So talk to us in the pieces that. Percussion ensemble is going to be playing, tell us the many different instruments that are going to be performed.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: Right. So, so I think one of the things we're going to play as a fun little arrangement of the pizzicato polka by Steven Strauss, fun little piece it's for four players. I think we're doing it on two marimbas. That was like the first thing I think I picked because I was like, It's pretty easy. It's pretty
Robyn Bell: simple keyboard, mallets,
Tomasz Kowalczyk: keyboard, mallets, everybody, two mallets, two people on one marimba, you know, high, low. We started working on it and you know, first it was, you know, making sure that everybody knows their notes and that. Sharps and flats, there are, you know, of course it was that, but once we got past that, we actually could work on things such as, you know, flexibility, moving together, moving, moving forward, moving backwards, breathing together. How do you know how to have four people line up a beat exactly. Together? Yeah. You know, how do you do that? Do you do it through champions? Do it into playing with other people. You know, you can't that's Sunday, you can't practice alone. That's right. But it's the same is the same scale that you use to play. Whether it's a duet, oh, you're playing with a a hundred piece orchestra. The skill is actually the same. It's just, it's it's the same skill. So, so yeah.
Robyn Bell: And is that something they're going to be able to start and stop on their own? Are you conducting that? I don't conduct anything. Oh, good. They're doing everything on their own. Nice okay. Then what else are we playing? And what instruments are we playing on?
Tomasz Kowalczyk: No. So then there's two pieces by a composer percussionist named Warren Benson. Hmm.
Robyn Bell: You might not know this Warren Benson retired. Yeah. He lived here. Yep.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: So you probably know more about him
Robyn Bell: than I do.
No. I just know that he lived here and I know that he went to church somewhere. Cause he was like involved in the music program at this church in Denver.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: Okay. When I was just looking at the catalog and I listened to them, they struck me as they seem pretty easy to put together small setups to it, which is, you know, I mean, we have a lot of instruments. We have good instrument collection, so, and know, especially with the limited time that we have, they only do one hour and a half of rehearsal a week. You know, I didn't want to have pieces that are going to. 30 minutes to set up and then rehearse for 30 minutes and break it down, right?
Robyn Bell: Yeah. That's and that is part of a percussion ensemble rehearsal that other ensembles don't have to deal with the whole setup.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: Yeah. So, I mean, so of course I know that from my own experience, so those pieces by Warren Benson, there is one called trio. Which is a trio and there's, I think three called three movements for a quartet, which are three moments for a quartet. Those are great. Actually, I had never heard them before until I started researching them. And they're cool. They're well-written they are, they have some challenges as far as. Ensemble the cool challenges on some boys, how to put things together. There's some logistical challenges, which you also have to think about it as percussionists. Like, you know, just these guys just, you know, they just didn't know like, how do you make your set up? So it works,
Robyn Bell: right? Because you can, you can get those instruments in to have your own little pod, or if you have to play multiple instruments. Yeah.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: But, you know, but there's, there's multiple ways to do it, but there are also better ways to do it and worse ways to do it. So I just kind of show them, like, what I think is the better way to do it, you know, and things such as like how to like, Switch your mallets when you're play, like have a tray with a towel, what side of your setup is the tray going to be on so that you can reach for the mallet that you need without bumping into another instrument
Robyn Bell: and even just the decision-making process of which mallet to use in this particular instance for the right sound that you, you want out of your instrument.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: Yeah. So those pieces are great because there's, they pose a lot of those challenges. I think they're musically rewarding and I think that's,
Robyn Bell: did they involve keyboard, mallet, percussion, and you know what we would call battery snare drum, bass drums.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: Those are actually all small. I'm not, not normal small, but it all like actually orchestral instruments Meet Tom Tom's snare drums, triangles, cymbals, bass, drum, gong, you know, things like that. Tambourine yeah. Is actually, there's no keyboards in that. Okay.
Robyn Bell: You know? Yeah. And what I love about the percussion is with so many different instruments to deal with, you know, you, you are learning how to do that, making all these differences a different way with every instrument and every mallet and every stick and every beater, you know, it's, it's really. Like it engages all parts of the brain to me. I mean, I, I really wanted to be like a joined percussion class in seventh grade. And the band director told me that girls couldn't be drummers. And so I got stuck on trumpet. I know, but my mom was a drummer. She was a stage drummer. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. She played drum set for a big band. She was a, she got full scholarship, Texas woman's university. She played in the Serenaders. Yeah. She did a USO tour with Bob hope and
Tomasz Kowalczyk: recordings of her on YouTube or something.
Robyn Bell: There are recording. Actually,
Tomasz Kowalczyk: let me check it
Robyn Bell: out. Yeah. Yeah. That's so that's why I wanted to play. But it didn't, it didn't work out for me, but I've always felt at heart. =I'm a, I'm a percussionist. I'm not a drummer. I'm a percussionist percussionist. Like when I opened up a brand new score, that's the first line I look at. And, and I take the time to make part assignments. I'm kind of careful and thoughtful of, you know, I think a lot of band directors just say, okay, here's the music you guys take care of it. But I think it's it's just such an important. Of the ensemble and when you can do a out, like we're doing and they get that extra attention, and now they're going to have their own concert. I mean, it's just like the pinnacle for me. I'm so thrilled about this.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: I, yeah. I mean, I think that, you know, we don't exactly know what happened at the beginning of humanity, you know, there's however many explanations of it, but I can imagine.
It is likely that before we spoke or we sang or we played any kind of instrument, we probably just like beat on things a lot, beat on each other, probably beat on things or, you know what I mean? Like actually even, you know, even monkeys do that. Right. I mean, they, like, they
Robyn Bell: get
Tomasz Kowalczyk: on their chest to chest. And, you know, and, and little like when babies are born.
Yeah. They, they beat, they beat around. We give them, give them rattles. My, I have my niece she's two years old. And my sister recently sent me a, a video. It was, there were two friend's house where they had a drum set and my little niece, like she, she had a stick and she was banging on a drum and it was. Perfect.
Robyn Bell: a natural thing. Right. She just held it and beat in perfect time.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: Perfect time. Perfect. Sound.
Robyn Bell: So Tomas tell me, cause I asked you to perform a solo for the crowd and the students that are going to be here.
What, what piece of you picked to play for us on this
Tomasz Kowalczyk: concert? So I'm going to play a piece by an Argentinian composer named Alejandro the now cool. A piece is called con variations.
It's a theme with a set of. Eight or nine variations in total. And I'm just doing kind of like a suite of it. The theme is based on like a Pakistani traditional singing. I don't remember the exact name, but there was a guy who was like, whatever his name was con . Yeah, exactly. Like gang is con. And this theme that he sings, it's like melodramatic, you know, it's cool.
Like I can't do it. I'm not, I don't know how to sing that. I'm a horrible singer, but so it's very short theme, but then it's, you know, this composer of Vinyasa, he just does these really cool things with rhythm. It has these kind of multiple pulses going on at the same time. I'm a cool, but it's all within like grid, it all fits in a six 60 north grid.
You could actually have a computer, maybe play it. Wow. But it, but it sounds sometimes like, yeah, there's like things moving in two different speeds and will be on
Robyn Bell: the marimba on the marimba five bucks on marimba. Very, very nice. Yeah, we have a couple of drum lines that are gonna play at this concert.
That's probably an experience you've never had being from Poland, never been in a marching band and the whole drum line thing. Nope. Nope. Have you ever thought, man, I really missed out not having that experience.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: I appreciate it. I think, I think really great drum line. Yes. Like really these really good DCI groups.
They're awesome. They are awesome. They're awesome. And so. I think I missed out on that,
Robyn Bell: so you just met these five students for the first time, at the beginning of this semester, and here on November 16th, they are going to give a concert under your tutelage.
So talk to us, Tamasha about the growth you have seen in these students, both as individual percussionists and as an ensemble and a group I've
Tomasz Kowalczyk: been actually fantastic. Both of my majors and, and the other guys in the percussion assembled the non-majors they've been just so great.
Like they, some of them like reached out to me, like in the middle of the summer, like, Hey, what do I need to prepare? Yeah. Jerrick did that. Yeah.
Robyn Bell: Well, I'm sure they were kind of a hodgepodge group when we first sent them to you. And now they are a very cohesive unit and I, I hear it. Ensemble or symphonic band rehearsals as well. But then I see it, like they're working together on their set up for each song that we do and moving of equipment from place to place and the sharing of things that here I do this.
And like I've seen them become this little quintet of this most perfect percussion section that I've think I've ever had in my career. I'm so happy with them and your work with them.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: Yeah.
Robyn Bell: No, I'm telling you, it's a big part of it. I know it that's all them. I
Tomasz Kowalczyk: mean, they all, they're all doing. I'm not doing any, I mean, I'm doing a little bit.
Robyn Bell: Well, I am so excited to welcome our three guests with us on the concert, the Bradenton school, Buffalo Creek, middle school and Venice high school, which I should add that one of our percussion students here at SCF music major Jared Vaught. Who've we've talked about several times today is the drum line instructor for at Venice high school.
Yeah. So yeah, it's going to be really special for his students to not only perform on this concert, but watch him perform a solo on the Murrumba and also in our percussion ensemble, just really. And I can't wait to hear what you have done with our percussion ensemble. This semester, the student musicians are so excited about putting this program together and sharing it with the world.
This concert beat hunger or percussion ensemble concert will be held on Tuesday, November 16th at 7:30 PM. And the SCF Neel performing arts center. No tickets are needed. It is a free event. We just ask that you bring two canned goods with you for the SCF food pantry. Just in time for Thanksgiving.
Tamasha I want to thank you for joining me today to talk about this awesome concert and for all your work with our percussion students this year.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: I just want to add one more thing. We should get a special shout out to a young human because she graciously came into sub for me on to percussion ensemble rehearsals this week and the week before that.
Right. So grateful for her for doing that. I think. She's just a great player. It's a great person. And she's in here
Robyn Bell: practicing all the time. She
Tomasz Kowalczyk: works hard. I tell you, I love that. She's a hard worker and she's, you know, she's the example of. And the girl drummer,
Robyn Bell: there you go, girl drummer.
Tomasz Kowalczyk: Absolutely. Let's do it.
Robyn Bell: And when we come back, I'm going to visit with Michelle Puls. Who's the assistant director of athletics and student activities. The SCF food pantry was her brainchild. And I'm going to talk to her about how the pantry came to be, where it is housed and how it benefits our students at the state college of Florida. Back after this break.
Robyn Bell: Welcome back from the break and help me welcome to the Suncoast culture club. The state college of Florida's assistant director of athletics and student activities. Michelle Puls, Michelle, welcome to the club.
Michelle Puls: Happy to be here. Thank you so much
Robyn Bell: now, Michelle, you ain't from around here. Are you
Michelle Puls: no ma'am
Robyn Bell: all right. Tell us your background, how you got into college student activities and athletic directing. And what brought you here to the Suncoast to work at the state college?
Michelle Puls: Yeah, sure. I'm a born and raised a military kid bounced around, always had an athletic background got into athletics because of a passion of sport. I got my opportunity to go through college because of an athletic scholarship and it also paid for my master's degree when I was coaching at another institution,
Robyn Bell: just like our music students,
Michelle Puls: like our music, students, athletics. That's my passion.
Robyn Bell: What's your sport?
Michelle Puls: Softball,
Robyn Bell: softball.
Michelle Puls: I had an awesome head coach when I was going through the university of Maine. Brought in culture aspects from where we were traveling. Cause we had a lot of students that didn't get out much and I really appreciated that what she did. So when I was able to transition into student life, student affairs, it kind of blossomed into that. So,
Robyn Bell: yeah. Cause you were, you kind of like in the whole athletic thing and you say. There is a whole side of the college where I could earn a living and still do what I want to do and have a retirement plan. And all that
Michelle Puls: I was when I was looking at my master's program, I was looking at recreational sports student affairs management leadership. And then I ended up in sports administration sports management, because there's just a lot of crossover, but I really liked the, connections that you have with the students outside of the athletic realm, because you really make an impact in them. So in this, instead of just having my athletes, having. Who I see every day on their academic journey, knowing I'm making an impact as more meaning.
Robyn Bell: And you said you were a military brat, I guess. Yeah. So how many different places did you live growing up?
Michelle Puls: Four. So my dad was actually in a missile, so we didn't travel that much, but I, my first time we moved, I went to west Germany. So I'm dating myself back in the day. It was very traumatizing for a young student to, travel halfway across the world, into an area that you can speak their language, but it was an awesome experience reflect on it now.
Robyn Bell: Did you end up learning German while you were there?
Michelle Puls: Yes and no, I've lost a lot of it just because we don't speak it. But it was one of those things that I'm a huge history buff. So being right there in, in walking through history with all the world war II that they had there, it was awesome.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. So west Germany, where else.
Michelle Puls: Montana and North Dakota. And then my dad retired and we went back to her. My mom was from Bangor
Robyn Bell: Bangor, Maine. Yes. Very nice. And that's why you went to the university of Maine. And did you find it hard being an athlete moving from Montana and all these places, or kind of, did you hit a stride once he retired and you were high school age?
Michelle Puls: It's very difficult for me because in the armed forces, it's. Co-ed so when my dad retired, it wasn't co-ed. So I was used to playing baseball. I was used to playing co-ed basketball. Oh, she's playing co-ed soccer. So when my dad retired and I had to go try out for the softball team, I didn't know what softball was. I thought it was slow. Pitch was interested in slow pitch. I was disappointed that I couldn't play baseball. Then I found out what fast pitch was. I've actually played more baseball than softball one year.
Robyn Bell: Wow. And what position do you play?
Michelle Puls: Shortstop.
Robyn Bell: Okay, good. Good. And you were at high school in Maine on the softball team. Get a scholarship to university of Maine. And so what is your first degree in
Michelle Puls: natural resources? Land use management.
Robyn Bell: Well, I mean, that's a good degree, right?
Michelle Puls: A good degree. Yeah. It was about to help people who are using their land or farming, their tree stands, how they can use the land in a most economical and affordable way that has a least amount of impact on the environment.
Robyn Bell: Does that really set you up for student activities at a college? Okay. So did you have to further your education?
Michelle Puls: I did, but I had an opportunity to come back and coach at Maine. Oh, I, the coach retired one year after my graduation from university of Maine and I loved it. And then I ended up coaching there for five years.
Robyn Bell: And that's how you got into the student activity side of things.
Michelle Puls: Just kind of paid attention to what was happening and just connected and making sure our students had good life skills. Building the program, the way I thought it should be built in my head coach allowed me to have that freedom to do that. And then I got the opportunity to be the interim head coach for one year and then had that opportunity. And then I was able to move to Indiana university and the big 10 and more resources, more opportunities. And they have.
Robyn Bell: Resources, meaning money,
Michelle Puls: resources. They also have a leadership development course where they put their student athletes through every freshmen, sophomore that's marked by the coaching staff gets to go through this leadership development to raise students potential captains. And then I was picked actually to be an instructor in that, area. So that really kind of like fed the idea that I can be a, student lifer or student advisors in that aspect. So,
Robyn Bell: and so you were in Indiana? Yup. You have, how long have you been now at the state college of Florida?
Michelle Puls: I've been here for seven complete years. So
Robyn Bell: came halfway through the year.
Michelle Puls: Yeah, I started in September.
Robyn Bell: What a difference? A big 10 university of Indiana to a community college state college of Florida. What do you see as the biggest difference in our student activities and student life area?
Michelle Puls: We have to beg for students to attend. You know, I think when you have a residential campus, you have. Common area that they don't have anything happening from eight to 10 o'clock all of our students are either working. They have children, they have other circumstances that's pulling them.
Robyn Bell: And then when you say students to attend, you don't mean school. You mean club activities? Yeah.
Michelle Puls: It's really hard. Great retention here. Great enrollment, but you know, the student. Truly paying for their classes. And I think they understand their structure of their lives and they know they have two hours and that two hours is for class. It's not for the extracurricular and co-curricular activities.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. And very similar, you know, I was at university of Tennessee, big schools, same thing on campus housing, you did intermural sports you're in this and that, of course, being in a music program that kind of took up a lot of our time, but. You had to be really creative here at the community college level and how you get students involved. So what are some things that you've done to increase that?
Michelle Puls: Just really making sure that we listen to what the students want. You know, any student can come into our office and create a club as long as they have it. Clear an employee that's willing to be their advisor, making sure we're paying attention to their needs and wants and supporting them, allowing them to have the flexibility, to have access to the spaces that we have here. For example, someone can rent out the students performing arts center for a movie, as long as it's not being used by the musical theater program. It's not going to cost them anything because they're affiliated with a club, right. You know, and giving them those resources, access to those resources is important.
Robyn Bell: And how many clubs do we have here?
Michelle Puls: We have 35 total. We have 12 on the Venice, 24 on the Bradenton campus, and we have our e-sports, which is on both campuses.
Robyn Bell: E-sports how's that going?
Michelle Puls: It's actually going pretty well. Well we unfortunately purchased our computers right into the pandemic. We've been virtual for a year and a half. We've had some good numbers. We're starting to gain ground and having students come in we're not opening our space yet because the Venice space isn't open yet. And we want to make sure it's equal accessible student populations.
Robyn Bell: And what are some of the. Active clubs that we have on campus. I mean, besides the music club, of course.
Michelle Puls: Awesome. We have to drill culture club is really active on the Bradenton campuses, a little bit of everything. They do gaming anime, you know, old school board games, smash brothers. Cool. We have the earth club, which is Austin. They go out to ups and kayaking trips in and out on the Venice campus. We have swamps. They do a open mic nights and then we have our traditional, like our PBL PTK PTK is our honors program. PBL is a business. Uh,
Robyn Bell: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was because some of your clubs are just students. And then some like the music club, we are academic and, you know, student activities and One of the things I'm talking to you today about is that the music club in the music program is putting on a concert on Tuesday, November 16th, called beat hunger. It is a percussion ensemble concert at 7:30 PM in the SCF Neel, performing arts center. And we are not selling tickets to this. Rather, we are asking everyone to bring at least two canned goods for our mission to help the SCF food pantry, which is a part of your initiatives as the assistant director of. Activity. So tell us a little bit about the food pantry and how this idea came about.
Michelle Puls: Actually I'm Susan Walters, who is our student coordinator of student services. She was in the office of student life as a title nine educator COVID queen. Yes. But when we hired her, she was in our area and. Getting ready to do a food drive for, the Manatee food bank and we just kind of looked at each other and it's just like, we have so many students that are food insecure here. Why don't we just do a food drive and keep it here? And then. Why not like what's gonna stop us. So that was back in 2017, right up into November. And so we just decided to do a holiday food drive, and it happened to be the 60th anniversary of SCF. And so the departments really rallied around that whole donate, 60 Kansas, 60 cans of that. And we had a storage space that public safety was so gracious to say, let's clean this out, let's make it work. And all of a sudden we had a food bank so
Robyn Bell: you have more than food in there. Do you do the paper, towels, toilet, paper,
Michelle Puls: hygiene items, and food items. We don't do any perishable items. We did have a awesome employee for SCF who is giving us free range, chicken, eggs. But her chickens have kind of rotated out. So yeah. They're not laying eggs right now. So, which has been awesome. And the students who took it took advantage of it. It was great. We know the only thing we asked is to recycle the egg crates back and it was really nice. So when Dr. P actually uh, donated the fridge for us so that we had that, but we're trying not to have perishable foods. So, that was a limited thing. Cause that's one of the. Tougher things that we need to make sure that we don't want to give anybody that's going to
Robyn Bell: be right. That it, that is hard in this space. Cause I remember when I heard we were going to start a food pantry here, a food bank at state college of Florida, that was my first thought, where in the world are we going to house this? So you said that public safety had a storage room.
Michelle Puls: So it used to be the old faculty. Yeah. And what they did is they cut that in half and half of it was an office for student life. And half of it was for student life storage. And what we did is we just went through a complete, clean, found out what we needed, what we didn't need, repurpose a lot of stuff. It got some of our stuff, a couple of the art departments got it, some of our things and we just re reclassified what we needed. So now the whole room is, basically our food pantry. We've been able to manage it in a very easy way.
Robyn Bell: And if I walked in there's shelves, it's all organized,
Michelle Puls: organized, and labeled, and we have a iPad that we use for signing in. So it's completely anonymous. As soon as you hit submit it disappears. We'll use that for tracking purposes for us. Our goal is to be able to get a grant down. The future grants are kind of hard because they're so specific, but we want to make sure we have our data. It's actually coming into play. We had someone, a generous donator last. Actually may of 2020 while we were in lockdown, wanted to give us a donation through the foundation. And we were able to get a $5,000 donation for the food pantry
Robyn Bell: and use that money just to go shop
Michelle Puls: and use that money to go shopping. The only constraint was that it had to stay in Manatee county. So what we did is we came up away with identifying the products that we purchased. They didn't care if it was a Sarasota kid who took it as long as it was from the Manatee. Food pantry. So we also have food pantries on a liquid ranch campus and the Venice campus that all three campuses feed each other. We just made sure that those items stayed within the Manatee county one.
Robyn Bell: And how many students does the food pantry at SCF serve?
Michelle Puls: It fluctuates last year we served 144. Students, but we ask how many are in their current household, which could fluctuate because a lot of students won't say that they're homeless or that they're food insecure. So one day you're staying with your friend who has two friends. The next day, you're staying with a family that has five people. So until we actually serve 446 people.
Robyn Bell: Wow.
Michelle Puls: Yeah.
Robyn Bell: Now, when you say years at a calendar year or school year,
Michelle Puls: actually go from August to end of July, just because we try to keep it into like an academic term. Right. So we don't do the budget year. We try to make it clean that way.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. That's smart. Yeah.
. And we know you said no perishables, which I guess so nothing like bread or fruit, fresh fruit, but what kind of food do you need? The most?
Michelle Puls: Cut fruit, fruit and a can fruit flies out. The Go-Gurts are really good that it could be a house on a, on a shelf. Thinking about your staples. So like your rice and your beans, your potatoes, your. Yeah, those are awesome. Canned goods, but we like pop top cans, not cans that you need to use a can opener because a lot of our students don't have can openers, you know, just being aware of that ramen always flies off the shelves, cereal, Pop-Tarts oatmeal things that a lot of people take for granted. Like when I go shopping, I see BOGOs is one for me, one for the food pantry, one for me, one for the food pantry, just because it makes things easy.
Robyn Bell: Could someone donate a bunch of can openers,
Michelle Puls: do people do that in the past? And then they go very quickly. It's just, it's being consistent with a pop system. Makes it easy.
Robyn Bell: Yeah, because I was thinking about some things like I have some friends that are going to donate when they come to the concert, the beat hunger concert, and I should let them know that, that's something I wouldn't even think of totally
Michelle Puls: the foundation when they did their chili. Cook-off I think it was in the fall of 2019, right before the pandemic, that foundation. President's office went out to the parish chili cook-off and they had can openers. They donated electric hand openers to us, which is awesome. So yeah.
Robyn Bell: How about that now? what are the hours of the food pantry?
Michelle Puls: So we try to have hours that our SGA works. So it's Monday, Thursday from 10 to two, but any student at any time can come and ask public safety that unlock the food pantry and then anybody who's and the student life office can unlock it as well. We've had a really good buy-in with, our public safety office. On all three campuses, any student in need will be able to come through and the food pantry is just doesn't serve our students. We also serve faculty and staff. We've extended it to our vendors. So we have three H, which is our custodial service and our allied Barton, which is our public safety counterparts. We make sure that everybody who's on SCF, doesn't have to deal with food and.
Robyn Bell: That's fantastic. And if someone comes into the food pantry, kind of like a limit, you can take 10 items or you w how does,
Michelle Puls: so we have tote bags the nice recyclable grocery bags. We asked them to fill that once a week. And if there's an extenuating circumstances, we'll, we'll be there for them.
Robyn Bell: Okay. Yeah, that's a great way to do it. So some people may only come grab a couple of things, but maybe you could put up to 10 or 12 things on one of those bags.
Michelle Puls: Yep. Yep. And we were aware of that when we go into winter break and Thanksgiving break, we look at, then we'll stock up some paper boxes, Rick, over in central services. Usually keeps a bunch of the boxes for us.
Robyn Bell: It is truly a team effort, this food pantry thing.
Michelle Puls: Yeah. And that's the one thing our, food pantry outside of the grant that we got the foundation grant, it's a hundred. Service by our SCF community. We're in the middle of a food drive right now. It's ending on Friday and we handout it really cool trophy that the department or the group that wins well,
Robyn Bell: hold on there, Michelle, because you sent out the information about this little competition and you said it ends on Friday the 12th. And I said, but, but, but, and you were very kind to extend that deadline for the music program. So I want to thank you for that because we hope to have like 8,000. Cans of food and pop tarts and whatever donated at our beat hunger concert. The SCF percussion ensemble under the direction of Tomasz Kowalczyk is excited to present its first annual. We do hope to make this an annual event, Michelle, our first annual beat hunger concert. Get it beat.
Michelle Puls: Very catchy.
Robyn Bell: Yes, I know. It is going to be at the SCF Neel performing arts center on Tuesday, November 16th at 7:30 PM. There is no need to buy tickets for this concert because this is a canned food drive. You just show up to the Neel with two canned goods or more. Please bring more for the SCF food pantry. An evening of percussion ensemble and drum line music from the Bradenton Christian school, Buffalo Creek middle school, Venice high school, and the SCF percussion ensemble along with some amazing solo marimbas that are going to be interspersed throughout. It should be a very special evening. And I'm really looking forward to starting this annual event. Michelle, thank you for joining me today and for spawning the SCF food pantry. This initiative has made the difference in the lives of so many of our students in their families. And you are really you and, Suzanne Walters are really to be commended for the idea and implementation. So I hope our concert can overstock your shelves.
Michelle Puls: I love to have to fight for space in my office for canned goods. That means that we're doing
Robyn Bell: absolutely thanks so much.