Alumnus of the year named

March 26, 2007
Kathy Miller, 661/654-2456, or
Michele Newel, 661/654-2720,

Sal Panelli's love for music and his hard work have enabled him to create music that has succeeded far beyond local airwaves. With concert performances that have taken him all over the world, Panelli knew from a young age that he would be involved with music on a professional level.

It's also earned him recognition as California State University, Bakersfield's alumnus of the year. He will be recognized this Saturday when the CSUB Alumni Association inducts its first class into the CSUB Alumni Hall of Fame at 6 p.m. in Seven Oaks Country Club.

"Sal was chosen from a strong pool of nominees of alumni who have made significant contributions through volunteer activities, family activities, and their professions," said Alumni Relations Director Shannon Hill. "The Alumnus of the Year committee looks for graduates who acquired knowledge and skills at CSUB which prepared them to improve the quality of life in their communities. The committee, made up of past recipients and members of the CSUB Alumni Association Boards of Directors, chose him for his great passion in music and education, as well as his community involvement."

That involvement began early for Panelli. While in Los Angeles and professionally playing the trumpet, Panelli began working with a few private trumpet students. It wasn't until then that he realized, "I liked the experience. I changed career plans and moved back to Bakersfield to finish my degree and get a teaching credential from CSUB."

When Panelli graduated magna cum laude in 1991 with a degree in music education, little did he know he was barely getting started. He soon found himself in the Rosedale Union School District as a junior-high band director. He successfully established the band program at Rosedale Middle School over his eight years at the school. When the growing Rosedale district opened a new middle school in 2000, Panelli chose to launch the band program at Freedom Middle School. He is now in his seventh year at Freedom.

It took just two years for Panelli to receive recognition for his involvement in Freedom's bands, earning an invitation to return for a second time to tour and perform in Bakersfield's sister city of Wakayama City, Japan. Panelli was no longer just a teacher. He had earned a name within the community, helping strengthen the quality of performance among many students throughout the years.

"Seeing the students' desire to learn and improve always provides me with inspiration," he said. "Almost every day there is a student that reminds me of why I like to teach junior-high band and why this is my career. The students may not know it, but sometimes the smallest thing can motivate and inspire me to do my job better."

Panelli loves establishing traditions. "I am always trying to make the music program at Freedom Middle School the best that it can be," he said. "Every year we have new students, but the goals and traditions of the program remain the same.

"One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is that we are always working towards a goal, like a performance. We accomplish our goals to the best of our abilities and then the next day, we are right back at square one starting all over for the next goal. We are always in the process of trying to improve and grow in some way, both as musicians and as people."

Being involved in the community with other like-minded musicians has helped with his personal progress as a musician. "I am privileged to have such great musicians and friends to work with," he said. "I am a founding member and past president of the Bakersfield Winds, which is a concert band made up of local music teachers and professional musicians as well as a member of the Bakersfield Symphony trumpet section. I am also a founding member of the brass quartet, Brass a la Carte. We have been together for the past 17 years. This group performs throughout the community and has played for all of CSUB's Icardo Center graduation ceremonies."

Panelli attributes much of his success to his parents, Joe and Dorothy Panelli, and two of his best friends, his wife, Jewel, a choir director at Freedom Middle School who also shares his passion for teaching music and "has always been supportive and encouraging," and Mike Stone, who was the instrumental music director at Chipman Junior High School for many years. "I was very fortunate to student-teach with him, and we have been great friends ever since. We have swapped junior-high band stories for the past 15 years. Without these people, I could very well be doing something else for a living."

In the midst of his teaching, performing, and community involvement Panelli admits his true goal is "to be a great dad. Students come and go but my kids will always be my kids." In fact, perhaps his proudest moment recently occurred when "both my daughter Emily (an eighth grader at Freedom Middle School) on French horn and my son Dominic (a sixth grader at Patriot Elementary School) on trombone performed together as part of the Kern County Junior High Honor Band. It has been great to pass on my love of music to my own kids and see them grow."