Monthly Archives: September 2022

Faces of PUC: Frances Velarde 

Frances Velarde is a nursing major from Arizona. She found her calling to be a nurse and dreams of working in pediatrics. One of her favorite things about PUC is being in a welcoming community that helps her grow spiritually. 

What is your dream job?

My dream job is to be a pediatric nurse.

How does that compare to what you wanted to be when you were young?

I always wanted to help people and educate others when I was younger and become a teacher, but today, I feel like my calling is to be a nurse instead, and I’m very passionate about it.

What is your favorite thing about being a part of the Pioneers family?

My favorite thing about being part of the Pioneers family is that a lot of the people here in PUC are very wholesome. It’s nice to have a community of people that make you feel included and help you grow spiritually.

Where is your favorite place in the world?

Wherever my friends are because I feel happiest when I’m with them.

If you had to be trapped in a movie for a day, what movie would you choose? 

Crazy Rich Asians

What is something you’re passionate about? 


Recommend a place to go in the Bay Area on a weekend

Daeho, because they have bomb food.

All the Possibilities: Introducing PUC’s New Drum/Percussion Instructor

By Becky St. Clair

(Photo taken by Brian Kyle)

Brian Simpson, PUC’s new drum and percussion instructor, was a fifth-generation Sacramento kid, though today he lives and teaches middle school music in Vacaville. In the 1980s he attended Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and returned in 1989 to begin the American side of his music career. Today that means serving as principal timpanist for North State Symphony in Chico, California, teaching part time middle school music, and now part time for both PUC and Paulin Center for the Arts, based out of the department of music. 

We caught Simpson between classrooms full of energetic young musicians and asked him to tell us a little bit about himself. Pro tip: Don’t miss the part where he tells us about his fold-up timpani. 

What role did music play in your childhood?

Music was everything. My mother was a semi-professional singer and played piano. My siblings are all doing music. I started hitting pots and pans at the age of 4, and my mom put me in snare lessons two years later. I sat behind my first drum set when I was nine years old, and I’ve never looked back. Music has taken me places I never would have gone and allowed me to meet people I never would have met. My wife is a musician so I wouldn’t have this lovely human in my life if it wasn’t for music. It encircles everything I do and everything I am. 

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I knew at 13 I wanted to be a musician. That was the year a drummer at the shop where I took lessons introduced me to my first professional ensemble concert. I saw my first marimba and xylophone and timpani, and when I heard all the possibilities, not to mention the sparkle and coolness of percussion, that was it. I just knew.

When and how did you realize you wanted to teach others to love it as much as you do?

Honestly, teaching found me more than I found teaching. After college I was having a hard time finding any gigs, so I started subbing for some of the teachers in the city. To my surprise, I found that I liked it. So I went back to school—night classes while also teaching—and got my credentials. I’ve been teaching 33 years now and I still have most of my marbles, so I’d say it’s been a success!

What is the best piece of music you’ve ever performed, and why did you love it so much?

This is an impossible question! But since the last 19 years of my career have revolved around timpani, I’ll say Beethoven’s 7th, which I’ve been privileged to perform three times now. 

When you play Beethoven a lot, you begin to realize his music is a series of trick questions, thinly veiled, with seeming simplicity. This is in no way, shape, or form, accurate. I have to know not just my own part, but everyone else’s part, too. It’s so sporadic—you play at the end of phrases, standing out, accenting, under something else—you have to know it inside and out and I spend weeks in the score with a pencil before I even get near a timpani.

Specifically what I love about Beethoven’s 7th is the second movement—the slow movement. I want this piece of music played at my funeral. He composed this particular piece after his bout with suicide ideation, and as a reuslt it’s just so expressive and sad and mournful, but it’s the most gorgeous, beautiful death. It starts with basses in low tones and builds and builds, and when the timpani come in, they’re all on D, sforzando. The hammer on the nail of the coffin. Just absolutely heart-rending.

What is the weirdest instrument you’ve ever played?

I played the saw once…but that’s not my answer to this question. Last year with the North State Symphony I was a typewriter soloist (no, really) and I turned it into a comedy bit. I used my dad’s typewriter that he used to write a dissertation in 1957 and it was awesome.

What is the most challenging thing about being a percussionist?

Preparation. Knowing what is required before you even walk into rehearsal. If you’re not prepared you have no business being there. That’s true of any instrument. Any field, really, but I take this notion very seriously in my own work.

What do you think is the most common misconception about percussionists and drummers?

That it’s easy. And everyone thinks they can do it. When you’re playing a wind or string instrument, you’re using one or two hands to play. Organists, pianists, and percussionists often use both hands and both feet. We’re splitting the halves of our brains into quarters. There’s always this adorable moment when a kid gets behind a drum set and realizes they can’t do it as easily as they thought that makes me smile. Because I know we’ll figure it out, it’s just that we first have to experience that painful “aha!” moment of it sounding terrible. 

You play timpani professionally. Most professional musicians have their own instruments they take with them to performances and can practice on between rehearsals; how do you practice timpani between concerts?

I have my own timpani set. 


Absolutely. I also own a vibraphone, miscellaneous auxiliary percussion instruments, and what I call my “Steinway” which is actually a massive drum set with around 30 pieces. Normal people have a living room, but we have a music room instead.

But going back to your original question, my timpani are not standard concert timpani, they’re called tour timps. Picture what IKEA would likely sell if they did musical instruments. It’s a thin shell the same size as regular timpani, on an X stand with a compression pedal holding all the lugs with the same tension—just like a regular timpani. (Something like this.) I use them all the time, but they fold up and I can tuck them away like I don’t have them, or take them on tour performances—which I have done.

Wow. Okay, so you’ve got everything you need to practice at home; what is your process for approaching learning a new piece?

Listen to it first. See what it sounds like, without looking at music. Just listen. See where it goes. What is it saying? Especially if it’s a 20th century piece. I have to figure out what I’m listening to and what instruments are used and go from there. 

Say you’re on vacation, cruising down a coastal highway in a convertible, no worries nagging at you. What’s blasting through your speakers?

Django Reinhardt. Gyspy jazz. Funny enough there’s no drums in his music, but I love it. My brother introduced me to it when I went to visit him on weekends in Santa Cruz. He had this record and I was at the beach and the jumpy jazz was perfect. 

When you’re not practicing, teaching, or otherwise involved with something musical, what are you doing?

I love cooking. I make a mean Indian meal.

Interested in drum and/or percussion lessons with Brian? Contact the department of music office at 707-965-6201 or Not a PUC student? We’ve got you covered! Just contact us.

Learn more about PUC’s music program at

Faces of PUC: Beldina Opiyo 

Beldina Opiyo is a pre-nursing student from San Pablo, CA. She originally wanted to be a doctor, but now wants to be a neonatal nurse or a child therapist to help kids flourish. She chose to attend PUC because she wanted to grow intellectually and spiritually, and felt PUC would guide her through her journey. We are very happy Beldina is a part of our Pioneers family!

What is your dream job?  

I want to be a neonatal nurse if not I want to be a child therapist, I love to help the little ones and watch them grow. I want to help them flourish.  

How does that compare to what you wanted to be when you were young?  

I wanted to be a doctor when I was young but only for the money. I did not know what being a doctor entailed and what I wanted to specialize in.  

What is your favorite thing about being a part of the Pioneers family?  

Everybody genuinely is here to grow and have a fun time and the way I see people support each other every day is very heartwarming.  

Where is your favorite place in the world?  

I have not been to many places yet but I love nature a lot. I think the place that I enjoyed nature the most was Yosemite.  

If you had to be trapped in a movie for a day, what movie would you choose? 

Emma by Autumn de Wilde   

What is something you’re passionate about?  


Recommend a place to go in the Bay Area on a weekend  

Golden Gate Park  

Be A Sustainable Student

Are you aware of the impact you make on the environment? With climate change and other environmental issues, we should do every little bit we can to be green. If you think you have to make drastic changes in your life, think again. Here are some ways you can be a sustainable college student. 


Cut down on gas and reduce using fossil fuel by carpooling. Try to take one car whether going to a class outing or going out with your friends. Especially if you have early morning clinicals, ride together to keep each other company. 

Use Reusable Bags 

One of the easiest ways to start living sustainably is by using reusable bags. When you go shopping use canvas or tote bags, so you don’t have to pay for a bag at checkout. Tote and canvas bags are inexpensive and stronger than plastic bags. Keep them in your car or near your door so you never forget them. Stop using plastic bags and start using reusable bags!

Have Reusable Utensils & Bottles

Live sustainably in the dorms by having reusable utensils, straws, cups, and bottles. There will be many times you’ll eat in your room, so it’s good to buy some. Some students even bring their own tupperware to the dining commons for take-out. Especially if you bring water, coffee, or tea to class, having a reusable bottle or tumbler will be useful. 

Don’t Waste Food

You’ve heard this growing up: don’t waste your food. When you cook, only make what you need. Don’t overcook unless you want more to last you throughout the week. When you go out to eat and don’t finish your food, pack up the rest to eat later. 

Save Water

Don’t let the faucet run while you brush your teeth or wash dishes, try not to take long showers, and don’t waste the water you drink. If you’ve already been saving water, you’ve already started being a sustainable college student. Especially living in California, you know the drought is unfortunately real. Please, save water whenever necessary. 

Save Electricity 

Just like saving water, saving electricity is easy to do too. During the day, open your blinds and use natural light instead of turning on the lights. For your lightbulbs, use LEDs instead since they use less electricity. When you leave the dorms for holidays or the weekend, turn off your extension cords. 

Have A Season-Round Wardrobe 

As much as you might love shopping, shop from your closet first. See what you like and can be worn multiple ways. If you do need new clothes, buy clothes that can be worn season round from ethical and sustainable brands. Having a season-round wardrobe will keep you from spending your money.

Borrow & Swap Clothes With Friends 

One of the nice things about living in the dorm is being able to borrow your friends’ clothes. If you need to borrow something for a presentation, interview, or something for one occasion, ask to borrow your friend’s clothes. Students not only borrow but swap clothes too. Before you donate your clothes, ask your friends if they’d want them instead. 

Shop At Thrift Stores 

Yes, buying new clothes is preferred by some and more in demand but check out thrift stores first. If you like to keep up with the current trends, you know they always change. Don’t spend a lot of money on something you don’t think you’ll wear in a year. Save your money and help the environment at the same time. Donate your clothes at thrift stores too!

Have A Bike? Bring It To School

Many of our students bring their bikes to get around campus and to go biking at the Back 40 or to the other trails in our area. If you have a bike, bring it with you!  


Recycling makes a big difference to our planet so recycle whatever can be recycled. Don’t be lazy and just throw them in the waste. If you tend to put non-recyclables in bottles or containers when you eat, they can’t be recycled. Make sure you put separate items into their right bins. 

At PUC, we make sure to be as sustainable as possible, and our Green Club shares tips on how to help our community. Encourage your friends and family to do their part too! These small changes in your life make a big difference to the environment. 

Get Excited About PUC!

With the school year starting on September 26, we could go on and on about why you should be excited about going to PUC, but cut it down to 10 reasons:

Making New Friends 

The friends you make at PUC will last a lifetime. You won’t just make friends in your department, but from other classes, clubs, school events, and through your other friends. You will be surrounded by so many incredible people who will encourage, support, and uplift you throughout your college experience and beyond. 

Creating New Memories 

With new friends comes new memories. You’re having a whole new life at PUC and you will be creating unforgettable memories. Take pictures at events and when you and your friends hangout. It’s always nice looking back at pictures and being reminded of your fondest moments at PUC. 

Living In The Napa Valley 

Living in the Napa Valley gives you the ability to explore different cities and venture out into the trails of the back 40, breathtaking mountains and pretty beaches. From cute towns like St. Helena to venturing out into San Francisco, there are endless places to enjoy. It is truly one of the best things about attending PUC.

Joining Clubs 

PUC has over 30 clubs– from different cultures, interests to majors, there is something for everyone. If you want to start your own club, you can do that too! There is a club for everyone to dive into their interests and hobbies and share them with others. 

Participating in Intramurals 

Intramurals give you the opportunity to step away from your studies and join your friends in playing different sports. Throughout the year, you can choose to participate in football, basketball, volleyball, futsal, baseball, and other sports. It’s a lot of fun and you’ll be able to hangout with your friends you don’t see much and make new ones as well. Check Rec Radio for intramural updates. 

Worshiping & Serving with Campus Ministries 

PUC offers a variety of worship services and outreaches. Our faculty and staff make it a priority to support your spiritual life and; provide you with opportunities to share your faith and learn more about Christianity. There are weekly dorm worships, Bible studies, and student-led vespers, church services, and outreaches on and off-campus. PUC also offers short to long-term mission trips to other countries. However you like to worship, you will be able to do so at PUC. 

Going to Games 

PUC has a lot of school spirit, and the energy during games is electrifying. Students make signs, wear their PUC gear, and are able to meet other students. Even if you aren’t big on sports, going with your friends and cheering our Pioneers is a fun experience to be a part of. 

Learning More About Yourself 

With the changes college brings, there is so much room for growth and learning more about yourself. You’ll find new interests, goals and; start making your way into the life you want to create while learning how to be the best version of yourself.

Embracing Your Independence 

Going to college is the first time for some students to be independent. If this will be your first time on your own, it can feel overwhelming, but the community you will have at PUC keeps you grounded and will be there for you each step of the way. 

Being A Part of the Pioneers Family

No other university will give you the care, support, and warmth like the Pioneers family does. From your professors, deans, RA’s, friends, and other faculty and staff, we will make sure you are comfortable and are on the right path to success. We welcome everyone and are happy to make our campus your home away from home. 

We hope you are just as excited as we are to have you at PUC! This is going to be one of the best times in your life! 

Five Ways To Make The Most Of Your Dorm Life 

Moving into a dorm can be a big adjustment for students. With some having it be their first time away from home and being in a new environment, moving into a dorm can be nerve-racking. Have no fear- because, at PUC, we make sure you settle in nicely and feel comfortable in your home away from home. 

Build A Relationship With Your Roommate 

It is so important that you build a good relationship with your roommate. It’s okay if you’re not best friends, as long as you have mutual respect. If something bothers you, try not to be scared or shy to talk about it. Your roommate might not even know there’s a problem, so bring it up with them. 

Get to Know Your RA and Dean 

Your RA is a source of help, comfort, and friendship. Some of their duties are to make sure you settle in well, do daily check-ins, and help resolve conflict. Just like your RA, your dean will always be there for you. They want you to feel at home, so don’t hesitate to reach out to them about anything.

Go To Dorm Events 

The RA’s and deans work so hard to make dorm life the best it can be for their residents. They host events, such as movie nights, holiday parties, and have weekly dorm worship. They also invite other dorms to certain events, so this is a chance for you to meet more people and make more friends. 

Know Your Neighbors 

Whether you have suitemates or not, it’s still good to know who your neighbors are. You never know what things you might have in common or could even be in the same class. What’s nice about dorming is that you get to live with your friends. You can easily meet to study together, get help on something, borrow each other’s clothes, or just hangout. 

Make Your Room Comfy

It’s essential to make your dorm room fit your comfort needs. Bring some of your personal items from home to make your room feel homey. Make your bed as cozy as you can and add decor to bring your room to life. With having new living spaces, make it the space that makes you feel more comfortable being away from home. 

Questions To Ask Your Future Roommate 

If you haven’t met your roommate yet or would like to know more about them, we put together a list of questions to ask your future roommate as you prepare to live together.

What’s your sleeping schedule like? Asking about their sleeping schedule will let you know if it works out with your sleeping schedule. If you’re a light sleeper, ask if they snore, sleep talk, or stay up past midnight studying. 

Are there any rules you want to establish before moving in? During this process, be open-minded and considerate, and find solutions where you both can be happy. 

What’s your schedule like? Comparing class and work schedules will let you know if you have classes together, when they need to wake up, and when you can have the room to yourself.

How do you like to study? Like asking about their schedule, their study patterns give you an idea of where they get work done and how long they stay up at night. If one or both of you likes to study in your room, respect each other’s study habits and space. 

Do you take showers in the morning or/and at night? You might not think this is a relevant question, but it is to some people. Let’s say you’re ready to hop into the shower and get ready for the day but can’t because it’s occupied. The same goes for going to bed. It’s a simple question, so just ask. 

How organized or clean do you like to be? Even though you two have separate sides of the room, be considerate of how you tidy your space. If you keep your room clean, it might be hard to live with someone who doesn’t.

Do you have any allergies? Note their allergies or other health issues. This will keep you alert if you want to share food or if they need medical attention. 

What are your pet peeves? Get those pet peeves out in the open. You don’t know if you have a habit that could be your roommate’s pet peeve or vice versa. 

How do you feel about having friends over? See if you both are on the same page about having people over. No one likes to be uncomfortable in their own space.

What appliances are you planning on bringing? Check if they plan to purchase a fridge or microwave- so you don’t double on appliances. This could also bring up the question if they’re okay sharing items. 

What do you enjoy doing? Their hobbies, passions, and interests give you a sense of who they are and help you learn if you share similar interests.

What are your favorite foods? Food is always something to bond over. Knowing their favorite foods can help you figure out which restaurants you can possibly go to together or cook together. 

What kind of music and shows do you like? A basic question that lets you know more about your roommate and find something you both have in common. They can also introduce you to new music and shows too! 

It’s okay if you’re a bit nervous to ask some of these questions. Remember to keep an open mind and be considerate of their feelings and opinions. Having a roommate is a new experience, and these questions will help you get to know each other better.

Faces of PUC: Anzarath Chavez-Duron

Anzarath Chavez-Duron is from Oakland and is studying Health Communications, Pre-Art Therapy. She chose to attend PUC because it was the best option financially. Being a PUC student has allowed her to create wonderful connections and relationships with her professors. 

What is your dream job? 

Something that’s fulfilling.

How does that compare to what you wanted to be when you were young?

It’s very ambiguous! When I was a kid I was really set on becoming an animator for Pixar.

What is your favorite thing about being a part of the Pioneers family?

The fact that you can create awesome connections with your professors!

If you had to be trapped in a movie for a day, what movie would you choose?

 “The Cat Returns”

What is something you’re passionate about? 

Good stationery!

Recommend a place to go in the Bay Area on a weekend

Half Moon Bay!

Essentials For Northern California Living 

Northern California has endless sites to see, a rich culture, and unpredictable weather. If you’re from Northern California, or will soon become a local, you’re going to want to be ready for everything and anything. 

To give you a start on your packing list, here are 10 essentials for living in Northern California. 

Reusable Water Bottle 

Be environmentally friendly by owning a reusable water bottle. Having a reusable water bottle is good to have when you’re in class, at the gym, or doing outdoor activities. If you enjoy spending a lot of time camping or hiking, get a filtered water bottle. Stay hydrated wherever you go. 

A Durable Backpack 

A durable backpack, or bag, won’t only be useful for carrying your school belongings, but can also be helpful when traveling or doing exploring the outdoors. Having a bag that can do it all will save you money so you don’t have to buy multiple bags for separate occasions. 

Good Pair of Shoes 

Whether you’re walking to class, hiking in the Back 40, strolling through St. Helena, or walking around San Francisco, it’s smart to have a pair of comfortable shoes. You’re going to be on your feet a lot so pack a good pair of shoes. 

A Coat

Invest in a good coat that will keep you cozy during fall and warm and dry during winter. You don’t want to be cold or soaking wet on your way to class. 

Rechargeable External Battery 

A rechargeable external battery is a lifesaver. We spend a lot of time on our phones during the day, so having one in our bags come in handy. You won’t need to run to your room to charge in between classes or worry about your battery percentage while traveling. Just remember to have your external battery fully charged. 

A Reusable Tote 

Continue to be green by owning a reusable tote. Don’t keep paying for plastic or paper bags when you go shopping. Instead, buy a good reusable tote that can be used during your shopping trips. It comes in handy and will save you money. 

A Blanket 

Some students bring more than one blanket so they can use it for different occasions. From your dorm room to having a picnic, going to the beach, or just studying outside, have a blanket you don’t mind using on different occasions. 


No matter what the weather is, wear sunscreen! Even on overcast, rainy days, sunscreen is still important. Remember to put sunscreen on and protect your skin.


Protect those precious eyes of yours while going around the city sightseeing, hiking in the Back 40, or just laying out on the lawn. 

A Beanie 

Keep your head and ears warm during those chilly, foggy days by wearing a thick beanie. Not only will it keep you warm, but is also a great outfit ensemble. 

Rain or shine, we can’t get enough of living in beautiful Northern California! We hope you love and enjoy it as much as we do. Get ready for a great school year! 

Four Things To Do Before Starting Classes at PUC

With the fall quarter beginning soon at PUC, we wanted to remind you of four things you must do before classes start.

Finalize Classes

Make sure you’re registered for all your classes. If you are on a waiting list, want to change your schedule, or have questions about a class- contact your academic advisor or enrollment counselor, or call the records office at (707) 965-6673 or email them at

Write Down Your Schedule

Once you’ve finalized your schedule- write it down in your planner or your notes app to remember and later memorize. Include what time the class is, the name of the instructor, the classroom number, and the building.

Locate Classes 

Start familiarizing yourself with the campus by checking out our campus map– this will help you know where each of your classes is located and how to get to each one. 

Make Sure You Have Enough School Supplies 

From writing utensils to notebooks, have all the school supplies you need before heading off to school. If you’re taking a math class, make sure you have the right calculator. Buy notecards or post-its if those are useful to your exam preparation.

We can’t wait to have you all back on campus! Don’t hesitate to reach out to your academic advisor, enrollment counselor, or even your professors, if you have any questions about your classes.