May 23, 2024

Featured Falcons: Zach Banks

Zach Banks knew he belonged at the University of Montevallo from his first full day on campus as a freshman. He and his father showed up early on Move-In Day prepared for the long haul of carrying his things all the way up to his room on the third floor of Fuller Hall. To their surprise, a group of Lambda Chi Alphas (one of which would become Banks’ big brother when he joined the fraternity) came right up to their pickup truck and offered to help.

“We went from being ready to spend the next few hours going up and down steps to me being moved up in one trip,” Banks said. “Then they invited me to come to their chapter room to hang out and we played NCAA Football 2003 on PlayStation 2. And I remember immediately just being like, ‘this is too simple. This is way too easy.’”

Zach BanksThough the Birmingham native was known as more of a quiet kid in high school, he was enthusiastic about diving into UM campus life. Aside from his fraternity, Banks was a member of the UM Concert Choir, Chamber Choir, University Chorus, the Interfraternity Council Board, Inspirational Voices of Christ, University Program Council, LeBaron Staff and he deejayed at different student events. He was also a counselor at the first seven Montevallo Music Camp for Young Musicians.

Banks was also an active member of Purple Side and was elected leader alongside Kelsey Sherrer for the 2008 College Night season. Naturally, one of his favorite moments from his time as a student was standing on Palmer Stage that year and hearing former SGA President Daniel McBrayer  call out the Purple Victory winning catchphrase, “This is only the beginning.” But he also recalls that after celebrating with his fellow Purples, he crossed the stage to Gold Side to hug leaders Melissa Harbison Stano and Jeff Walker (now Dr. Walker, assistant professor of communication studies and Honors Program director at UM.)

“At the end of the day, those are two of my friends,” Banks said. “And it is, to me, the ultimate sign of how this game works — fierce battle and rivalry, yet at the same time, we all graduate under the same banners with the same moniker on our degrees. So, I went over to comfort my opponents because they worked just as hard as we did.”

Motivated by his passion for choir and music, Banks graduated that year with a Bachelor of Arts in Music with a voice concentration, and later earned a second bachelor’s degree in choral education from UM in 2012. His career has taken him through various choir director positions, including the Montevallo Community Chorale, Montevallo High School, Montevallo Middle School and McAdory Middle School in McCalla. Since fall 2019, he has served as the choir director at Ramsay International Baccalaureate High School in Birmingham, his alma mater.

“Making music with people and the shared experience of learning and interpreting music with people, it’s such a communicative thing,” Banks said. “The communication between the director and the choir and then how that communicates from the choir to the audience is always such a cool dynamic. When it makes sense and we are all together, it’s miraculous.”

Last year, the Ramsay IB High School Choir performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City. This year, they performed at the WorldStrides Heritage Festival in Nashville, where they received the Outstanding Choir award and Best Overall Group. Banks’ students have shown interest in pursuing careers in music, with some already choosing to major in musical theater or music in college.

“I don’t expect them all to do music — that’s not really the point,” he said. “My point is just to give them an opportunity where music can take them places. That’s always been a mantra of mine, that music can take you places.”

Outside of directing the choir, Banks keeps busy serving as the inaugural president of the Highland Consort Performing Group and president elect of the Alabama Vocal Association, singing with the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham and deejaying at various events.

Banks has been an active part of the UM National Alumni Association since his graduation, having worked with the Junior Board while he was pursuing his second degree. He previously served on the UMNAA Board as vice president of clubs and is now the vice president for special events. He feels it’s important for alumni to get involved and give back because the value of a college degree is partially dependent on how strong the University is today.

“In my fraternity, it’s very important for us to continue to build onto the bridge,” Banks said. “You repair things that you see as you walk the bridge so that the next person has it easier, and I think it’s the same for Montevallo alumni to current students. You always want to look back and make sure the bridge is strong so that the next people can walk through it with less trouble than you did.”