Music department manager is part-time monster

Music Department Manager Nicolai Galvan holds up photos of himself in costume as a performer at Knott’s Scary Farm. In his second year as a performer, he plays a temple guard in a maze called The Depths. / photo by Casi Martinez
Music Department Manager Nicolai Galvan holds up photos of himself in costume as a performer at Knott’s Scary Farm. In his second year as a performer, he plays a temple guard in a maze called The Depths. / photo by Casi Martinez

Abelina J. Nuñez
LV Life Editor 

Nikolai Galvan, the University of La Verne’s new manager of the music department and Morgan Auditorium, is moonlighting as a monster.

Specifically, he is the temple guard for The Depths maze at Knott’s Scary Farm. Last year during the Halloween season he was the mayor of Calico for The Origins maze. 

The Temple Guard is an ancient, tribal warrior, similar to an Aztec, or ancient Maori warrior, Galvan said.  His mask is essentially a skull of a rhino with warpaint and stripes running along the side of the face. As a guard he wears armor, and he has a pair of daggers as a weapon. 

Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park becomes Scary Farm for haunt season – mid-September through Halloween. 

“I found it to be so exciting and fun, just being in a theme park where you’re in this world of monsters that walk around and follow you and scare you,” Galvan said. “I knew one day, I would want to be a monster because it just looked like so much fun.”

Galvan joined the music department this year in September. He earned his bachelor of arts in music here in 2021. As manager of the music department, he assists the instructors and is in charge of the department’s administrative work, such as scheduling and contracts. As the manager of the Morgan Auditorium, he manages and schedules all Morgan Auditorium events. 

The backstory of The Depths maze follows a mining crew that goes missing on a dig and when the people go down for a search, they discover that the miners came upon an underground lair that features an old civilization of underwater creatures. The search team goes through swamps and temples before boarding the sunken ship where they meet the Kraken and other horrors from the deep. 

Galvan said that in 2021 – amid the pandemic – he saw an advertisement for the monster gig at Knott’s. He auditioned and landed his first role as the mayor. The auditions were virtual. He said he was given a prompt through an app and had to act it out in a one-minute video of the certain character he needed to portray, like a psycho killer clown or zombie. If the casting staff liked the video, they’d ask the person to come in for an interview.

“It’s unlike any other job, or activity I’ve ever done before because you’re being paid to make people feel uncomfortable,” Galvan said. “You’re paid to scare people and be a character that you don’t get to be anywhere else.”

This year as the temple guard in the maze The Depths he said he gets in people’s faces, growls at them and stalks them from behind. His character is supposed to be an evil warrior monster that is angry because of people invading the temple, which he is supposed to be guarding. 

“This year, I am in a maze. So you either get a maze or you get a zone and the zone can be the ghost town streets or like the “CarnEVIL,” which is the clowns, and so they get a section of the park that they get to walk around,” he said. “They just get to walk around and interact with guests as they’re walking through the theme park, me being in the enclosed maze located in a warehouse and I have a specific room that I live in.”

Galvin said his day as a monster starts at 5 p.m. He clocks in and gets his costume and makeup done. Every monster or creature has a specific call time, he said.  He is in the maze for an hour and off for an hour and continues to follow that schedule until the park is closed. 

“Getting into makeup and costume is pretty exciting every day, granted the costume isn’t made of the most comfortable material, it’s still fun to look in the mirror and get transformed,” he said. “Every day in the makeup chair is exciting because the artists have some freedom to adjust or experiment each time you go in. Sometimes they change the colors or the stylings as long as it’s within the realm of the character you are playing.”

For his first hour break, they are told to take their lunch break in Knott’s employee cafe where they can eat. 

“Being the monster –  it’s the best experience when you get a good audience member, … the person walking through, and you get a good experience when they’re crumbling in fear at everything you’re doing and you’re creating such a reaction out of them,” he said. “Or the people who get genuinely terrified and start laughing at themselves because of it, it’s such a fun feeling to be able to do that and it makes up for all of the less than favorable audience members in the maze.”

The monster’s life is not without its challenges, however. 

Galvin said one time he had teenagers walk up to him saying “you’re not scary” and “you look ugly,” and also making more offensive comments.

“Last year, I was not inside the maze, I was out front on a platform talking and … people were heckling me.  And at one point I had a guest throwing small rocks at me,” he said. 

Though for the most part, he said, it’s a pretty fun job. “For me, (I’m) into theatrical heavy metal music and musical theater … and I recommend it to anybody who’s into the theatrics.” 

Galvan said he sees himself working as a monster every Halloween season that he possibly can.

Abelina J. Nuñez can be reached at abelina.nunez@laverne.edu. 

Abelina J. Nuñez, senior journalism major, is a photography editor for Campus Times and staff photographer for La Verne Magazine. She previously served as LV Life editor, arts editor social media editor and staff writer. In Fall 2023, Nuñez was La Verne Magazine's editor-in-chief and was previously a staff writer as well. Her work can be found on Instagram @abelinajnunezphoto.

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