Howell High School is full of talent. Whether it is academically, artistically, or athletically, students all throughout HHS are being recognized for their abilities and achievements. This year, however, many of our seniors have been noticed for their skills in musical theater. Specific seniors, such as Payton Reilly and Bethany Perkins, have been accepted to elite colleges to study musical theater. In the fall, Perkins will be attending Pace University in New York City, and Reilly will be attending Western Michigan University.
Reilly and Perkins got their theater start back in middle school, where they both attended Three Fires Middle School. Under the direction of Ms. Kelli Falls, both seniors participated in TFMS’ s choir and theater programs. In 2008, both Reilly and Perkins landed lead roles in TFMS’s production of Thoroughly Modern Millie, one of Ms. Falls’ favorites.
“It was a fantastic show. Look for Bethany and Payton to be on Broadway one day!” Ms. Falls shares.
Ms. Falls is currently the choir and theater director at Parker Middle School, and she is really looking forward to their upcoming performances of Anything Goes.
“[Anything Goes] is the funniest show I have directed to date. It is fun and energetic-full of amazing music and dance.”
Anything Goes opens at the Howell High School Auditorium this week with four show times: April 26 at 7:00 p.m., April 27 at 7:00 p.m., April 28 at 2:00pm and also at 7:00 p.m.. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and students.
With eighth graders as the leads in Anything Goes, the HHS theater program has a lot of talent to look forward to in the coming years. The high school drama department has benefitted from these actors early middle school start.
“Kelli Falls runs a terrific program. You can tell when an actor has been trained by her. She instills a love of theater and a sense of professionalism in her students,” Ms. Amanda Malo, HHS drama teacher, says.
These Howell theater students would not be as successful if it were not for Ms. Falls as the program director.
Ms. Falls’ love for music began as a young age.
“When I was a child of two, when my Grandpa played the piano with me. He always sang to me and he always played classical music. He is my inspiration for teaching music.”
Ms. Falls has two undergraduate degrees in Music Education K-12 and Elementary Education with minors in Math and Science, all from Western Michigan University. She has also earned a Master’s Degree in Choral Conducting from Michigan State University.
Although Ms. Falls plays the flute, she says choral music is her passion.
“I love that music opens doors for individuals of all types. I love that it is everywhere-movies, radio, advertisements, and in everyone’s heart.”
As a teacher, Ms. Falls aims to lead by example. Ms. Falls has been teaching for 16 years. She taught music to young five year-olds and kindergarten for two years, vocal music in high school for six years, and middle school vocal music for the entire 16 years. Before moving to Howell in 2002, Ms. Falls taught in Coldwater Public Schools for six years.
“I wanted to be a vocal music teacher because I love seeing the joy and sense of pride my students attain through their success as singers. Singing is so personal-you are your voice. I am very enthusiastic about instilling confidence, integrity and acceptance in my students,” Ms. Falls says.
Ms. Falls’ admiration for musical theater began in 1991, when she accepted the lead role of Laurie in the Dexter Community Theater Players’ production of Oklahoma!
“It was an amazing experience, and I wanted to be able to create and share similar musical theater experiences with others. Being involved in a musical offers so many wonderful opportunities for young people to become more confident, to grow as individuals, to become leaders, and to make friends,” Ms. Falls explains.
Ms. Falls performed professionally with the Tibbits Opera House in Coldwater, Michigan for two summers and she has also worked with many community theater groups. Her favorite roles include Maria in the Sound of Music and the Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. Ms. Falls has been involved in some form of directing for over 30 shows, as a choreographer, music director, orchestra director, vocal director, and director for many theaters ranging from the middle school level to professional level.
Ms. Falls’ musical resume is full of amazing experiences and high achievements. Ms. Falls currently sings with the Premier Big Band, but she has also sung with the Hillsdale Arts Chorale, the Ann Arbor Cantata Singers, at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp (BLFAC) as a guest soloist, as well as all over Europe. Since 2010, she has been the conductor for the Livingston County Chorale, and prior to that, she was the director of the Livingston County Chorale Children’s Choir for four years. Ms. Falls has also directed the select choir at BLFAC for twelve years.
Ms. Falls tries to uphold the highest standards of music education by participating in several vocal music education organizations. She is currently the Michigan School Vocal Music Association Chairperson for Required Repertoire, and she has served as the District Manager and State Middle School Representative for the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). To pass on her musical teaching strategies, Ms. Falls has mentored over 15 student teachers, taught choral method course at the University of Michigan, Madonna University, and Western Michigan University, and published three articles in the Choral Journal, the main publication of the ACDA.
Over her 16 years of teaching, Ms. Falls has earned my achievements. In 1998, she was recognized by Coldwater Public Schools with the “Make a Difference Award,” a yearly award given to a teacher within the school district who has made a positive impact on students.
“This has to have been one of my most memorable awards, as it meant so much to me to think that I was using music to teach life skills to my students,” Ms. Falls describes.
Other major accomplishments that Ms. Falls is proud of include being chosen twice to conduct a state honors choir; the Soprano Alto choir in 2006 and the Soprano, Second Soprano, and Alto choir in 2014.
“This is such an exciting honor, because not only do I get to work with highly motivated singers, I have been chosen to direct these choirs by my peers,” explains Ms. Falls.
Ms. Falls has always been very proud of her students’ accomplishments and awards. Her students have earned consistently high ratings at choral festivals they attend. Many of her students perform individually in state honors choirs, solo and ensemble performances, madrigal dinners and school and community musicals.
Throughout her accomplishments and her community involvement, it is obvious that Ms. Falls puts her students first but what her students teach her is what is important.
“My students have taught me to love life, to live it to the fullest, and to see the joy in the little things,” says Ms. Falls.
Many of Ms. Falls’ students have gone on to study music and/or music education in college. These students, though, know exactly who to thank for their success.
“Ms. Falls not only has tremendous knowledge to pass to her students, she ignites passion and drive into the kids at the middle school. She is the reason I am so in love with what I do.
I will always thank her for that. She’s the reason I am one of the seven girls accepted into the musical theatre program at Western Michigan next fall,” Reilly says.