“I knew I wanted to do this since first grade,” exclaimed Kelly Newell, the choir director at Mound Westonka High School. Her love for music began at an early age and didn’t stop.
Newell started singing in choir in the sixth grade, but that’s not when her love for music began. In the first grade, she remembers Sister Dorthy singing and playing the guitar to her and the class. She says she will always remember the purple dress covered in butterflies. As she went on through the years of choir, Newell took part in 11 honor choirs and went on to pursue a degree for her music.
Newell has been working as a choir director for 26 years, her longest job here in Mound; coming on 10 years as a White Hawk. She hopes that new and upcoming choir singers will work on their music literacy as singers must know how to read music to sing it. “I encourage new singers to learn the piano,” said Newell when asked about what she would tell new and/or upcoming singers. She also encourages new singers to be vulnerable when it comes to new music or even new languages you might sing in. Even to her younger self, Newell says to have confidence and take more risks.
After being apart of a choir for a long part of her life, Newell says her most memorable performance was the Bel Canto and Cantabile Spring performance of 2017. The memorable moment was when Bel Canto sang their piece, “Will There Really Be A Morning” written by Craig Hella Johnson. Newell’s biggest achievement is also from recent times. “Bringing in a composer of our time and having students work with him,” she said. This October, composer Jake Runestad conducted Concert Choir on some pieces he wrote that they were singing. She also noted that having two of her singers last year sing at Carnegie Hall was a big achievement.
Newell admires her college director Dr. Kathy Romey the most for how powerful she is in the choir industry. She noted that Dr. Romey said to be a woman in this industry, you always have to be one step better than the men. Choir is male-dominated, especially the directors, but choir is a place for all and for all who wish to sing. As Ella Fitzgerald once said, “The only thing better than singing, is more singing.”