Even with 26 years under his belt as St. Paul’s chief performing arts man, Jody Powell says time management remains the most demanding part of his job. Fragmenting time and juggling different projects sometimes “takes multitasking to its limits, ” says the holder of multiple music graduate degrees who teaches six periods by day along with nightly rehearsals.
For 12 years, Powell has directed “Spring Show, ” the upper level students’ show choir performance. This year, the troupe will tackle Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “The Music Man.”
How do you put together such a big, detailed performance with so many students involved?
I start with auditions, casting, musical rehearsals, blocking rehearsals, choreography and sets. I work small sections and scenes until the minor parts are intact. Then I put it together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I couldn’t do this without the help of many people who assist with these productions.
What has directing “Spring Show” taught you?
If you demand excellence, you will get excellence. Students will rise to the expectations that are placed upon them. By working hard and leading by example, I have gained their trust and respect. I have learned that if you are honest and true to yourself and them, you can impact the work ethic and perseverance of the cast, as well as their belief in themselves and their overall demeanor.
Why do you continue teaching theatrical and musical art?
It is so much fun to make music with others all day, go to rehearsals and create a show. I have been on stage since my first solo in preschool. I also performed as a choir member, small ensemble singer, pianist, band member, etc., all my life. In college, I was the opera theater class technical assistant at the University of Southern Mississippi. Along with performing in the productions in graduate school, I was the music and theater department’s assistant technical director.
What are your thoughts about cuts in school arts programs?
The arts simultaneously develop logical reasoning and creativity. Most arts students score higher on standardized tests and are more well-rounded students. If cuts to programs in the arts continue, we will lose the creativity in our youth who will one day be leading the society. Advocacy is of the utmost importance. Contact your congressman. Contact the state board of education. Support the arts!
If you weren't teaching …
… I would be a cabinet and furniture builder. I find that creating woodwork is much like directing choirs and
theater. You start with raw, unfinished pieces, cut them, plane them, join them, finish and assemble them into beautiful furniture.
For tickets to St. Paul's Episcopal School's “Spring Show, ” call 342-6700.
interview by Daniela Werner