The Journey of Kathleen Howells

By Victoria Remley

Kathleen Howells, senior vocal performance major at Youngstown State University, performed her senior recital on Oct. 30 at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Over the years, Howells grew to have a love-hate relationship with music and getting to this performance was not simple. She said breaking down comfort barriers is the biggest thing she’s had to deal with as a musician.

“I’ve crossed many lines for myself, like doing things I never thought I’d possibly be able to do,” she said.

In high school, Howells participated in drama club and theater. She took voice lessons with a musical theatre teacher from her hometown. Her teacher realized Howell had an operatic voice and gave her more classical pieces, along with musical theater pieces.

During her junior year of high school, Howells started thinking about what she wanted to do for the rest of her life and what she was going to study in college. She said her teacher made her realize she could major in a music-related field.

Photo by Tanner Mondok/The Jambar

Howells played Prince Charming in YSU’s production of “Cinderella” last year, which was challenging because she played a man.

She also performed in YSU’s production of “The Medium,” which she said was a depressing opera. She hated the show at first, but fell in love with it by the last performance. She said it was an experience in and of itself.

“[I took] something that I find extremely vocally challenging and that I grew to hate over time and completely flipping the switch, and it ending up being my favorite show in my whole collegiate career,” Howells said.

In 2017, Misook Yun, Howells’ vocal coach and the head of YSU’s vocal department, sat down with Howells to decide what music she would perform for her senior recital. Yun asked her what composers she liked and disliked, and based her pieces around that.

To prepare, Howells worked on memorizing her recital pieces. She took part in weekly lessons with Yun to work on them. During this time, Howells dealt with struggling to meet Yun’s expectations with her pieces.

To get a vocal performance degree, students are required to take voice lessons, go through a music theory program, and take music history classes and IPA courses. It also involves lot of vocal practice.

After graduation, Howells plans to move home to look for jobs in music administration. She wants to work with a theater or opera company, and may obtain a masters after working for a while.

Yun taught Howells for three and a half years. She said Howells grew vocally and matured.

“She is a bright student and she has the personality of ‘I want to do well,’ so she ended up becoming very uptight about things which was causing lots of physical tension,” Yun said.

Howell’s techniques improved throughout her studies. These techniques involved her upper register and her vocal range.

“Her voice was always pretty, but she had lots of tension. It has to do a lot with people’s personalities. If you are OCD about it, sometimes you end up putting yourself in a box. Because of certain personalities, sometimes they [students] get very uptight about things,” Yun said.