‘Music feeds his soul’

Josh Powell performs as Radames in “Aida,” for which he received an outstanding rating from Spotlight Educator judges.

Josh Powell’s “uninhibited” approach to music, said one of his mentors, is a trait that sets him apart.

“You can tell when Josh sings, or plays percussion with the band, how much music feeds his soul. He is an extraordinary musician,” said Wendy Suoja, choir director and music director for musicals for White Bear Area Schools.

Powell, a senior, is also one of the school’s top wrestlers. He got started in musical theatre in seventh grade and has stayed on stage ever since. 

He been one of the school’s leaders in music and drama the last three years. Last year, Powell was named one of the top 12 “triple threat” performers in Minnesota with Hennepin Theatre Trust Spotlight Program. He’s in the running for the same honor this year.

“Josh has perfect pitch and a beautiful tone,” Suoja assessed. “He is technically a low bass, but his widely developed range allowed him to sing tenor in our last musical, ‘Aida.’”

Powell landed his first significant role in a high school play in 10th grade as Willard Hewitt in “Footloose.” 

“This role really brought out my comedic side, while giving me an opportunity to show off and improve my vocal skills,” said Powell, who received an honorable mention from Spotlight for this performance. 

As a junior, he played Pepper in “Mamma Mia!” — a smaller role, but one where he could greatly improve as a dancer. He stood out for his performance in the song “Does Your Mother Know?” and also served as dance captain.

As a senior, Powell had his first lead and first noncomedic role as Radames in “Aida,” and received an outstanding rating from Spotlight Education judges.

“I was able to show off my dramatic side in a way that I couldn’t before,” Powell reflected. “This allowed me to become a more dynamic actor.”

Powell has been a percussionist in band since sixth grade, and a drummer in jazz bands since seventh grade. 

He joined choir last year and blossomed as a singer.

“I was never confident in my own voice. Now I would say it is my main form of self-expression.”

This year, Powell was part of the Minnesota All-State choir, the SEC Honor Band and the ACDA Regional Honor Choir. He is also a Cantanti Singer in the Angelica Cantanti Youth Choirs (ACYC) in Bloomington. He enjoys playing piano and composing music “just for fun.”

His prep music/drama career was cut short this spring.

“We hoped to do a couple more performances this year, before our season was sadly cut short due to COVID-19,” Powell lamented. 

Called off were the concerts with ACYC, choir and band concerts, a planned student-led musical, and Hennepin Theatre Trust’s annual Spotlight Showcase in early summer.

Powell is leaning toward attending Concordia College in Moorhead to study psychology and music. 

“I definitely intend to continue doing theater in college and possibly afterward,” he said.

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