Dearborn high school showcases music program with ‘kiss me kate’ news gas under 3 dollars


The importance of art and music education in the schools can not be understated. Carmelle Atkins, Dearborn High School Choral Director, emphasizes that “ music stimulates the mind, body, and emotions. It advances attentiveness, creative skills, social skills, and self-recognition. Music also teaches us how to work with one another in a group while at the same time teaching us how to rely on ourselves. The appreciation of music contributes to a more meaningful and enjoyable life.”

Under the direction of Atkins, students receive a unique vocal learning experience. Besides educating her students on improving vocal skills, she offers them a variety of performance opportunities and learning practices. This year a state-of-the-art piano lab was added to her repertoire of learning tools. The students, also use technology in the classroom for assessments, recording themselves and sending it in to Atkins for grading.

She also reaches out to middle school students through the Encore Choir program that meets weekly at Bryant Middle School. By mentoring younger students, she provides them similar experiences that her high school students receive and ensures her an influx of trained students for the Vocal Ensemble Program. Vocal Ensemble students excel in musical ability and have a desire towards gaining more advanced skills and knowledge of music theory, musical styles and performance.

Atkins grew up in Dearborn and graduated from St. Alphonsus Catholic High School. She received her master’s degree in musical education from Eastern Michigan University. While in high school, her music director inspired her to become a music educator. For the past 30 years Atkins has taught in the Dearborn Public Schools, initially teaching in elementary education and then spending 10 years at Edsel Ford High School and the past 17 years at Dearborn High School. “Because of our uniqueness, I will be interviewed on National Public Radio about our program,” she said. “We are known statewide for our quality and diversity.”

There is some weight behind those remarks, as Dearborn High School has received division one ratings/superior for the past 15 years at the Michigan School Vocal Music Association’s Choral Festival. The organization describes itself “as one with a focus on innovative leaders in vocal music education who provide experiences to inspire a diverse community and provide experiences to inspire them.”

In 2014 after receiving superior ratings at the choral festival, the Vocal Ensemble received a special invitation to sing at a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. They were the only Michigan vocal ensemble chosen. Atkins selected seven Latin hymns for the students to sing. The students, who become a team as they progress in the ensemble program, held fundraisers to fund the trip. Atkins would love to plan another overseas trip, but nothing is in the works yet.

This year the vocal ensemble again received superior ratings at the regional choral festival. The students are rated on tone, rhythm, pitch, interpretation, presentation and vocal technique. Three performance Judges and one sight-reading judge complete the ratings.

The choirs have three songs to sing from a required repertoire and a song of their choice. Atkins describes “Sure on the Shining Night: as “the most beautiful of melodic pieces from the list.” The young singers also sang a Brazilian Portuguese piece that was a cappella with percussion. The ensemble’s overall scores put them in the superior rating.

The singers will be unable to go to the state choral festival this year due to a conflict with the opening of “Kiss Me Kate,” its spring musical. The show runs April 26 through 29. A romantic comedy, the musical offers the students an opportunity to express their artistic and musical talents. The play originally opened in 1948 featuring music written by Cole Porter. A spirited plot unfolds between the divorced main characters, Fred and Lilli, when they join together to act in a Cole Porter musical version of “The Taming of the Shrew.” Plenty of angst, supplemented with gangsters, gambling debt and complicated relationships ensue leading to fun and feisty end.

There are 17 musical numbers in the play. It is double cast, with different actors for two of the performances. Starring on April 26 and April 28 are Graham Dallas as Fred/Petruchio; Scout Greimel as Lilli/Kate; Matt Apostle as Bill /Lucentio; Olivia Palise as Lois/Bianca; Case DeKoning as General Howell; Brandon Hestand and Sam Joachim as the Gangsters; Andrew Blankenship as Hortensio and Madison Brodoski as Rhonda, the Stage Manager.