Call of the stage; Southland student heading to New York City to study acting

Jannel Howard, along with Marvin Heimer and her mother, Madlain Vander, goes through a scene for an upcoming Southland presentation of “Beauty and the Beast,” in Adams.

Jannel Howard, along with Marvin Heimer and her mother, Madlain Vander, goes through a scene for an upcoming Southland presentation of “Beauty and the Beast,” in Adams.

Jannel Howard always loved theater and now hopes to make it her career.

Howard, 17 and a senior at Southland High School, has been accepted to American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. She plans to start classes this spring.

“It’s a really awesome feeling to perform for me,” Howard said.

Jannel Howard walks through a scene for the upcoming Southland presentation of “Beauty and the Beast” in Adams. Eric Johnson/

Jannel Howard walks through a scene for the upcoming Southland presentation of “Beauty and the Beast” in Adams. Eric Johnson/

She is excited to be a part of the AMDA community and work with people who share the same focus: learning the aspects of Broadway and theater.

“It’s an all-arts school,” Howard said. “And it’s got music and theater and dance, which are the three things that I love the most.”

She added, “There’s so much you can do and so much opportunity and so much you can grow from.”

Howard started performing when she was young and right away it clicked as something she enjoyed. She loves the costumes, the makeup and the people, but most of all to be onstage. She has performed in 31 shows and is currently practicing for “Beauty and the Beast” at Southland.

“I’ve been in a lot,” she laughed.

Theater isn’t the only thing Howard has taken on; she started dance at age 4 and choir at age 6. She has been involved in Riverland Community College shows, Summerset Theatre shows, Southland’s one-act competitive shows and musicals, dance at Jane Taylor Academy of Dance, and more. She’s also worked with Wehmann Models & Talent as a model after some friends helped her get involved with the company. Although modeling isn’t something she currently plans to pursue, she was glad for the experience.

“It just kind of came together for me,” Howard said.

During the summer of 2014, Howard starred in an advertisement for Sears Holding Corp. and Seventeen Magazine, which appeared on websites like YouTube and Pandora.

“It was really awesome,” She said. “I was super excited about it because it was something new.”

Howard enjoyed the experience of film and hopes to participate in more, but she said she prefers the stage. One of the things she enjoys most are rehearsals.

“My favorite thing is always rehearsals,” she said. “I never don’t like to go to rehearsals.”

Although she is pursuing what she loves, Howard hasn’t escaped skepticism.

“I’ve gotten a lot of skeptical looks when I tell people,” she said.

Despite knowing it is a difficult path to follow, Howard plans to work hard to make her dream happen, and she can’t see herself doing anything else.

“It’ll be scary and it’ll be stressful, but I’ll adjust,” Howard said. “And I think in the end I’ll be ready to move on and find new places and meet new people.”

Howard is grateful for her family and friends who have supported her love for the arts. She is especially thankful to her mother, Madlain Vander.

“My mom has been number one because she’s always supported me,” she said.

She is also grateful to her dance teachers Jane and Natalie Taylor for teaching her about dance and to be a lady of the world, and to Riverland theater director Lyndsey Williams for her support and help in finding schools.

Howard has been excited to tell family and friends about her acceptance to AMDA, especially since she is the first from Southland to go to the school.

“It’s been exciting and a little bit crazy and stressful, but fun,” she said.

Howard hopes to learn a lot from classes and through experience, but she isn’t fooling herself that it will be easy, and she’ll always get to choose what she takes part in.

“With the arts and stuff, you can’t be too picky,” she said. “You kind of just have to take what comes your way, but I think I’ll be happy doing anything.”


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