Over the years Jill Wheeler has embraced virtually all forms of performing arts, and she has found success in them. Now the former Marcus High School student wants to help children be just as successful. After living out of state for a few years Wheeler is bringing her company, Curtain Call Productions, to Denton County. Curtain Call Children's Theatre provides singing and acting classes. Throughout her career Wheeler has written, directed and choreographed her own musicals. She has released her own albums and has shined when singing competitively.
Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in Flower Mound, Texas where I attended middle and high school. I graduated from Marcus in 1991.
How did you become interested in music and theater?
My dad was a musician. He introduced me to music at a very young age. I was singing on a stage by the time I was three. We had a family band, consisting of my dad, myself and my three sisters. We performed at festivals, on TV and other venues. Once in high school, I developed a love for the theater. I was involved with the musicals throughout high school and college. I was intrigued by the way you could tell a story through song and dialogue and take the audience to places they had never been. It was so magical. As I got older, I begin singing and performing with bands like Jamestown and The Divots. I also had the amazing opportunity to open for the country acts Hot Apple Pie and Emerson Drive.
Tell us about how CCP Theatre came about.
I wanted to work with kids and share my love for music and the stage with them, so I started a small musical theater class in 1991. Over the years, it grew bigger and bigger. By 2005 I was averaging 130-150 kids each semester. I began writing my own musicals as well.
What will CCP Theatre offer?
CCP offers something very unique in both their singing and acting departments. CCP has a branch called, “The Voices of Tomorrow” that offers not only voice classes but also incorporates song-writing as well. Many children have a gift of writing but most don’t know how to put those words to song. That’s where I come in. I teach the students not only how to sing properly, but also how to write their own songs. CCP’s branch of musical theatre offers every child the chance to have their own singing and acting solo parts throughout the entire two-hour musical. It also gives every child almost two hours of stage time. So even the smallest parts are really big ones. The students are able to get a true feeling of what it’s like being a lead role, even if their part is not “the lead.”
What philosophy has helped your students become successful?
My students know that it is not perfection that claims your success, it is the willingness to give all you can, knowing you will not be perfect and finding a peace with that. I always tell my kids, “you are not perfect, but you are perfectly you. Give 100 percent and remember that everyone is gifted in different areas. If you’re not the greatest singer, sing like you are. If you’re not the greatest dancer, dance like you are. If you’re not the greatest actor, act like you are. The more confident you seem, the more the audience loves you and the more you love yourself.”
Tell us about your music writing history.
I’ve been writing songs since I was a young girl. I would grab my guitar, create a melody that captured how I felt and then begin writing the words I heard in my head. The words just come to me. Sometimes my hand can’t write them fast enough. Over the years, I’ve written well over 300 songs.
And you have a history of success when it comes to singing competitively?
I have competed in many competitive singing competitions, but my proudest win is competing in The Colgate Country Showdown. This was a country-wide singing competition consisting of over 100,000 competitors. I won local and State titles in West Virginia and Ohio, three State titles in New York and one Regional title where I went on to compete in the Nationals. There I performed on the Ryman Auditorium stage in Nashville, TN. where I sung with country recording artist, Leann Rimes.
What’s the best part about writing music?
The best part of writing a song is that I can truly express my feelings in a way that allows the listener to, for just a moment, jump onto the ride of my emotions and experience them with me.
What’s your favorite song you’ve written?
I wrote a song about my mother many years ago. The song is about how I see so much of myself in her. It talks about seeing the child in her that still lives and how her spirit still dances.
Which musicals have you written?
I’ve written 12 full-scale musicals. Some of them include: “A Pirate Adventure,” “The Glass Mask,” “Dooby-Doo and the Hawaiian Mystery,” “Hint” and many others.
How long does it take you to write a musical?
It usually takes me about three months to write a two-hour musical.
Anything we may have heard?
I’ve written many adaptations of public domain stories such as “Pinocchio,” “Cinderella,” “Oliver,” “Scrooge in The Christmas Carol,” “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “The Nutcracker.” I take the base-line story and create my own characters and songs around these well-known tales. Watching the musicals I produce is like watching a new version of these classic stories.
Who’s your favorite famous singer?
I have many singers I love to listen to. Carrie Underwood, Sting, Elton John, and Phil Collins are a few of my favorites.