The Art of Expression

At Poway High School, education means showing students how to find their voices and discover their inner artists. The performing arts at PHS let students explore a wide range of musical and theatrical opportunities. From jazz, orchestra, and marching band to choir, theater, improv, and more, there’s something for every Titan who wants to take the stage. 92064 Magazine spoke with Jessica Schemmel, Mike Cook, and Sharon Wezelman – three dedicated teachers who are excited to share their artistic passion with the next generation of young performers.


Q&A with Jessica Schemmel

What area of the performing arts do you teach in? What is your role in the department?
I am the choir director. I also teach AP Music Theory.

cv_phsperfoming7What is your professional background, and what sparked your interest in teaching?
I grew up in a very musical family. I was very active in choir as a high school student and went on to major in music in college. I have worked with students of all ages, and have taught both high school choir and elementary general music in public school for 10 years in all.

What has been the most rewarding part of your role? The most challenging?
The great thing about high school students is, though they are still novices, they are just ready enough to start experiencing challenging musical works. I find it very rewarding to be able to share these great pieces with them. The most challenging part is taking the students from perfunctory mastery to real beauty. Just knowing the notes is not enough. We are making art together, and it needs to feel and sound like that, not like we just memorized a series of pitches. Fortunately, we usually get there in the end.

How has choir at PHS evolved over the years?
The Poway High School Choir has had a reputation for excellence for many years, consistently receiving superior ratings at state festivals. This is only my second year at Poway High, and I feel so lucky to be working in a community that values the arts as much as the PUSD families.

Can you tell us about any recent performances?
We finished last year with a super fun Disney-themed spring concert. This year our first concert was on Oct. 11 at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts (PCPA). The choirs performed classic folk songs and tunes that early American immigrants carried with them from abroad.

Are there any upcoming performances the community should look forward to?
Our holiday concert lands on Dec. 6 this year. We hope to have some of the PHS choir alumni join us to perform the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah in addition to our other winter selections.


How many performances do you puton a year? What type of productions do you generally put on?
We have four concerts per year: fall (varies in theme), winter (usually holiday), early spring (our challenging festival and contest music), and late spring (usually popular music with costumes and choreography).

Is there any way the community can help support the performing arts at PHS?
We love to have community members at our concerts. I strive to choose music that both the singers and audiences will enjoy. Also, every year our advanced choirs go on tour, and local businesses and entrepreneurs can help the students fund their tour expenses by purchasing ads to go in the programs of our winter and late spring concerts.

Do you have any favorite memories or experiences from your time at PHS?
Because I have only been here for one year, it’s hard to say that I have a favorite memory. However, I really enjoy the students as singers and as human beings, and I look forward to making beautiful music with them for years to come.

At-A-Glance | Teacher Profile

Name: Jessica Schemmel
Position: Choir Director
Education: B.A. in music, Columbia University; M.Ed in administration, University of North Texas
Community: Carmel Valley
Hobbies & Interests: Singing all the time, surfing incompetently
Family: Husband – Dan; daughters – Evelyn (9) and Georgia (6)
Favorite Places in 92064: Poway High School, Target (if I’m honest), and Original Pancake House

Q&A with Mike Cook

cv_phsperfoming9What area of the performing arts do you teach in? What is your role in the department?
I am the director of the Instrumental Music Department and department chair for the Performing Arts Department.

What is your professional background, and what sparked your interest in teaching?
I attended Baylor University, where I received my bachelor’s degree in music education. From there I went to the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, where I received my Master of Music Education degree. My interest in working with high school music students started in my high school, where I was active in many aspects of the music program from marching band to orchestra to choir. I had some great teachers that inspired me to continue in music.

cv_phsperfoming11What has been the most rewarding part of your role? The most challenging?
The most rewarding is seeing the musical growth each student is capable of making in the four-year time frame. The most challenging is figuring out how to run a comprehensive program with limited funds.

How has instrumental music at PHS evolved over the years?
I have been at Poway High for 26 years. When I first got here, the school size was around 3,500 students. Now, with the addition of so many other high schools in our district, our school size is around 2,100 students. Trying to sustain our instrumental numbers in a shrinking school enrollment environment is a challenge. However, the music department has continued to thrive. For instance, the school did not even have an orchestra until the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. Now we have a full symphony orchestra, a pit orchestra for the musical, four bands, three jazz bands, and an ultra-competitive marching band.


Are there any upcoming performances the community should look forward to?
We will have our traditional holiday concerts in December. Monday, Dec. 12 is the jazz concert at the PCPA. The orchestra concert is on Wednesday, Dec. 14 in the PCPA, and the band’s winter concert is on Thursday, Dec. 15 in the PHS gym.

cv_phsperfoming10How many performances do you put on a year?
We put on many concerts throughout the school year. The number is usually around 10 concerts of various types each year. The marching band will perform at all home games and compete in five to six tournaments. We also host our own field tournament each year in October, which features bands from across the southwest region and serves as one of our major fundraisers.

Is there any way the community can help support the performing arts at PHS?
Yes, of course, the main thing would be support us through attendance at our events. Additionally, we are currently running a GoFundMe campaign to help buy new sousaphones for the marching band. Our sousaphones have reached the end of their life expectancy and need replacing. If anyone is interested in helping, they can go to and type in Poway Marching Band, and they can donate and see our progress.

cv_phsperfoming6Do you have any favorite memories or experiences from your time at PHS?
I have countless memories that I cherish. Perhaps the experiences that stick out the most would come from traveling with the band or orchestra abroad. The places we have been able to visit and play have been extraordinary.

What are your classes currently working on?
We are currently working on materials for the upcoming winter concerts. The marching band is learning their field show entitled “ZO,” a production that contains a variety of well-known music and contrasts good versus evil. There are two characters on the field performing with the marching band for the first time – a good witch and an evil witch. You will have to come out and see it to believe it.

At-A-Glance | Teacher Profile

Name: Mike Cook
Position: Director of Instrumental Music
Education: B.A. and M.A. in music education
Community: Poway
Hobby: Golf
Family: Wife – Joy; twins – Ellie and Phillip (13)
Favorite Place in 92064: In The Mix Yogurt

Q&A with Sharon Wezelman

cv_phsperfoming8What area of the performing arts do you teach in? What is your role in the department?
I am the theater teacher and theater program director at Poway High School. I teach Drama 1-8 and Technical Theatre & Production. I direct, produce, and oversee all theater productions, including the musical. I am the advisor for Titan Theatre Club and Titan Theatre Improv Club.

What is your professional background, and what sparked your interest in teaching?
I have been doing theater since I was in high school and have been hooked ever since. I have a B.A. in theater from UCLA, an M.F.A. in traditional Asian acting from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and an M.A. in teaching from Southern Oregon University. During my M.F.A. program, I worked as an academic tutor. One day, I realized that I was having fun teaching math, which is my least favorite subject. I thought to myself, “If I enjoy teaching math, teaching theater would be a blast!” I truly have my dream job at Poway High School, and I hope my students enjoy doing theater as much as I do.

As for my professional experience, I have acted in a myriad of plays; was a background actor on ABC’s Lost; was a dresser, lighting technician, and sound technician at La Jolla Playhouse; and worked as a production assistant at the Academy Awards and Miss USA.

What has been the most rewarding part of your role? The most challenging?
The most rewarding part is seeing students learn and improve in class and rehearsal. It’s wonderful to see students applying what they’ve learned and becoming better actors, technicians, or designers. The most challenging part of my job is running the afterschool theater program. I have some help, but I do the majority of the work myself, which entails producing, directing, designing, helping with set building, buying props and costumes, stage management, mentoring actors and technicians, etc. I work crazy hours!


How has theater at PHS evolved over the years?
This is my second year at Poway High School. We’ve changed our name from Theatre Guild to Titan Theatre and are in the process of creating a logo. I added the Technical Theatre & Production class this year and am planning on making technical theater and design a huge part of our program.

I have a 10-year plan to transform the drama room into a black box theater. It’s going to take time and fundraising. We painted the walls, hung a basic light plot, added risers for the audience, reorganized our storage areas, and will build a tech booth. I plan on getting a Titan Theatre website up and running soon. I am also starting Theatre Boosters and Improv Club this year.

Are there any upcoming performances the community should look forward to?
Stage Door, by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman, is our upcoming fall comedy. The play is about a boarding house full of young women in 1930s New York who aspire to be actresses. Unfortunately, most of the young women are unable to secure acting jobs. The play follows their ups and downs in show business. Stage Door is perfect for high school students because most of the characters are in their late teens or early twenties. We have an incredibly talented cast and I can’t wait to share our production with the community. Our performances are in the PCPA on Thursday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, Nov. 5 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets will be sold at the door and are $13 for students, military, and seniors and $15 for adults.

Our winter musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, will be performed in the PCPA. Performance dates are Friday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

How many performances do you put on a year?
Titan Theatre does a fall play, a winter musical, and student-directed one-acts in the spring. We plan on having an improvisation night a few times a year and other performances to raise money for our department.

Is there any way the community can help support the performing arts at PHS?
Come to the shows! We need an audience and would love for you to see all of the hard work Titan Theatre students have put into preparing for theater productions. And of course, donations are always appreciated.

cv_phsperfoming12Anything else you’d like to share? What are your classes currently working on?
Drama 1 just finished their improvisation unit, which helped them learn about the fundamentals of acting. I am team-teaching with Robert Kaechele, the digital media teacher. His Advanced Digital Media class and my Drama 2-5 class are working together on short films. Mr. Kaechele’s students learned about directing and casting from me, and my students learned about film production and editing from him. Technical Theatre & Production 1 class is learning about the art of theatrical set, lighting, and costume design.

I am working with Robert Kaechele and Heidi Hensey (art teacher) on creating a Pageant of the Masters type display at Eye on Art at PHS this May. We plan on having our students collaborate on designing, building, and acting. Eye on Art is the culminating celebration of our fine and performing arts students’ expression of works.

At-A-Glance | Teacher Profile

Name: Sharon Wezelman
Position: Theatre Teacher/Theatre Program Director
Education: B.A. in theatre from UCLA; M.F.A. in theatre from University of Hawaii at Manoa; M.A. in teaching from Southern Oregon University
Community: 4S Ranch
Hobbies & Interests: Dancing, cooking, movies, reading, and anything 1950s
Family: Parents – Cinda Temmer and Stan Wezelman; sister – Lauren Dumas;
nephews – Sean and William Dumas; brother-in-law – Chris Dumas
Favorite Places in 92064: Poway High School, Luna Grill, and Poway Farmers Market