By Marylynne Newmark
For local boy Preston C. Howell, the past week-and-a-half must have seemed like a dream come true after all four chairs turned for him on the blind audition of “The Voice.” He belted out the silky provocative voice of a crooner from the forties and wowed the judges and the audience with his jazz-like version of the 1931 hit “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”
The amazing thing is that Preston Howell is only fourteen years old with classic good looks that make him seem older in a very sophisticated way.
The judges loved him, likening him to Michael Buble. Each judge, Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson, John Legend and Gwen Stefani heaped praises on him and made tremendous overtures to Preston to select him or her to be his coach.
Referring to his age, Blake Shelton said, “You’re either born with a voice like that, or you’re not. And for you, being born with that was not so long ago!”
John Legend applauded him for “taking on a music standard that most people would not have the ‘kahones’ to do.”
Gwen Stefani asked, “How can you be only 14 with a voice like that? My son is 13 and his voice is like this,” as she made gargling, cracked sounds.
Kelly Clarkson yelled “I love you!” and said she wanted to take Preston home to be his parent.
After much cajoling, Preston chose John Legend to be his coach and mentor.
“You made the right choice,” tweeted a fan later that evening. “John will lead you on the right path.”
Preston was born into music. He grew up singing along with his dad, Paul Howell, who sang professionally for a short while, but now “ sings every day, usually in his closet along with the Smule app”, jokes Preston’s mom.
She reports that at the age of four, Preston began mimicking his dad, singing all types of music. While very young, Preston took a liking to ballads by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Elvis. Hits like “Fly Me ToThe Moon” and “That’s Amore” were his favorites. ”It was about that time that Michael Buble became popular and his Christmas album became Preston’s favorite,” added his mom.
When Preston was eight, the family wanted to encourage his obvious talent. So, after a search for the right fit, his parents enrolled him in a musical theatre group in Davie called Broadway Kids. He continued with them for four years, eventually becoming a member of their Star Performers specialty group that participated in community events, theater shows, and dance competitions.
About the same time, Preston landed one of his most cherished roles as Gavroche in “Les Miserables” at the Pembroke Pines Theater of the Performing Arts (PPTOPA). He spent four summers performing in professional productions there that included “Les Miserables”, “Mary Poppins”. “Little Mermaid” and “In The Heights”.
For the past two years, Preston has been a student at Area Stage Company in Coral Gables, a local conservatory that trains young professionals on everything involving musical theatre. During that time, he was cast in two major lead roles, as Tommy Ross in “Carrie the Musical” and as Jimmy Smith in “Millie the Musical”.
In 2018, Scott Hoying and Ben Bram. the creators of Pentatonix, held an open casting for a young acapella group they were creating, calling it AcaPop. After four auditions, Preston was cast as the male bass of the group. Acapop has been recording and filming several music videos, to be released soon.
Preston also is the singer in Miami Squadz, a song and dance group of super talented kids who Preston met while filming music videos. Over the past two years, Miami Squadz has been in demand to perform in local fund-raising events for Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, Special Olympics and Boys and Girls Club of Broward.
Preston currently is a sophomore at Florida Christian School in Miami. He has been in the choir program there since the third grade under the direction of musical director Jeanine Stemmer. With her encouragement, he stuck to performing and has been a member of his church band at Christ Covenant Church.
Preston is very serious about his singing. He takes every advantage to learn and better himself. For the past three summers, he has participated in an intensive three-week program with the Broadway Artist Intensive in West Palm Beach.
Music is his priority, and he hopes one day to “really make it” as a jazz pop soloist. He says that he truly connects with jazz. “I love all music as an outlet for my emotions and feelings,” says Preston. “It’s how my spirit takes wings and soars to unfathomable heights.”
His next appearance on The Voice will be in a highy competitive round called “The Battle”, in which Preston will be paired with one of the other members of Team Legend during which they sing the same song together, but one must outshine the other to avoid elimination. Of course, the one who gets eliminated is up for grabs by one of the other judges. Preston’s “battle” has not been scheduled yet, as more blind auditions are still on schedule. However, you can be sure he is using this time wisely, to wow them all over again.
He’s already off to a great start. Social media caught fire immediately, and fans are brewing up a storm on Twitter.
The Voice, season 17, airs every Monday and Tuesday night on NBC at 9 PM. Aside from introducing new talent to the world, and offering them the opportunity to be coached by at least one of the country’s top singing sensations, one of these musical candidates has the opportunity to win $100,000 and a record deal. The show is also highly competitive for the judges, who all want their candidate to win, since they receive a cash award to be donated to their favorite charity as well as the glory of the win.
Good Luck, Preston! We’re all rooting for our local signing sensation. Live that dream!