The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Morrison lives dream of directing PHS band


September 7, 2017

Back in the 1990s, when Kelli Morrison's last name was still Stroud and she played percussion in the Ram Band at Portales High School, she said the band kids hung out at Taco Box after rehearsal.

"To this day I'm still all about the box lunch No. 4," Morrison said, a meal with two frijole burritos and a small order of Spanish fries.

When she was hired this summer to return to her alma mater as director of bands for Portales Municipal Schools, her first move was sentimental.

"On the day I got my keys," Morrison said, "I went through the Taco Box drive-thru for a No. 4, and then went and sat in the middle of the empty band hall floor to eat it. It was a sweet little homecoming."

After graduating from PHS in 1998, Morrison headed into the music program at Eastern New Mexico University, but married soon and took some time off with her first child. She returned to ENMU in 2003, graduating magna cum laude with a music education degree in 2006.

She spent four years in Clovis teaching middle school and beginning band, and then served as director of bands for the Minco Public Schools in Oklahoma for three years. Since 2013, she's been just across the border in Muleshoe directing that district's band and choir.

"I always dreamed of being the band director at Portales High School," Morrison said, "but that path was never really open for me at the right time before now. When I got word that the position was available, I acted immediately."

Morrison and her two associates — Joseph Flores, the new band director at Portales Junior High School, and Leon Marquez, the band director at Lindsey-Steiner who has been with the Portales Schools since 2008 — make up the district's band staff.

It takes less than 30 seconds with Morrison to see how passionate she is about band and music, but a little longer for her to try to explain it.

"Music touches the soul in a way that words cannot describe," she said. "I can say that it is one of the greatest loves of my life, and it is such a huge privilege to try to share that love and those musical experiences with teenagers."

The high school band is already a month into rehearsals for its halftime show, "Heroes," featuring music from films including "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Star Trek."

Right now 52 students attend the daily two-hour rehearsals, and once weekly 2 1/2-hour evening session, but "I'm not worried about numbers," Morrison said.

"Obviously, I want as many kids as possible to participate," she said, "but I know that as we (the band staff) establish ourselves and our vision of music education for Portales, kids will want to be a part of it."

While Morrison can reel off many reasons why band participation is a positive thing for a student — the proven correlation between music and math and reading fluency, the opportunity to earn college scholarships, the value of music to a school and a community — she said first and foremost, "It's fun!"

On top of that, "music is a venue for creation and expression that allows for experiences that can't be found through any other activity," Morrison said. "Performing music in front of an audience creates chemical reactions in the body that cause contentment and happiness, and combat depression and anxiety."

And finally, "It also is a vehicle for expressing emotion and humanity," she said. "What a beautiful thing to share with our children."

Betty Williamson wishes she had been in band. You may reach her at:


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