Susan Lewis has been teaching piano and voice lessons in the Vinton area since 1990. How much she enjoys her profession is evident from her joyous demeanor as she watches her students perform at their spring recital each year.
This year’s Susan Lewis Music Studio recital was held in the Vinton Baptist Church sanctuary on June 10 with over 40 students ages 4 through adult performing either vocals, on piano, or both, in a variety of genres.
“Among the students performing are future music majors, music teachers, and professional performers,” Lewis said. Lewis herself served as a church music director at three churches in the Richmond/Hopewell area and then traveled as a concert/recording artist prior to her teaching career.
“This recital far surpassed even my expectations in many aspects—level of talent, evidence of remarkable yearly progress, as well as the confidence and professionalism exhibited by each student,” Lewis remarked. “This was a celebration of the musicality of all ages, talent levels, and styles of music chosen by each student to perform. It is such a privilege and so rewarding to teach these students. It touches my heart to receive comments and texts such as the following text I received from a mother the day following the recital, ‘Thank you so much for yesterday! You have made a big difference in my son’s life this year.’”
The recital featured four graduating seniors: Leeann Williamson, Savannah Amos, Sarah Christensen, and Cara Martin.
Martin, from Northside High School, has been taking voice lessons with Lewis for three years. She performed Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” as well as “Big Big World.”
“Cara has a very sweet, teachable spirit and has made wonderful progress, especially with her stage presence and confidence during her time with me,” noted Lewis.
Martin plans to attend Virginia Western Community College (VWCC) possibly to study nursing.
Sarah Christensen, a graduate of Cave Spring High School, has studied voice with Lewis for four years.
“Sarah is a natural born performer who brought her characters to life while singing her two selections, ’Life I Never Led’ from ‘Sister Act’ and ‘Pulled’ from ‘The Addams Family,’” said Lewis. “She also performed a vocal duet with her sister, Jessica Christensen, ‘For Good,’ from ‘Wicked,’ with a heartwarming introduction about being a senior and memories of her sister, saying, ‘you will always be in my heart.’
“In four years, Sarah’s vocals have significantly improved, with this year’s recital at the top of her best performances to date ever,” Lewis said.
Christensen will be attending James Madison University to major in business or marketing with a minor in Musical Theatre.
Savannah Amos, a William Byrd High School graduate, has taken six years of voice lessons with Lewis in grades six through 12, as well as a year of lessons when she was in kindergarten.
“When Savanah’s dad started her back in voice lessons, I knew from Day One that she had a uniquely special and God-given talent,” said Lewis. “Her pure, rich, powerful vocal delivery of both ‘Let it Go’ from ‘Frozen’ and ‘One Moment in Time’ inspired the audience. She was selected to sing the latter at the WBHS baccalaureate service at Bonsack Baptist Church—a nother beautiful performance.”
Amos will be studying government and international studies at George Mason University with a minor in Musical Theatre.
Leeann Williamson, another William Byrd graduate, has taken 11 years of both piano and voice lessons with Lewis.
“I really admire Leeann and applaud her for continuing both her piano and voice lessons during this time,” said Lewis. “She played an advanced arrangement beautifully of ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness.’ Particularly touching were both of her vocal solos, ‘You Can Let Go Now Daddy,’ dedicated to her dad, and ‘It is Well with My Soul,’ her mom’s favorite hymn. Leeann is quite skillful both as a pianist and as a vocalist.”
Williamson will be attending Shenandoah University to major in chemistry or biology with plans to become hospital pharmacist. With Shenandoah “being such a great music school,” she hopes to continue with some music classes as well.
Lewis says that she “thoroughly enjoyed playing duets with two amazingly talented students” at the recital.
She and Susannah Kellam played Beethoven’s “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” Lewis and adult student David Dreyer performed an advanced arrangement of the finale of Rossini’s “William Tell Overture.” In addition to their duet, Dreyer played “Fantaisie-Impromptu in C Sharp Minor-Op 66” by Chopin “with precision and confidence.”
“David Dreyer is every teacher’s dream student— extremely gifted, hardworking, and very humble and teachable,” said Lewis. “He will remain here locally for the next year as he finishes at VWCC before continuing his education to become a dentist.
“David is available to play for weddings, funerals, dinner parties, holiday parties, etc.,” Lewis announced. “I highly endorse David’s talent and his work ethic.
“Speaking of adult students, Elizabeth Corbett played Bach’s ‘Toccata in D Minor’ by memory with great poise and feeling,” said Lewis. “I have several adult students who I hope will encourage others that it is never too late to either begin or resume piano or voice lessons.
“I was so excited this year to have a student who was interested in performing a classical vocal piece,” Lewis said. “Rising William Byrd junior Eva Pierce captivated the audience with Puccini’s ‘O Mio Babbino Caro.’
“After several years of recital performances from the four Kellam siblings, it was a special treat to have Bethany Kellam accompany her sister Susannah’s vocal solo ‘Memory’ from ‘Cats’ on piano,” said Lewis.
“Allie Watson’s ‘Harry Potter Melody’ on piano, truly showed her remarkable progress even since last year,” Lewis remarked. “Increasing her lessons from 30 minutes to one hour lessons, along with her diligent practice habits, both contributed to her impressive performance.”
“Last, but certainly not least, was probably the most entertaining performance of the day— 4-year-old Ryleigh Woolwine, dressed as Shirley Temple, stole everyone’s heart when she sang ‘On the Good Ship Lollipop,’” said Lewis. “There are so many ‘stand-out’ performances that it would be impossible to list them all— from brand new students to the seasoned more longtime ones.”
Many of her students have gone on to careers in music including Luke Fortner, Skyler Vallo, Jaclyn Hayden, Ashley Coffey, Don Townsend, Katie Hall Saunders, Joanie Thurman Williams, Nora Benedict, and Sam Hubble. Numerous current and former students perform regularly in their communities in musical theater, festivals, churches, school musicals, and pageants, winning numerous accolades. Quite a few have been selected for All-District and All-County choirs, the Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir, and more.
Lewis says that her teaching philosophy is to inspire, build confidence, and encourage her students by “finding and nurturing the music in every student, all while providing a pleasant and fun learning experience.”
Lewis thanked sound technician Randy Whitmer from Vinton Baptist and Jamie Archual Videography for video services.
This years’ recital may be viewed soon on YouTube on the Susan Lewis Music Studio Channel produced by Jamie Archual Videography. Photos and videos are available on the Susan Lewis Music Studio Facebook page.
Lewis has a few openings in her fall teaching schedule due to graduating seniors. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 890-3400.
Pianist David Dreyer may be contacted at 540-525-1145 to book a performance.