The piano and voice students of Susan Lewis once again “truly entertained, blessed, and impressed their audience” at Thrasher Memorial on May 19. Their annual spring recital/concert celebrated all ages and levels from preschool through adult with a variety of musical styles presented to a full house.
One guest commented that the recital included “some of the most incredible talent together in one room.” Another noted the recital was “a wonderful program; I’m truly amazed at all the talent you inspire.”
“Even after 30 years of teaching in the Vinton/Roanoke area alone, each recital is always new, refreshing, and exciting,” said Lewis. “Although I miss certain aspects of my church music director days and concert/solo artist performing days, teaching piano and voice and making a difference in hundreds of students’ lives have been the most rewarding.”
Two seniors were featured in the spring recital: Madison Saunders and Eva Pierce.
Saunders performed a piano solo, an advanced Don Phillips arrangement of “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder,” and two vocal solos, “Ave Maria,” Op. 52, No. 6, by Schubert, and “Always Remember Us This Way” from “A Star is Born.”
Saunders is a graduate and valedictorian of William Byrd High School. She plans to study nursing pre-admissions at Virginia Western Community College and then transfer to the Jefferson College of Health Sciences to complete her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
“Madison has excelled in her piano and voice lessons, lettered in choir after seven years, and is also a five-year Spanish student,” said Lewis.
William Byrd senior Eva Pierce performed two vocal solos, “Im Herbst” (In Autumn) and “Never Enough” (from “The Greatest Showman”). Pierce is also a WBHS valedictorian and will be attending Elon University, majoring in Music Performance with Emphasis on Opera and minoring in German Studies.
Pierce was selected to sing the National Anthem at the William Byrd graduation ceremony on May 21 at the Salem Civic Center and performed to much acclaim. She has also been a performing arts student at Roanoke County’s Burton Center for Performing Arts, as well as a Concert and Marching Band member at William Byrd, playing the French horn.
“You may remember her as Morticia from ‘The Addams Family,’ the Wicked Witch in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and Mother Superior in ‘Sister Act,’” said Lewis. “Eva’s musical versatility can take her from musical theater to pop to opera.”
“It is so thrilling as a teacher to have numerous students pursue careers in music as professional performers, choir/school music teachers, opera singers, church music directors, worship leaders, church musicians, and last but not least, piano and/or voice teachers,” said Lewis. “I have actually lost count, but thankfully have kept in touch and re-connected with many of my former students who now serve in these roles.”
A few of the highlights and crowd favorites from the afternoon included the following:
The Dreyer family performed together with husband and wife, Scott and Deborah, singing a duet, “How Beautiful,” accompanied by David Dreyer, Lewis’s former piano student of several years.
Zach Baldwin mesmerized the audience with his fluency and dexterity on Chopin’s “Waltz in D-Flat Major”, Op. 64, No. 1. “Zach is one of my newer students, previously a student of Beth Meador who provided the instruction for his musical foundation,” Lewis said. “Zach won first place in the Instrumental (Piano) Category for the Bland Music Scholarship Competition. I feel privileged, excited, and thrilled to have the opportunity to continue Zach’s music education, helping him to further achieve his musical goals and dreams.
“In reference to the Bland Music Scholarship Competition, my voice student, Kim Hoyle, won first place in the Vocalist Category. Kim was among 12 of my students who participated in this contest.”
“Avengers” movie fans especially enjoyed Allie Watson’s “Avengers Medley” on the piano comprising her favorite musical moments from each movie.
“It was quite touching to salute the men and women who have served and who are currently serving in every branch of our Armed Forces during Sofia Gonzalez’ vocal ‘Armed Forces Salute (medley),’” said Lewis. “The crowd enthusiastically clapped to honor those who stood up to represent their particular branch of service.”
Rising seventh grader McKinley FiGart delivered “You Raise Me Up” with her powerful vocals in a mature fashion well beyond her years.
“Long-time students Chelie Plaster (a rising senior) and Bayla Kessler (a rising junior) both performed their piano and vocal solos with the confidence and musical maturity that comes from years of lessons,” said Lewis.
“I redundantly say this each year, but all 40 students deserve to be given individual mention if space could permit,” Lewis noted. “I started to make a list of all of the special awards and honors that I knew about for each student, and the list went on and on, realizing that I couldn’t recognize them all individually. Many of my students were presented with unique, special choir awards, band awards, scholarships, etc. They all deserve recognition in my eyes as I am proud of each and every student. Their performances as a whole even surpassed my expectations.”
Jamie Archual (Enoch Creek Productions) was, once again, the videographer for the recital, Greg Chewning, sound technician, and Eric Kessler, photographer.
Videos, photos, studio information, and more can be found on the Susan Lewis Music Studio on Facebook as well as YouTube.
Piano students performing at spring recital included: Nathan Gray with “The Muffin Man,” Carlyle Cieraszynski, “Batter Up,” Jayda Baldwin, “Deep and Wide,” Rylee Warren, “I See the Light,” Kathryn Dodson, “I Just Can’t Wait to be King,” Carter Gray, “This Old Man,” Liam Cieraszynski, “When the Saints Go Marching In,” Lia MacCormack, “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” Colter Dean, “Alouette,” Abby Booth, “Circle of Life,” Beth Warren, “Open the Eyes of My Heart,” Scotlyn Leonard, “Linus and Lucy,”” Devin Ring, “Theme from Symphony No. 5,” Kendall Dodson, “Lost Boy,” Mia MacCormack, “Shine, Jesus Shine,” Savannah Werle, “Four Landlers, I and II,” David Nguyen, “Livin’ on a Prayer,” Andrea Gonzalez, “He’s a Pirate,” Bayla Kessler, “Romeo and Juliet,” Chelie Plaster, “Solfeggietto,” Madison Saunders, “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder,” Allie Watson, “Avengers Melody,” and Zachary Baldwin, “Waltz in D-flat Major, Op. 64, No.1.”
Voice students performing this year included: Skylar Thompson, “Part of Your World,” Jayda Baldwin, “Reflection,” Nolan Ferguson, “How Great Thou Art,” Ryleigh Woolwine, “He Knows My Name,” Abby Booth, “God Bless the USA,” Lia MacCormack, “A Thousand Years,” Makeyla Watson, “Fifty Nifty United States,” Emily Mower, “Naughty,” Sofia Gonzalez, “Armed Forces Salute,” McKinley FiGart, “You Raise Me Up,” Latriva Pierce, “Waving Through a Window,” Maggie Rusinak, “One Perfect Moment,” Bayla Kessler, “Rainbow,” Chelie Plaster, “Reckless Love,” Kim Hoyle, “I Didn’t Plan It,” Deborah Dreyer (piano and vocal in Chinese), “Sing a New Song to the Lord/To God’s Altar,” Scott Dreyer, “Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’,” Scott and Deborah Dreyer, accompanied by David Dreyer, “How Beautiful,” Madison Saunders, “Ave Maria, Op. 52, No. 6,” and “Always Remember Us This Way,” and Eva Pierce, “Im Herbst” and “Never Enough.”
Lewis teaches several other students who did not perform in the recital.
She has been teaching music in the Roanoke Valley since 1990. Music lessons get underway again the first week of June. Fall semester begins August 19.