By Debbie Adams
The Vinton Breakfast Lions Club hosted their seventh annual Bland Foundation Music Scholarship Competition at Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church on March 5. The Bland competition was established by the Lions Clubs of Virginia in 1948 to “assist and promote cultural and educational opportunities for the musically talented youth of Virginia.” Any elementary, middle, or high school student is eligible to participate. They may perform in the vocal or instrumental category, but not both. Presentations are limited to eight minutes and must be memorized.
The competition honors James Bland, deemed “the greatest black writer of American Folk Music” who composed over 700 songs throughout his career which began with building a banjo at age 12.
Sixteen contestants participated with vocal or instrumental performances this year, ranging from 8 years of age to seniors in high school.
Pianist Cary Jones won first place in the instrumental category performing “Lara’s Theme” from “Doctor Zhivago.” She is 14 and a 9th grader.
Baritone Paul Sealey placed first in the vocal category, singing “Stars” from the musical “Les Miserables.” He is 17 and a junior in high school.
Second place in the instrumental division went to Lilla Clark, age 8, and a second grader. She performed “Bundle of Joy” on the piano.
Third place in instrumentals was awarded to Selene Kelley, age 13, and an 8th grader. She played “Boatman” on the mountain dulcimer.
Second place in vocal performance went to Trey Saunders (bass), age 17 and a senior in high school. He performed “Sixteen Tons.”
Mezzo soprano Ryleigh Woolwine, age 10 and a 5th grader, was awarded third place in vocals, performing “Evil Like Me.”
Other participants in this year’s Vinton Lions Club Bland Music Scholarship Competition were:
- Pithiwat Kampanya, age 9, a fourth grader, performing “Country Dance” on the violin
- Lucy Sealey, age 11, a sixth grader, played “Minuet in G” on the piano.
- John Saben, age 11, a sixth grader, performed “Married Life” (piano)
- Lily Sealey, age 11, a sixth grader, played “Greensleeves” (piano)
- Brent Saunders, age 13, a seventh grader, sang “Red Ryder Carbine” (tenor)
- David Saben, age 13, an eighth grader, performed “Stereo Madness” (piano)
- Emily Mower, age 13, a seventh grader, sang “Someone in the Crowd” (alto)
- Sofia Gonzalez, age 14, a ninth grader, sang “So Much Better” (soprano)
- Ellawyn Pagan, age 15, a sophomore, played “Experience” (piano)
- Henry Saben, age 16, a sophomore, performed “Maybe” (piano)
Selene Kelley takes dulcimer lessons with music teacher Carla Fosbre. Pithiwat Kampanya, who came from Blacksburg to participate in the competition, is taught by Bridget Seidel. All of the others students take voice and/or piano lessons from Susan Lewis of the Susan Lewis Music Studio in Vinton.
First place winners advance to the Lions Club Regional Competition to be held in two weeks at Community Church in Salem. Regional winners advance to the Lions of Virginia State Competition where12 contestants compete from across the state. Over $25,000 is awarded annually in prizes at the local, district, and state level. At the state level, first place winners receive $3,000; second place winners, $2,500; third place winners, $2,000; and fourth through sixth places, $1,500.
Local winners receive monetary awards and certificates. First place winners in the March 5 competition received a check for $100; second place winners, $50; and third place winners, $25.
Judges for this year’s Vinton competition were Judy Barger Edgell and Doris McDonel, who served as vocal judges, along with Charles Krause and Roma Scriven, who evaluated the instrumental performances.
Barger Edgell has served as a Minister of Music in the Roanoke Valley for over 50 years and has taught private piano and voice lessons over the same period. She is currently president of the Thursday Morning Music Club, and also directs the chorus that performs at local organizations and venues. She is a graduate of Longwood University with a BA in Fine Arts and Masters Study with Radford University in vocal technique.
Krause has a Bachelor of Music in Education degree from VCU. He taught in Richmond before becoming an education consultant with Boykin’s Music Shop. He received his Master of Church Music and became the first graduate to serve in a full-time capacity as director of a church orchestra and the first to complete 25 years as a minister of instrumental music in a church. Krause has also played the tuba with the Richmond Symphony Brass Quintet and Opera Roanoke.
Doris McDonel has a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano and Voice from Shenandoah Conservatory of Music with a Master’s Degree in Music Education from Penn State. She has taught piano, general music, music arts, drama, and vocal music in schools for 28 years. She has received superior ratings and awards in competitions throughout Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. She remains active as a Director of Music for a church in the Roanoke Valley.
Roma Scriven earned a Bachelor’s Degree in piano performance and a Masters degree in Music History and Literature from Radford University. She has taught music lessons for over 43 years in the Roanoke area. She serves as pianist at Grandin Court Baptist Church. She is past president of the Virginia Music Teachers Association and the Roanoke Valley Music Teachers Association, and active in the Thursday Morning Music Club.
Lion Chris McCarty, Bland Contest chairman, welcomed guests to the competition. Lion Eric Mills served as Master of Ceremonies for the event. Lions Club Secretary Gary Myers, Treasurer Bob Benninger, and Dave Jones also play an important role in facilitating the competition each year.
Throughout interludes in the program when the judges were scoring performances, McCarty and Mills shared the history of the Bland competition and some facts about the numerous Vinton Breakfast Lions activities.
McCarty explained that the Breakfast Lions began hosting the Bland Competition because of the quality of local music programs—both private and at William Byrd High School. They thought they could “get a good turn-out of students” for the contest. McCarty said the local competition has turned out to be one of the top contests in the state for number of participants. He thanked music teachers Susan Lewis and Carla Fosbre for encouraging their students to take part each year.
Mills told the audience there are approximately 50,000 Lions Clubs in over 200 countries, with over 1.4 million members around the world—reportedly the largest service organization in the world. They celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2017.
The Vinton Breakfast Lions Club was chartered in 1985 and is part of Lions of Virginia District 24C. Its members fulfill their motto—“We Serve”—in community outreach in a multitude of ways throughout the year. They sponsor many fundraising events including a Pancake Breakfast during the Vinton Fall Festival and their Spaghetti Dinner traditionally prior to the Vinton Christmas Parade. Proceeds from all Breakfast Lions’ fundraisers go back into the local community and communities across the Commonwealth, the nation, and the world.
The local Lions are well-known for their broom sales which provides support for eyeglasses and eye exams for needy children.
One of their most important functions is sponsoring the Leo Club at William Byrd High School. Leo Club members, and their sponsor Lisa Stover, assist with virtually all Vinton Lions Club projects, including the music scholarship competition.
Each spring, the club awards five $1,000 Wallace Cundiff scholarships to seniors at William Byrd High School and also provides scholarships for Staunton River High School seniors.
The Breakfast Lions maintain the bright yellow eyeglass collection boxes at the Bonsack and Vinton Kroger. Donated eyeglasses are sorted by prescription by local Lions members at the Lions Eyeglass Recycling Center in Roanoke and then distributed around the world.
A main focus for Lions is youth. Each year the Breakfast Lions sponsor a Christmas Shopping trip for about 20 students from Herman L. Horn and W. E. Cundiff Elementary schools. The Lions also donate clothing and school supplies to the HLH, WEC, and Bonsack Elementary schools and art supplies to William Byrd High School.
The Lions Club participates in the Lions of Virginia Foundation which assists local Virginia communities in disaster relief.
The Breakfast Lions conduct vision screenings in many area schools and preschools—both private and public.
In the Vinton community, the Breakfast Lions have taken on legacy projects in the preservation of the historic Gladetown Cemetery, in building a picnic shelter for the community at Herman L. Horn Elementary and are now partnering with the Town of Vinton for a recreational project at the old Vinton Swimming Pool. They have also raised funds for Metro bus shelters at Kroger and PFG.