The Vinton Breakfast Lions Club hosted its second Bland Foundation Music Scholarship Competition at Thrasher Memorial on March 4. Sixteen students in grades 3-12 performed in both vocal and instrumental categories with winners advancing to the regional competition.
There were vocal performances by Bayla Kessler, Eva Pierce, Latriva Pierce, Emily Wheeler, McKinley FiGart, Caleb Meyer, Luke Wyatt, and Tiffany Kingery. Students performing piano solos included Andrea Gonzalez, Allie Watson, Mia MacCormack, Adi Iyer, Riley Scott Rothwell, Selene Kelly, and Zach Baldwin. Alia Wildman performed on violin.
The winning vocalists were: first place, Eva Pierce; second place, Luke Wyatt; honorable mention, Bayla Kessler.
Winning instrumentalists were: first place, Aila Wildman; second place, Zach Baldwin; and honorable mention, Riley Rothwell.
Winners from this competition advance to the regional competition at the Central United Methodist Church in Salem on April 15.
Winners of the regional competition will go to the Lions District 24E competition on April 29, also to be held at Central United Methodist. Winners there move on to the Lions of Virginia state competition at the Lions of Virginia Annual Convention in Richmond in May.
Vinton Breakfast Lions Chris McCarty, chairman of the Bland Scholarship Talent Competition program, and club secretary Doug Adams organized the competition.
McCarty opened the program and introduced emcee Bootie Chewning, who led off by urging the audience to contact local schools and legislators to encourage them to put an emphasis on the fine arts in public schools. At the end of the performances, she sympathized with the judges on the difficulty of choosing the winners from such a talented group of performers and commended all the musicians for their talent and performances, saying, “Anyone who even steps foot on a stage is a winner.”
Eleven of the performers are students of Susan Lewis– eight vocalists and three piano students. She has been teaching vocals and piano in the area for about 25 years and works with over 40 students.
Lewis accompanied her student vocalists on piano as they performed:
- Bayla Kessler led off the program with a vocal performance of “The Life I Never Led,” She is a freshman at William Byrd High School.
- Eva Pierce sang the aria “Pietá Signore!” (O Lord Have Mercy) by Alessandro Stradella. She is a junior at William Byrd and has performed in Star City Playhouse productions and at the Vinton Fall Festival. She also appears in productions with William Byrd and played the role of Mother Superior in last year’s production of “Sister Act.”
- Latriva Pierce sang “Memory.” She is in the seventh grade at William Byrd Middle School.
- Emily Wheeler performed “Winter Snow” from the movie “Frozen.” She is a junior at William Byrd.
- McKinley FiGart, a fifth grader at Bonsack Elementary, performed “In Summer.”
- Caleb Meyer sang “Close Every Door.” He is a senior at Hidden Valley High School.
- Luke Wyatt, a senior at Staunton River High School, sang “Santa Fe.”
- Tiffany Kingery performed “You Raise Me Up.” She is a fifth grader at Windy Gap Elementary.
Piano students of Lewis included Andrea Gonzalez who performed “Prelude in C Major,” on the piano. She is a freshman at WBHS.
Allie Watson played the piano solo, “Michael Meets Mozart.” She is a sophomore at Northside High School
Mia MacCormack, a fifth grader at Parkway Christian Academy, played “As the Deer” on the piano.
Several students of music teacher Carla Fosbre took part in the competition, including Adi Iyer who performed a piano solo, “Nocturne in E Flat Major.” He is currently a freshman at WBHS and the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School.
Riley Scott Rothwell, an eighth grader at ‘Read Mountain Middle School, performed “Sonata in C Minor” on the piano.
Eight-year-old Selene Kelly played “Spanish Caballero.” She is a third grader at Buchanan Elementary.
Eighth grader Zach Baldwin played Mozart’s “Rondo Alla Tulca.” His piano teacher is Beth Meador. He is a student at William Byrd Middle School.
The program concluded with a performance by Aila Wildman playing the “Bruch Concerto for Violin in G Minor Movement” by composer Max Bruch. She studies classical violin with Benedict Goodfriend, a violinist with the Kandinsky Trio. She is a freshman who is homeschooled. She plays with the Roanoke Youth Symphony Orchestra and won third place in the historic Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention in 2016.
First place winners received a certificate, a check for $50 from the Breakfast Lions Club, and a $30 gift certificate from the Valley Music Store.
Second place winners received a certificate, a check for $30 from the Breakfast Lions, and a $20 gift certificate from Valley Music.
The Bland Foundation Music Scholarship 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, junior, or senior high school student is eligible to participate. Over $25,000 is awarded annually in prizes at the local, regional, district, and state level. The Virginia Lions are the only Lions organization to conduct the talent competitions.
The “Bland Contest” is held in honor of songwriter James “Jimmy” Bland, composer of over 700 songs, including “Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny,” which was for many years Virginia’s state song.
Bland was born in 1854, a free black American. He taught himself to play the banjo and earned spending money by singing and playing in the streets of Washington, D.C. By age 14, he had become a professional and entertained in hotels and restaurants. He began composing at age 15, writing “Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny” when he was 19. He eventually performed for President Grover Cleveland, General Robert E. Lee, and Queen Victoria.
Judges for the Bland competition included Barry Green and Grant Frederick, Ministers of Music at Bonsack Baptist, Thrasher Minister of Music and Valley Music Store owner Josh O’Dell, and Kimberly Faber, pianist from Roanoke Valley Bible Church.
The Vinton Breakfast Lions Club was chartered in 1985; its members are true servants of the community. Lions are perhaps most well known for their ongoing eyeglass collection project. The public is asked to donate discarded glasses in the large yellow collection boxes at the Vinton and Bonsack Kroger stores, as well as in several local businesses/ The eyeglasses are sorted by prescription by local Lions Club members at the Lions Eyeglass Recyling center in Roanoke and distributed around the world.
The Breakfast Lions also sell brooms as a fundraising project, participate in the White Cane Project, host the annual Pancake Breakfast at the Vinton Fall Festival and the Spaghetti Dinner at the Vinton Christmas Parade, and sponsor a Reverse Raffle each year.
They support Diabetes Awareness, JDRF, the Hearing Foundation at UVA, the Service Dog School, and William Byrd student scholarships. They partner with the fire department to provide free smoke alarms for local residents, and a host of other community service projects which come to their attention. The Breakfast Lions make Christmas happier for local children with a shopping trip to a local department store each year.
There are 46,000 Lions Clubs with over 1.4 million members around the world.
Photos of all the performers are available on the Vinton Messenger Facebook page.