Students of the Susan Lewis Music Studio once again delighted families, friends, and guests with piano and vocal performances at their annual spring concert.
Lewis’s students range in age from barely 3 years to adult, and in performance skills from “adorable” to powerful and accomplished. The June 9 concert at Thrasher Memorial featured a wide range of genres and ability levels from “Yankee Doodle” on piano to the classical Ständchen (Serenade) by Schubert.
“The students and I were thrilled to turn around at the start of the recital and see a full house!” said Lewis. “I could not have been more pleased with the students’ performances.
“Several of my students are beginners this year and this was their first recital,” Lewis said. “In fact, due to numerous seniors graduating the past several years, the newer students coming in actually make up the youngest overall class I have ever had. These beginners have made incredible progress in a short time.
“It has been such a special treat to work with identical triplets, Ella, Brooklynn, and Alex Amos,” said Lewis. “They motivate each other and absolutely love their music. To be so young (age 7), they have excellent practice habits and give great attention to musical details.”
Lewis applauded Savannah Werle, who “after only a few months of formal lessons, played a piece well advanced for her age and length of instruction, with beautiful expression, Bach’s ‘Solfeggio in D Major.’
“There are many longtime students, such as Chelie Plaster, whom I’ve been teaching since age 3,” Lewis noted. “Chelie had nearly flawless performances both at the piano and vocally with ‘Arabesque’ by Burgmüller and ‘O’ Lord.’ As an extremely busy elite swimmer, I am most proud of Chelie for making sure to find the time to continue her music. It hasn’t been easy, but she always finds a way to make it all work.”
This recital was also the debut of rising senior Emily Wheeler’s piano medley of her original songs titled “Petrichor.” Wheeler was one of the eight students to perform on both piano and vocals and delivered a heartfelt, jazz arrangement of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
The piano portion of the program ended with rising junior, Allie Watson, and her favorite “Piano Guys” piece, “Michael Meets Mozart,” described by Lewis as “a very difficult and challenging piece played by memory.”
“The vocal portion of the recital opened with an absolutely entertaining preschooler, Sky’e Fermin, who had her third birthday just days before the recital,” Lewis shared. “Her passion for music was evident as she sang ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ with energy and excitement.”
Sisters Lia and Mia MacCormack delighted the audience with a unique performance of Lia singing “Here I Am to Worship” accompanied by Mia on the piano.
Guests clapped along to performances by 4-year-old Nolan Ferguson singing “I Will Call upon the Lord,” and 5-year-old Ryleigh Woolwine’s vocal solo, “He’s Still Workin’ on Me.”
“A young student with a voice mature beyond her years is Tiffany Kingery who beautifully sang Francesca Battistelli’s ‘If We’re Honest,’” said Lewis.
McKinley FiGart delivered a powerful vocal performance of the touching song “A Million Dreams” from “The Greatest Showman,” one of three songs from the hit movie musical in the recital.
“Sisters who have made incredible progress are Eva and Latriva Pierce,” said Lewis. “Eva sang the classical piece ‘Ständchen’ with her beautiful soprano voice, exhibiting great skill and control. Latriva delivered a lovely presentation of ‘How High Can I Fly?’ These young ladies are two of the most conscientious, dependable students I have ever taught.”
This spring Eva Pierce won first place in the Bland Foundation Music Scholarship regional competition and third place in district competition.
Lewis expressed her pride in her longtime student, Bayla Kessler.
“She never ceases to amaze me with her musical accomplishments and is another student with a great work ethic,” Lewis commented. “She is excited about increasing to one-hour lessons in the fall (as am I) which will aid in her amazing progress.
“I cannot emphasize how proud I am of my adult students who chose to perform and share their talents– all due to their love and passion for music,” said Lewis. “Adults, it is never too late to begin or continue music lessons.
“I truly wish there was room to list every single student and their songs, because they surely deserve it,” said Lewis. “I just want them to know that I am equally proud of each and every student!”
The finale of the recital was a fast paced, energetic duet, “The Other Side” from “The Greatest Showman,” featuring seniors Caleb Meyer and Luke Wyatt, recognized by Lewis at the conclusion of the recital.
“Caleb and Luke were serious, dedicated students to their music this past year,” said Lewis. “Their future potential is limitless!”
Wyatt recently graduated from Staunton River High School second in his class and attended the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School for four years. He has been involved with community theatre and school musicals, and recently had the role of Captain Hook in the musical, “Peter Pan Jr.” at SRHS.
He plans to attend George Washington University to major in political science and continue with the performing arts, possibly in one of the local a cappella groups on campus and in community theatre.
“Luke’s mellow, baritone voice was perfectly suited for his vocal solo, ‘Santa Fe’ from ‘Newsies,’” Lewis said.
He also performed the vocal duet, “Rewrite the Stars” from “The Greatest Showman” with Bayla Kessler.
Meyer is a 2018 graduate of Hidden Valley High School. In addition to his talent in music, he was named First Team District soccer goal keeper. He began writing music at the age of 6, performs at local restaurants, in community theatre, and in school musicals. He was selected to sing his original song, “Time” at the Hidden Valley High School Baccalaureate Service. He sang the vocal solo in the recital as well, fitting lyrics as a senior about beginning a new chapter in your life.
He plans to attend Liberty University to major in music production and minor in his first love– musical theatre.
Lewis also recognized her special guest and former student Luke Fortner, who was 6 years old when he began lessons with her. When most children were asking for toys on special occasions, Fortner was accumulating musical equipment and a stage in his basement. He credits Lewis with building the foundation of his career.
Fortner graduated recently from Liberty University with a Bachelor of Music degree, majoring in Commercial Music with a specialization in Artist Development. His Virginia-based, contemporary Christian and worship band Relinquish kicked off their summer tour at Bonsack Baptist, with 50 performances scheduled up and down the East Coast and a new CD, “Faith Lets Me Believe.”
Lewis expressed special thanks to Greg Chewning for his sound technician skills, to Jamie Archual for videography, and to Thrasher Memorial “for the use of their lovely sanctuary.”
Lewis has been teaching music in the Roanoke Valley since 1990.
“Along with a positive, enthusiastic, and motivational teaching philosophy, it is extremely important to show students an enthusiasm for all musical styles,” said Lewis. “I believe that every student can reach their full potential, but part of that is realizing that all students learn at different paces and in various ways.”
This year’s recital may be viewed soon on YouTube on the Susan Lewis Music Studio Channel produced by Jamie Archual of Enoch Creek Productions. Photos, videos, and other music studio news are available on the Susan Lewis Music Studio Facebook Page.