By Debbie Adams
Each spring students of the Susan Lewis Music Studio present a recital, usually at a Vinton venue, attended by their proud and cheering families and friends. That tradition was not possible this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, but teacher Susan Lewis and her students were not deterred. They elected for a virtual recital to celebrate and finish up the school year.
“Due to COVID, the 2020 recital planning season was quite challenging to say the least,” said Lewis. “Two different facilities with two different dates over a month apart had to cancel our scheduled recital.
“The students had worked way too hard to just cancel it, especially with four seniors and two college students,” Lewis said. “Finally, I contacted my videographer, Jamie Archual of Enoch Creek Productions, and asked if we could do the videography at my studio and post online later–essentially a virtual recital. He said we could make that happen and Saturday, June 27, we did just that!
“Thankfully, just weeks before, I had upgraded to a new soundboard, cordless microphone, and had my piano tuned,” Lewis added. “Just two days before the scheduled videography, one of my speakers blew out, and I purchased two new ones to ensure the best experience possible.”
Students were each assigned an individual time for the recording of their performances at the studio so as to maintain social distancing. Families were not able to watch but will be able to see the performances online soon on YouTube and Facebook.
“While the creativity was going on inside, I was blessed to have my two college students, Madison Saunders and Tes Smith, handling things outside such as parking, checking students in, etc. They volunteered to do this after doing their performances first. Both of these ladies are extremely talented and even surpassed my expectations.
“It is so hard year after year to even put into words how truly proud I am of every single one of my piano and voice students,” Lewis commented. “There is an incredible amount of talent on display, and I can honestly say that some of the area’s finest talent is among these students.”
Each year at the Spring Recital, Lewis showcases her graduating seniors and continued this tradition in this un-traditional year.
“Chelie Plaster, a 2020 graduate of William Byrd High School, has been my piano student since the age of 3, and added voice lessons soon after,” said Lewis. “She will be swimming for Wingate University. Chelie has been a consistent, dedicated music student for all these years, realizing the importance of her music education, along with her academics and athletic swimming. I am incredibly proud of and love this young lady. She gave me the most beautiful custom hand painted sign for my music studio with a heartfelt message on the back. How I will miss her!
“Oliver Sealey is a 2020 graduate of Hidden Valley High School and one of my newer voice students who has been accepted into ODU’s Diehn School of Music, along with a music scholarship,” Lewis said. “He was awarded the highest honor of 1st Delegate (Bass) for the All Virginia State Chorus. Oliver was also the 1st Place Vocal Winner at the Bland Music Scholarship Competition. He moved on to the District/Region Competition where he was the 2nd Place Vocal Winner. An amazing young man!
“Allie Watson is a 2020 Graduate of Northside High School and has been a year-round piano student for seven years,” Lewis said. “She is a valedictorian with a 4.1 GPA. Allie’s future plans include attending the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and majoring in Marine Biology. Allie’s strengths include her positivity, focus, and being a well-grounded hard worker. She is a big fan of the acapella group, Pentatonix, and has performed arrangements of several of their songs as well as The Piano Guys piano solos. I am thrilled she will be continuing lessons this summer before she goes away to college.
“B.J. Armes is a 2020 graduate of Salem High School and another one of my newer voice students,” Lewis said. “He will be attending Bluefield College in the fall as a Vocal Performance Major. His melodious tenor voice was quite evident in his spring recital piece, ‘You’ll Be Back’ from ‘Hamilton’ as well as his Christmas recital song, ‘Mary, Did You Know?’ I am so thrilled to have him among my numerous former students who have chosen to major in music.”
Piano students performing at the 2020 Susan Lewis Music Studio Spring Recital included: Deon Staunton with “The Muffin Man”; Carlyle Cieraszynski, “It’s a Small World”; Nolan Ferguson with “I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy”; Rylee Warren, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” (from Frozen); Kathryn Dodson, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” Ryleigh Woolwine, “Jesus Loves Me,” Liam Cieraszynski, “Great Balls of Fire”; Lily Sealey, “Animal Band”; Cary Jones, “The Pink Panther”; Colter Dean, “A Million Dreams” (from The Greatest Showman); Scotlyn Leonard, “The Can-Can”; Beth Warren, “Lean on Me”; Lexi Williamson, “Here I Am to Worship”; Abby Booth, “Enter Sandman,” (Metallica); Kendall Dodson, “Fight Song”; Landon Hodges, “Victory in Jesus”; Latriva Pierce, “Fairy Tale Theme”; Madison Saunders, “Falling”; Chelie Plaster, “Go Rest High on that Mountain”; Elizabeth Becker, “Maple Leaf Rag”; Allie Watson, “Bohemian Rhapsody”; Andrea Gonzalez, “The Storm-Opus 109, No. 13”; and Zachary Baldwin, “Sonata No. 11, K.33: III. Rondo Alla Turca.”
Voice students performing this year included: Rylee Warren, “A Whole New World”; Jayda Baldwin, “How Far I’ll Go,” (from Moana); Nolan Ferguson, “America the Beautiful”; Ryleigh Woolwine, “Remember”; Emily Mower, “Almost There” (From Princess and the Frog); Sofia Gonzalez, “ Speechless,” (from Aladdin;, Paul Sealey, “Upside Down,” (from Curious George accompanied by Simon Sealey on guitar); Lexi Williamson, “Make You Feel My Love,” (accompanying herself on the piano); Kelly Ronan, “This is Me,” (from The Greatest Showman); McKinley FiGart, “Into the Unknown,” (from Frozen 2); Zachary Baldwin, “ How He Loves,” (accompanying himself on the piano); Latriva Pierce, “A Change in Me,” (from Beauty and the Beast: Broadway Musical); Simon Sealey, “Waving Through,” (from Dear Evan Hansen); Abby Shelton, “Think of Me,” (from Phantom of the Opera); B.J. Armes, “You’ll Be Back,” (from Hamilton); Chelie Plaster, “Blessings,” (accompanying herself on the piano) and “You Say”; Oliver Sealey, “Confutatis Requiem” and “Music of the Night,” (from Phantom of the Opera); Madison Saunders, “Anyone” and “Forever Young”; Tes Smith, “All I Want,” (from High School Musical 2019) and “Let it Go,” (from Frozen).
Students who were unable to participate in the recital included Skylar Thompson, Nathan Gray, Carter Gray, and Chloe Hopkins.
Lewis has been teaching music in the Roanoke Valley since 1990.
The Susan Lewis Music Studio Spring Recital will be available for viewing (posted individually) on her YouTube Channel: Susan Lewis Music Studio. There will also be pics/posts on her Susan Lewis Music Studio Facebook page later as well.