VINTON–The Susan Lewis Music Studio 2016 Spring Recital on June 11 once again did not disappoint, in fact, in a few years you could be buying tickets to hear some of her students perform.
Forty musicians, ranging in age from a few 4- and 5- year-old beginners through four adults, performed piano solos, voice solos, or both, in the sanctuary at Vinton Baptist Church.
Lewis’s students come from Roanoke, Bedford, Franklin, and Botetourt Counties, and Roanoke City, along with several private school and home-school students.
“It truly seems like each year the level of talent exceeds the previous recital—in part from the obvious progress that is so evident year after year,” said Lewis. “I am so thankful for the privilege of making a difference in my students’ lives. Henry Adams said it so beautifully: ‘A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.’”
Six seniors performed and were recognized by Lewis for their accomplishments.
Sydnee Ayers is a graduate of Staunton River High School who will be attending Liberty University. She has been a piano and voice student with Lewis for 14 years.
Highlights of Ayers’ performances included an “inspiring, beautifully arranged Hymn Medley of her favorites,” along with the closing vocal solo, Carrie Underwood’s “The Girl You Think I Am.” Her performance featured a touching slideshow dedicated to her father, Kevin Ayers.
Laurel Long is also a graduate of Staunton River, planning to attend Virginia Western Community College. She has been a piano student with Lewis for nine years and gracefully played the popular hit, “I Hope You Dance” for her senior piano solo.
Jeremy Slater is actually a junior at William Byrd High School, however, this was considered to be his senior recital because next year at this time he will be studying abroad in Macedonia as a Youth Ambassador for the United States Department of State. He has been taking voice and piano lessons with Lewis for six years. Slater accompanied himself on the piano, singing “Above the Clouds of Pompeii.” He dedicated the song to his late aunt.
Sarah Calhoun was this year’s salutatorian at Parkway Christian Academy with plans to attend Liberty University. She has been a voice student with Lewis for two years. She sang “Nella Fantasia,” a “Celtic Woman” song, as well as a duet of Alan Jackson’s arrangement of “I Love to Tell the Story,” with her brother Jacob, who also accompanied on guitar.
“Sarah and Jacob traded solos and harmonies, blending beautifully throughout,” noted Lewis.
Stephanie Felton is a William Byrd graduate with plans to attend Radford University. She has been taking piano lessons with Lewis for two years with a recent emphasis on voice as well. She played “Jacob’s Theme” from “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” as well as performing her first vocal recital solo, “Little Talks.”
Carly Sumpter of Fincastle and a Lord Botetourt graduate, has been studying voice with Lewis off and on since elementary school and will attend Radford.
“Her vocally challenging piece, ‘Astonishing,’ from ‘Little Women’ was performed with her lovely, unique tone and precision,” said Lewis.
While it is not possible to mention all of those who performed in a brief article, Lewis commented on several other stand-out performances from the recital.
“Pianist David Dreyer, one of my newer adult students, captivated the audience as he closed the piano portion with Liszt’s ‘Liebestraume,’ followed by a Dino Kartsonakis arrangement of ‘How Great Thou Art,’” said Lewis. “Spectacular is an understatement in describing his talent and technical versatility as a performer.”
“Savannah Amos’ performance of Adele’s ‘Hello’ was absolutely powerful,” said Lewis. “Her rich powerhouse vocal instrument was perfectly suited for this piece, and she did not disappoint with her impressive vocal delivery.”
Hope McCuin, a rising junior, also played a challenging piano solo, “My Tribute,” another Dino arrangement full of embellishments.
“She played with even more musical expression than she usually does, which definitely took her piece to a new level,” noted Lewis.
“Sisters Sarah and Jessica Christensen gave the show of their lives with their duet ‘What is This Feeling?’ from ‘Wicked,’” said Lewis. “This performance was a perfect example of students who are lovers and enthusiasts of Broadway, which was exemplified in their confident, emotion-filled storytelling performance.”
“The Kellam family of four very well-disciplined home school students is always a highlight of my recital for several years now,” said Lewis. “Susannah’s energy-driven, fun-filled piano solo, ‘I’ll Fly Away,’ was obviously a crowd favorite, along with older sister Bethany’s familiar, well-loved ‘Let It Go’ from ‘Frozen,’ the original, advanced piano solo.”
Tela Espelage confidently performed “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from “Funny Girl,” which received “Bravos” from the crowd.
“It is thrilling to witness the remarkable amount of progress Tela has made in just the last year,” commented Lewis. “As a rising sophomore, I look forward to what the next three years will bring.”
Among many inspirational moments was Bayla Kessler’s expressive vocal solo, “Rainbow Connection” in honor of her grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary.
“A student who has an obvious love and passion for his music is Jonathan Rivers,” said Lewis. “A piano and voice student, Jonathan especially touched the audience with his heartfelt performance of ‘Come as You Are.’ Soul-stirring emotion was felt throughout his touching performance.”
Leeann Williamson is a rising senior who has taken piano and voice from Lewis for ten years.
“Leeann made me especially proud with her rendition of Laura Story’s ‘Blessings,’” said Lewis. “Leeann has developed much poise, confidence, and musical maturity.”
Lewis also commended Karen Rigsby, an adult student and accomplished pianist, who for the first time performed a vocal solo while accompanying herself on the piano, singing, “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”
“Lastly, but certainly not least by any means, a solid, eloquent piano solo, Grieg’s ‘Piano Concerto in A Minor,’ was played by another adult student, Elizabeth Corbett,” said Lewis.
Lewis has been teaching piano and voice lessons in the Vinton area since 1990. Prior to that she served as a church music director in three churches in the Richmond/Hopewell area and then travelled as a concert/recording artist. She currently teaches private piano and voice lessons as well as summer piano and voice camps.
Many of Lewis’s students have gone on to careers in music as professional performers, school music teachers, and church music directors and musicians. Some of those include Luke Fortner, Skyler Vallo, Jaclyn Hayden, Ashley Coffey, Don Townsend, Katie Hall Saunders, Joanie Thurman Williams, Nora Benedict, and Sam Hubble.
Many of her former and current students perform regularly in their communities in musical theater, festivals, churches, school musicals, and pageants, winning numerous accolades. Quite a number have been selected for All District and All County choirs, the Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir, and more.
Lewis says that her teaching philosophy is to inspire, build confidence and encourage her students by “finding and nurturing the music in every student, all while providing a pleasant and fun learning experience.”
Lewis commended Randy Whitmer from Vinton Baptist as a “skilled sound technician” for his “diligent efforts from pre-rehearsal talks to recital’s end.”
This year’s recital may be viewed soon on YouTube on the Susan Lewis Music Studio Channel, produced by Jamie Archual Videography. Photos and videos are available on her Susan Lewis Music Studio Facebook page. She may also be reached at pianoandvoice @cox.net or at 540-890-3400.