By Debbie Adams
The Vinton Breakfast Lions Club hosted their sixth annual Bland Foundation Music Scholarship Competition at Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church on March 6. Thirteen contestants participated with vocal or instrumental performances, ranging in age from nine to seniors in high school.
Pianist Latriva Pierce won first place in the instrumental category performing “One Summer’s Day.”
Simon Sealey placed first in the vocal category, singing “You’ll Be Back” from the musical “Hamilton.”
Second place in the instrumental division went to Lexi Williamson who performed “Maple Leaf Rag.” Third place in instrumentals was awarded ti Lily Sealey who played “Arabesque—Op. 100, No. 2” on the piano.
Second place in vocal performance went to Brent Saunders singing, “If Only.” Ryleigh Woolwine was awarded third place in vocals, performing “Born to Entertain.”
Other participants in this year’s Vinton Lions Club Bland Music Scholarship Competition were:
- Aubri Kessler, singing “How Far I’ll Go”
- Sofia Gonzalez, singing “Reflection”
- Bruce Kelly, playing “Russian Sailor Dance”
- Lucy Sealey, playing “My Favorite Things”
- Sydney Thomas, playing “Solfeggio in D Major”
- Paul Sealey, singing “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”
- Carl Saunders, singing “My Way”
As first place winners, Pierce and Simon Sealey, will advance to the Lions Club Regional Competition to be held on March 20 at Community Church in Salem. Regional winners then advance to the Lions of Virginia State Competition on April 29 in Chesapeake, where usually twelve contestants compete. Over $25,000 is awarded annually in prizes at the local, district, and state level. At the state level, first place winners receive $3000; second place winners, $2500; third place winners, $2000; and fourth through sixth places, $1500. Local winners receive monetary awards and certificates.
Judges for this year’s Vinton competition were Dr. Chris Monroe and Kimberly Wilburn who served as vocal judges, along with Wanda Melchers and Wally Mayo who judged the instrumental performances.
Dr. Monroe is the Minister of Music at Vinton Baptist Church. Melchers is the owner and instructor of Melchers Piano Studio in Vinton. She is also a classroom teacher at Herman L. Horn Elementary School and serves as organist/pianist at Vinton Baptist.
Mayo has taught piano, high school choruses, and jazz band throughout his career. He is a substitute teacher in Roanoke County and Roanoke City Schools, mainly in music and the sciences and at Roanoke Catholic. Wilburn teaches piano and vocal lessons in the Roanoke Valley and has performed at Carnegie Hall.
Lion Chris McCarty welcomed guests to the competition. Lions Club District Governor (and also a member of the Vinton Lions Club) Eric Mills served as Master of Ceremonies for the competition. He oversees 59 Lions Club across the region. He, too, thanked those in attendance, and the families of performers who support their music education.
Throughout interludes in the program when the judges were scoring performances, Mills shared the history of the Bland competition and some facts about the Vinton Breakfast Lions activities.
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.
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 organizations in the world.
The Vinton Breakfast Lions Club was chartered in 1985. Its members serve the community in many 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. Lions are well-known for their broom sales and the White Cane Project which provides support for eyeglasses and eye exams for needy children, the Old Dominion Eye Bank, and Leader Dogs for the Blind. Proceeds from all Breakfast Lions’ fundraisers go back into the local community and communities across the Commonwealth, the nation, and the world.
One of their most important functions has become sponsoring the Leo Club at William Byrd High School which now has over 70 members. Leo Club members assist with virtually all Vinton Lions Club projects, including the music scholarship competition.
Each spring, the club awards scholarships to seniors at William Byrd High School and Staunton River High School.
The Breakfast Lions maintain the bright yellow eyeglass collection boxes in various Vinton locations. 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 at Herman L. Horn, W. E. Cundiff, and Bonsack Elementary schools. The Lions also donate school supplies to the 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 Lions are also active in the Hope To Walk project, which funds prosthetic limbs for individuals in third world countries. This program is based in Blacksburg and produces a new design of prostheses for those who lose limbs due to diabetes, cancer, trauma, and genetic or birth defects.
While commercial prosthetic legs can cost $10,000 to $25,000 each, Hope To Walk’s prosthetic leg costs $100 to make. The Lions Club has been partnering with Hope To Walk, fulfilling the Lions motto of “We Serve.” Mills says that Lions Clubs in the district have purchased 78-80 prosthetic legs so far.
In the Vinton community, the Breakfast Lions have been the leaders in the preservation of the historic Gladetown Cemetery, in building a picnic shelter for the community at Herman L. Horn Elementary, and in making plans for a recreational project at the old Vinton Swimming Pool. Plans are in the works for bus shelters at Kroger and PFG.