Students with good ears (and hearts) compete in Lions event

Fifteen Rappahannock students competed Sunday in the Rappahannock County Lions Club annual music contest that displayed a wide array of talents and produced one touching moment of generosity amid competition.

Vocal contest participants included Matthiex Roger, back row, and front, from left, Bevin Forrest, Rachel Cieplak and Catharine Woodward.

An audience of about 75 persons at The Theatre in Washington witnessed aspiring musicians from first through 12th grade display their vocal and instrumental talents in the Lions’ 27th annual James A. Bland Music Competition. Ten students from the county’s public schools and five from Wakefield Country Day School in Flint Hill competed.

First-place winner in the high school instrumental group was Michelle Joanna White, an eigth- grader at RCHS, who gave a polished and lyrical performance of a challenging classical piece titled “La Flute de Pan.” Alexandra Cancio-Bello, a ninth-grade pianist from Wakefield, placed second, and third place was won by Evan Thomas Espinola, playing his alto saxophone. Heidi Marie Rechin, a senior RCHS trumpeter, and Brianna Caitlyn Winkworth, ninth- grade RCHS clarinetist, won honorable mention.

In the elementary school instrumental competition, Julia Katherine Wood, a sixth-grader at RCES, won first place playing “Waltz of the Fairies” on piano. Second place went to Kathleen Corry Forrest, who played a Bach minuet on flute. Placing third, on piano, was Kayla Courtney Robey, a fifth-grader at RCES. Honorable Mentions went to Jacob M. Love, an RCES fifth-grader on piano, Carolina Jill Leonard, a Wakefield sixth-grader on trumpet, and Jenna Ashley Robey, a first-grader from RCES, on piano.

Participants in the Bland music contest were, front row from left: Jenna Robey, Jacob Love, Kathleen Forrest; back row from left: Heidi Rechin, Michelle White, Julia Wood, Kyla Robey, Carolina Leonard, Briana Winkworth, Evan Espinola and Alexandra Cancio-Bello.

In the vocal competition among elementary school students, Matthieux Roger took first place with his version of “I’ll Be There,” with his mother Regine Roger accompanying on piano. Second place for vocals went to Rachel Marie Cieplak, a third-grader at Wakefield, and Catherine Brooke Woodward, another Wakefield third-grader, took third place. Honorable mention went to Bevin Bridget Forrest, in second grade at RCES. There were no vocal competitors at the high school level.

About midway through the program came a moment that might have been awkward but turned into a moment of grace. When Kathleen Forrest was called to perform, she approached Master of Ceremonies Norman Getsinger and whispered something in his ear. It seems she had dropped her flute and damaged it, and was not sure she could play. Getsinger asked her if she’d like to be excused, but Kathleen said no, she wanted to try.

She tried, but the flute would not cooperate, emitting only some raspy breathing. At that point, Michelle White arose from the audience and offered her flute to Kathleen. It was a generous gesture that was immediately accepted, and Kathleen went on to play Michelle’s flute beautifully. The audience applauded loudly, and the judges later officially recognized Michelle’s kindness to a competitor.

The two top winners, Michelle White and Matthieux Roger, are eligible to compete at the next level of the Lions’ statewide competition. The Bland music contest is named after James A. Bland, a 19th-century African-American minstrel and music composer who wrote more than 700 songs, including Virginia’s state song, “Carry Me Back to Ol’ Virginny.”

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About James P. Gannon 21 Articles
James P. Gannon is a retired journalist who lives near Flint Hill. In his newspaper career, he served as a reporter and bureau chief at The Wall Street Journal, as Editor of The Des Moines Register in Iowa, and as Washington Bureau Chief for the Detroit news and a columnist for the Gannett newspapers.