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Musicians compete for scholarships

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Columbus resident Janie Gordon has sung or taught vocal music for more than 30 years. But when the Brown Music Scholarship competition begins Saturday, she will feel maybe even more nerves than her several students performing before top music school judges at First Christian Church.

“Oh my gosh, yes,” Gordon said with a laugh. “I take every breath with them.”

The 50 high school students competing for $21,000 in private music lesson scholarships, music camp scholarships and college scholarships hope to sing and play well enough to take judges’ breath away.

The Anna Newell Brown Awards for Vocal Excellence were established through the Heritage Fund in 1985 by the late Robert N. and Betty Brown to honor Mr. Brown’s mother, Anna Newell Brown. She was a distinguished vocalist and contributed greatly to the cultural life of Bartholomew County. The scholarships aim to encourage formal vocal and music education for county students.

Robert Brown was longtime chairman of Home News Enterprises, parent company of The Republic.

The Betty F. Brown Awards for Instrumental Excellence were established in 1991 by Robert Brown in memory of his wife, Betty. She was a well-known local and statewide advocate and patron of the arts. The Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County administers the program.

Jeff Brown, the Browns’ son and president and CEO of Home News Enterprises, said his parents would be especially impressed today. The competition has spawned a number of full-time music artists, from Julianna Jerome-Drerup, who performed in European opera and elsewhere, to sax player Cam Collins, performing all over the Northeast and more.

“I think both of them would have been amazed at the longevity of this contest at close to 30 years and the numbers of kids impacted,” Brown said.

“But the contest’s success lies with the work of many — the high schools, the parents, the music teachers, the judges, the Heritage Fund and others. Without broad-based community support, this contest would not have survived its first year.”

Columbus East High School junior Kelly Langevin entered both the instrumental and vocal competition last year for the first time with only a short time to prepare and earned a $500 vocal scholarship. This time, the pianist and mezzo-soprano has nearly a year of practice behind her for her two vocal pieces — one by Johannes Brahms and one by Henry Purcell — and one instrumental number by Felix Mendelssohn.

“It kind of gives me a different perspective this time,” said Langevin, a member of her school’s marching band, jazz band and concert band, plus the a capella choir. “I want to be able to pursue music as much as possible.”

Gordon said judges’ feedback allows students to take those critiques back to their teachers and improve.

“Even for me as a choir director,” Gordon said, “it just helps to set the bar a little higher.”

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