Choral Director Susan Lewis is conducting her final Highlands Community Chorus concert on April 8, at 4 p.m. at Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts at South Florida State College in Avon Park. Tickets are available for $10 at the SFSC box office and online at http://www.sfscarts.org/shows.
Lewis is a native of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, where she began piano at the age of 6, and organ at Juniata College in Huntingdon as a high school freshman. During her junior year of high school, she was selected to receive a full summer scholarship to the prestigious organ department at Chautauqua Institute, Chautauqua, N.Y. She holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Music Education from Mansfield University, in Mansfield, Pennsylvania, with an organ major at both levels. Her minors were in voice and bassoon which she had played in the Highlands Symphonic Orchestra when it was in existence. She also studied at Potsdam University in Potsdam, N.Y. and Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey.
As a member of the American Guild of Organists, she has successfully completed the Service Playing and Colleague examinations, which are graded by distinguished organists from across the United States. For 27 years, she was a music teacher in the Montrose Area School District in Pennsylvania. Her teaching included elementary classroom and high school choral music. Her choral students were known for their exemplary accomplishments in state and national festivals. Many have become music teachers and performers, including Robyn Bennett in Paris as a vocalist of the acclaimed jazz group “Robyn Bennett and Bang Bang;” Robin Smirnov in London, an operatic mezzo-soprano; Todd Robinson and Eric Fleischer, bass operatic performers across the United States. Also, various choral groups gained awards including a silver medal at the Bermuda International Music Festival in 1995. Even though she was teaching full-time, she continued her organ performances in the Binghamton, New York area, which was near her home in Pennsylvania. Foreign recitals took her to Wales and the United Kingdom. Lewis has also taught music courses and voice at South Florida State College. She has served in churches beginning four weeks after her first organ lesson and has been serving continuously since that time as an organist, choir director, or both. She has been the choir director, hand bell choir director, accompanist and/or organist at numerous area churches including Spring Lake Presbyterian Church in Spring Lake; Union Congregational Church and Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Avon Park; and St. John Methodist Church, St. Agnes Episcopal Church and Emmanuel United Church of Christ in Sebring.
In the past, Lewis has conducted Crystal Notes at the Crystal Lake Club in Avon Park and Heartland Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at the Christmas performance of Handel’s Messiah.
This non-auditioned choral group was founded by Lewis in 1998 originally as the Heartland Community Orchestra Chorus, became the Highlands Community Chorus in 2003, is made up of 50-plus volunteer members from Sebring, Lake Placid, Avon Park and Frostproof, and performs twice a year.