** This story was published Nov. 2, 2008 in the Bristol Herald Courier. **
Coming down the runway, M. Zane Myers.
Most days, Myers serves as executive director of Kingsport, Tenn.-based Symphony of the Mountains. Music classifies as a passion of his. Boy, is it ever.
You see, Myers will participate in the fashion show end of the Bristol Music Club's Autumn Serenade on Nov. 14 at Central Presbyterian Church in Bristol, Va. The program also includes coffee served and music performed by a talented batch of young local musicians. The point: to raise money to fund the longtime organization's annual round of scholarships.
"This is my first time down the runway," Myers said with a laugh. "I just hope I don't fall on top of anyone."
Fall or not, 16-year-old Benjamin Dawson of Abingdon, Va. sure appreciates his and the efforts of others. A violinist since age 9, he is a five-time recipient of the club's scholarship and hopes to win another. "It's a great incentive to practice," Dawson said.
The budding composer will perform one of his original pieces at the show. Accompanied with his 13-year-old, cello-playing sister Bethany and pianist Zachary Hughes, Dawson said he looks forward to the performance.
"The Bristol Music Club members are very encouraging," he said.
Founded in 1914, the Bristol Music Club started funding scholarships geared to school-age children interested in music education in 1964. Last year's list of scholarships awarded amounted to about $4,000 spread through four divisions, said club president Phyllis Crabtree.
"This is our main emphasis, the scholarship program," Crabtree said. "We consider music to be very important for the children."
Divisions are grades 4-6, 7-9, 10-12 and graduating seniors who intend to pursue music in college. Winning amounts may only amount to $100, but could rise to more than $1,000, depending on donations and other factors. Strings are not attached. Recipients may spend the money as they wish, as long as it's music related. "It's more like a grant," Crabtree said.
Whatever the amount, music education does not come cheaply. Costs for lessons, sheet music and particularly instruments can far exceed a family's budget. So such area organizations as Symphony of the Mountains each year help the Bristol Music Club raise funds for their annual benefit.
"It's impossible for a child to [pay the costs] on their own," Myers said. "This is like an army behind them. The Bristol Music Club are the generals, and we're the soldiers behind them."
Imagine. A child musically gifted yet whose dreams go unquenched. "That happens when an at-risk or poor child can't afford music instruments," Myers said. "It's tragic not only for the child, but it's also tragic because we might not have done enough to help them. We have to make sure we do everything we can."
IF YOU GO
What: The Bristol Music Club presents Autumn Serenade: A Scholarship Benefit with Coffee, Fashion Show and Musical Program
When: Nov. 14, 2008 at 10 a.m.
Where: Central Presbyterian Church, Central Hall, 301 Euclid Ave., Bristol, Va.
Info: (423) 764-9490 or (276) 669-0941