Singing for joy

Lainie Ewers has a lot to sing about. 

After winning the Georgia Symphony Orchestra’s Virtual to Center Stage talent competition in June, the Brenau University junior music major is set to perform as a featured soloist during the GSO’s Holiday Pops concert on Dec. 4 at the Marietta Performing Arts Center.

The opportunity to share the stage with the GSO was the top prize in the monthslong contest, which the Gainesville, Georgia, vocalist says was an exciting, though initially unexpected, experience. Ewers says her mother submitted a video of her performing Alessandro Scarlatti’s Le Violette for the first round of internal judging in March. While her mother eventually mentioned it in passing, Ewers says she did not think much of it at the time.

“A couple of weeks later, my mom ran into the room and said, ‘Lainie! Lainie! You made it to the next round!’ and I said, ‘Of what?’” Ewers recalls. “I was very confused.”

That confusion quickly turned to excitement as Ewers and her family began spreading the word to vote in the contest, which included two additional rounds of public voting on Facebook and YouTube. After advancing to the final round, Ewers and four others had to submit new performances — Ewers went with Handel’s Care Selve — and a panel of celebrity judges selected the overall winner and runner-up. 

Ewers, whose dream is to one day perform with the Atlanta Opera, says she was moved by the response of family, friends and the Gainesville and Brenau communities throughout the process. 

“It’s just such an overwhelming feeling of joy to know that everyone has been so supportive,” Ewers says. “Brenau has been such a loving place. Everyone here has nurtured me and helped me to grow into the performer that I am today, and they are the reason why I pushed so hard and eventually won this competition.”

In her final-round submission video, Ewers expressed what it means to her to share her voice with others. As someone who was born with Asperger’s, a form of autism that makes it difficult to pick up on social cues and communicate with others, she said music is her therapy.

“For me, music has been a helpful way to communicate with others because there is no misunderstanding as to what is being said or portrayed — which is why music brings me so much joy,” Ewers said.

Ewers says she is especially grateful for the support of Brenau’s music faculty. She has been passionate about music since the eighth grade and has only had that love grow thanks to teachers and professors like Barbara Steinhaus, chair of Brenau’s Music Department.

“Through my work with Lainie for the past two years, I have seen her successfully wrestle with a challenging Bach duet, reach artistically to conquer Handel arias, and this April she performed one of the strongest sophomore barriers in my 13 years at Brenau University,” says Steinhaus, adding that Ewers is not just a standout musically but academically as well.

In addition to her studies in music at Brenau, Ewers is minoring in psychology and maintains a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.

Brenau President Anne Skleder says she is looking forward to Ewers’ performance with the Georgia Symphony Orchestra.

“We are all so proud of Lainie for this wonderful accomplishment,” says Skleder, who reached out to congratulate Ewers on her win. “Lainie’s talent and dedication to her craft represent the best of Brenau and are a reflection of Brenau’s incredible performing arts programs and faculty.”

The Virtual to Center Stage competition was open to singers, dancers and musicians at least 8 years old who reside in Georgia. According to the contest website, finalists were judged on the quality of their performance, including ability, range, expression, showmanship, uniqueness and preparation.

Read more about Brenau University’s music programs at For more about the GSO and Virtual to Center Stage competition, visit

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