Scholarship winner gives back to the community

Students tuned their cellos and warmed up their fingers on a grand piano in the main lobby of Patriot’s Colony while preparing for the Lions Club Band Music Scholarship Competition. Despite their calm expressions, the young musicians posed an air of nervousness. One judge smiled at the students, remembering what it was like to be in their shoes.

s Caroline Scruggs was a winner of the Lions Club Bland Music Scholarship Competition in 2010. Since then she has earned a bachelor of arts in vocal performance, traveled the world and now performs and teaches music for a living.

Scruggs said her experience in the Lions Club competition was a pivotal point in her musical career. While she had played the violin and the piano since a child, Scruggs said she finally convinced her mother to let her start singing when she was 16. She said the Bland Competition was the first time she sang publicly, and it went better than she expected.

“It was the first competition where I kept winning every level, and I was amazed. I did not expect it at all,” Scruggs said. “I was just like ‘You know, I think I really could do this for a living.’ It was a big confidence booster for me and it really jump-started my passion for singing.”

After the competition, Scruggs went to Christopher Newport University for vocal performance, where she was classically trained. Through her career, Scruggs has performed musical theater, opera and now, Scruggs sings jazz music with the bands 504 Supreme and the Truetone Honeys. Scruggs said she makes a large portion of her income from performing and the rest from teaching music in the Richmond and Hampton Roads area.

“It’s been really, really lucrative for me, and I’ve been able to be really successful,” Scruggs said. “I want to be that person that tells (students) you can totally be successful no matter what you do. If you're really passionate about (music), you can make it work in some way, when a lot of the world I think tells kids ‘That’s really nice what you’re doing but you need to stop and grow up and be realistic.’ ”

This was the first year Scruggs judged at the competition. She said she is giving back to the community by helping young people improve their music. Something that helped Scruggs grow most during the Bland competition was the critique she had gotten from judges.

“I think my experience is definitely going to lend a huge amount to the critique that (the students) will receive,” Scruggs said.

Ten years after winning, Scruggs gave a guest performance of the song “Georgia on my mind” at the Bland competition.

“It’s all coming back full circle, which is super fulfilling for me,” Scruggs said.

Amelia Heymann can be reached by email at, or on twitter @HeymannAmelia.

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