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Spring 2021 Recipient of Music Scholarship for Black Students

GVC Scholarship Winner has Overcome Heartbreak and Loss on Road to Success

Reginald Lewis
Reginald Lewis with a portrait he painted of his grandfather, Robert “Bootsie” Barnes.

We are happy to announce the first recipient of the Great Value Colleges Music Scholarship for Black Students. The $5,000 scholarship has been awarded to Reginald Lewis of Champagne, Illinois. 

Reginald is completing his doctoral of musical arts degree at the University of Illinois. He is also a performing musician, teacher, and jazz music scholar. Through the persistent pursuit of his dream, Reginald is an inspiration to many. He has overcome both rejection and personal loss to reach his goal of becoming a top musician and teacher, sharing his passion for music with others.

Reginald became interested in music in high school, inspired by his grandfather, Robert “Bootsie” Barnes, a legendary Philadelphia saxophonist. He was fortunate to take lessons from his grandfather for several years and graduated from Creative and Performing Arts High School in Camden, NJ as class salutatorian. Being a relative late-comer to music, Reginald entered college as a visual arts major. But his love of jazz and performing finally won out and he switched his major to music with a jazz emphasis. He earned his Bachelor of Music degree at Jackson State University, his Master of Music from the University of Manitoba, and is now a doctoral candidate of the DMA degree, Jazz Performance at the University of Illinois.

Over the years Reginald has taught, performed in his own jazz band and those of others, and made a brief appearance in the James Brown movie “Get on Up.”

While studying and away from home, Reginald continued to learn from his grandfather over the phone. But in spring 2020,  Robert “Bootsie” Barnes died of COVID-19. The loss was devastating to Reginald. He had dreams to record with his grandfather someday. He now has plans to record an album dedicated to his grandfather using his original band members from his great organ trios and quintets. He plans to make a name for himself as a tenor saxophonist, just like his grandfather.  And he is also doing his doctoral dissertation about his grandfather’s music, a goal he was able to discuss with his grandfather before his death. 

In his scholarship application essay, Reginald said, “With obtaining this DMA degree I plan to become one of the best jazz musicians and teachers in our world today. I am now playing to keep my grandfather’s legacy alive.”

We believe that Reginald Lewis, as a dedicated teacher and performer, will be an inspiration to generations of students and music lovers and we are honored to award this scholarship to him as a way to help him on his journey to success.

For more information about our Music Scholarship for Black Students, which is offered twice yearly to qualified students, click here.

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