Lance Downing, a countertenor, handbell ringer, and pianist, garnered regional acclaim while still in high school for his fascination with and playing of handbells and an innate ability to compose music for that group. In his college years his ability as a singer with an unusual voice led to his majoring in that performance area.
Lance was born in Miami, Florida, and raised in Mount Vernon, Ohio, the older of two children and the only son of Laurence Allan and Jennifer Frank Downing. He recently wrote about his early training in music and activity in music at school:
My grandmother started me on piano lessons when I was in second grade and I continued them through seventh grade. Beginning in our earliest years, my sister Leslie and I also sang for churches.
I started playing as an accompanist in middle school and continued through my college years. While at Mount Vernon Academy I became the pianist for the academy church and for one year was special music coordinator. I became interested in handbells during this time and discovered I really loved the ringing experience. I enjoyed the making of music as a team in handbell choir and the touring we did in the Midwest, East Coast, Canada, and Jamaica. During my senior yearI also played piano for a small Methodist church near the academy and directed a grade school handbell choir in my senior year before graduating in 2009.
During his academy years Lance wrote four compositions for handbell choir: “Forever in Our Hearts,” written for the fifth anniversary of 9/11; “Cascata di Cristallo”; “The Voyage of the Magi”; and “The Angels Sang Glory.” One of these works was also performed by the Shenandoah Valley Academy Ringers. He was particularly inspired by his handbell director, Linda Taber, and was chosen as Handbell Ringer of the Year in his senior year.
Although he planned to study industrial design, hoping to be a car designer, he instead changed his mind during his first summer at Walla Walla University and pursued a music major in voice and choir, graduating summa cum laude with a B.Mus. Ed in 2013. Lance was inspired by his voice teacher, Christine Janis, and singing in the choir under Kraig Scott. He was awarded the Gene and Betty Soper Music Scholarship, the most prestigious music scholarship at WWU, in 2012.
Downing is a frequent soloist and while a student at WWU was admired by his fellow students for his ability to sing the traditional music associated with a voice major as well as his ability to be a creative stylist with popular music. He is presently working as a cantor at St. Thomas More Parish in Spokane, Washington, while completing his student teaching and serving as a Taskforce worker at Upper Columbia Academy.
Sources: The Columbia Union Visitor, August 2009, 12; Information provided by Lance Downing, June 2013; personal knowledge.