Virginia Credit Union TV spot stars local talent
When Virginia Credit Union decided to produce television commercials featuring its members, among the stars who rose to the top in tryouts was Henrico resident Ronald Lanier.
Although he has long been active in the music ministry at Cedar Street Baptist Church, Lanier tends toward the sidelines and considers himself somewhat shy.
As director of the Virginia Department of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (VDDHH), he keeps a low profile as well, helping to coordinate statewide services for the hearing-impaired.
But when the call went out from VACU for members to strut their stuff at an audition, Lanier couldn’t pass it up. “I fit the criteria, and the rehearsals fit my own schedule,” he recalls.
What’s more, Lanier just plain loves to sing.
“Singing has been a part of me,” he says, “from way back.”
Lanier (pictured) showed up at the studio audition fully prepared to sing the National Anthem – a number he is comfortable with after opening a baseball game at The Diamond. But he expected only to sing, having read that dancing was an optional part of tryouts.
After hearing him sing a few lines, however, the judges asked him to dance.
“That I was not prepared for,” he says. “So I put on an embarrassing display of the Electric Slide!”
Henrico residents featured
More than 80 VACU members tried out for the commercial, according to Glenn Birch, director of public and media relations at VACU. The tryouts were held “American-Idol-style,” with local celebrities as judges. “Everyone had fun,” Birch says, “even the people who didn’t make it [into the commercial].”
One dozen members participated in the first commercial that began airing in March, and another dozen (including Lanier) starred in the second commercial that launched this month.
Among other participants with Henrico connections are Stacy Barnett, who teaches English at Highland Springs H.S., and Robbie Cunningham, an Eastern Henrico resident and self-employed jazz musician; both joined Lanier in the second commercial. Justin Morris of Glen Allen, a long-time member of the gospel group The Soulsters, was in the first commercial.
Now that the 30-second spot has been seen locally, Lanier says he is constantly recognized and asked for his autograph.
While the fame and the positive feedback have been rewarding, Lanier says the highlight of the experience was a conversation he had with VACU Vice President of Marketing Deb Wreden, about the importance of providing closed captioning for the commercial.
“She was quick to assure me that it would be done,” says Lanier, “as they had not even thought of it before.”
Captions for the grandkids
A native of Roanoke, Lanier was hit by a car as a child, and doctors discovered soon afterwards that he had suffered a hearing loss.
Between the hearing impairment and his shyness, it took some time for Lanier’s musical talents to come to light.
But, he says now, he always felt that he had something to offer vocally. In his senior year of high school he finally “took the big step” and joined the choir; before long, he was singing the occasional solo.
After moving to Richmond to attend Virginia Commonwealth University, he became a Henrico resident in the late 1970s, and has been a VACU member for 25 years.
Birch says that upon meeting Lanier, he was impressed not only by his efforts to advocate for closed captioning, but also by his commitment to “helping those with hearing difficulties navigate a culture that assumes everyone can hear.”
What’s more, says Birch, Lanier’s commitment to this goal extends beyond his professional interests to a family and personal level. Lanier and his wife adopted a deaf child, now 31; and their son has two children of his own, who are also deaf.
Lanier points out that lobbying for closed captioning does not just benefit those who are deaf and hard of hearing; it also makes sense from the advertiser standpoint.
“Seriously,” he says, “when television programs and commercials are captioned, you invite even more customers into the mix.”
But Lanier readily admits that captioning the VACU commercial benefits him personally as well, by allowing hearing-impaired family members to better appreciate the ad.
“I especially wanted my two grandkids,” he says, “to know what their grandfather is singing and dancing about!”
To view the VACU commercials, visit http://youtube.com/watch?v=sxv9WSKRCUY and http://youtube.com/VACreditUnion; or visit the Virginia Credit Union page on Facebook for photos and clips from the ads.
Holman Middle School student Victoria Nguyen recently was named Miss Virginia American Coed Junior Teen after competing in the Miss Virginia American Coed pageant in Williamsburg. She was the youngest competitor in her division. Nguyen now will advance to represent Virginia at the 2015 Miss American Junior Teen Pageant at Walt Disney World in Florida in November. > Read more.
Companion Extraordinaire Home Care and Skilled Services will be honoring veterans and current military members May 14 at 11 a.m. The event will take place at 5311 Lakeside Avenue.
Companion Extraordinaire dedicated a hall in its new Lakeside office as a “Wall of Honor” and will be presenting 13 military service men and women with certificates as well as placing their service photos on the wall.
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Public vote open through Friday to select winner
Citizen Staff Reports
Henrico resident Haley Malloy is one of three national finalists for a $10,000 scholarship, whose winner will be determined by the vote of the public.
Malloy is a finalist for The Goddard School Anthony A. Martino Scholarship, which is open annually to any high school junior or senior who graduated from a Goddard School pre-kindergarten or kindergarten program. Applicants are evaluated based upon the work ethic and perseverance they have demonstrated – two key characteristics of Martino, the founder of the Goddard School franchise system. > Read more.
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Disneynature’s ‘Monkey Kingdom’ is its strongest yet
“Did you know monkeys could swim?” asks Tina Fey in Monkey Kingdom. While she’s asking, a toque macaque (a two foot-long monkey with red-white fur and great hair) breast-strokes under the surface of a pond, yanking out lily pad flowers by her teeth and dragging them ashore to munch later.
Turns out monkeys can swim. And slide down telephone poles. And do the thing from Flashdance where you bring down a cascade of water on your head and shake it off in slow-motion.
All will happen in Monkey Kingdom, the eighth film in nine years from Disneynature, Disney’s wildlife documentary outlet. > Read more.
Relax this holiday weekend with Fridays Uncorked at Southern Season – taste wines from the Roman Empire! Or at James River Cellars who is hosting “Experience Virginia” – sample Virginia wine, beer, cider and mead. And what goes better with wine than strawberries – an annual tradition in Varina, the Gallmeyer Farms’ Strawberry Fields Festival is tomorrow. Other fun happenings this weekend include: “A Little Princess” at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen; weekly dance at American Legion Post 125; and National Theatre Live’s “Man and Superman” at the University of Richmond. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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