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Sapphire Sounds (L-R) Lauren Peters, Jamie Ingraham, Jonah Ingraham, and Julien McClanahan won second place in the Youth Ensemble Category at the June 9th Southern Guitar Competition in Columbia, S.C. Instructor Derwyn Brown stands in the middle with his students.

Four young musicians from Gwinnett took home second place in the Youth Ensemble Category at the Southern Guitar Festival and Competition on June 9 in Columbia, South Carolina. Sapphire Sounds placed second out of five groups with their performance of the traditional Welsh melody “All Through the Night.”

Sapphire Sounds is directed by Derwyn Brown and is a part of Childbloom GNE in Buford. The Childbloom Method of teaching music is used by educators across the country, and over the eight years at the Buford location, two ensembles have provided high level performance opportunities for students who have achieved a specified level of mastery.

In fact, Brown was given a great compliment by an official of the festival.

“The artistic director of this event, Marina Alexandra, told me that our students looked so professional, and that they were very well prepared. She said they played better than some of the high school kids,” Brown said.

Sapphire Sounds is comprised of Jamie Ingraham (World Language Academy), Jonah Ingraham (World Language Academy), Julien McClanahan (North Gwinnett Middle School) and Lauren Peters (Osborne Middle School), who each contribute their abilities and strengths to the group.

The young artists maintain a rigorous schedule of practice beyond their studies at both regular school and the ChildBloom GNE, according to Brown. Their dedication has served them well.

The road to the group’s distinguished finish began earlier, when Sapphire Sounds submitted an audition video to the judges of the Southern Guitar Festival and Competition in the Youth Ensemble category. This level of competition is open to players ages 10 through 18. Classical guitar duos, trios, quartets, larger ensembles or classical guitar and solo instrument (including voice) were eligible to submit videos.

Following a pre-selection round, Sapphire Sounds was selected as one of five ensembles invited to compete live in the Final Round of the Southern Guitar Competition, Ensemble Division.

The Southern Guitar Festival and Competition was founded in 2011 by Alexandra, to fill a need for students of all ages to have the opportunity to compete. Students include both youth and adults who perform on classical guitar.

The event was inspired by the famous Piccolo Spoleto Festival that is hosted annually in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Childbloom GNE Program, operated by Brown, is a comprehensive musical education program for children between the ages of 5 and 18. Founded in 2011, it is located at 3320 Gravel Springs Road in Buford. It is part of a national group of Childbloom schools.

Said Brown, “Our program has grown steadily over the last eight years. The Childbloom Guitar Program is honored to sponsor Sapphire Sounds and anticipates good things to come from their continued performances.”

For more information, call 770-298-3740 or 678-889-2177 or visit the website at

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@