Today we’d like to introduce you to Gregory Miles Lewis.
Gregory, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born in Reno, Nevada, a small city with a thriving music community. I am thankful to have been raised in a very musical household filled with the sounds of classical music, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, and John Coltrane. My father Mark is a professional keyboardist and the manager of a touring broadway production. His musicianship and work ethic has undoubtedly shaped my passion as a musician and performer. In the 6th grade, I was introduced to my middle school band director Leonard Neidhold who invited me to play drums in his jazz band and percussion with his concert band. Leonard’s encouragement, along with the vast amounts of support I continue to receive from my family has led me to the music-filled life I have today.
I began performing at a young age as the drum set player in local ensembles including my school district’s honors jazz band, Reno Youth Jazz Orchestra, and local rock/metal bands formed with my good friends. These ensembles sparked in me a passion for performing. After middle school, I joined my high school’s marching band where I was taught by Rick Moffit, Kyle Robertson and Chance utter. I fell in love with the marching arts and went on to tour as a snare drummer with the Santa Clara Vanguard Cadets drum and bugle corps in my late teenage years.
I attended the University of Nevada, Reno where I studied drums and percussion with Dr. Andrew Heglund, composition with Adam Benjamin, and performed on drum set with the University Lab I Ensemble under the direction of Ralph Alessi. The UNR music program not only elevated my musical aspirations but introduced me to a network of artistic colleagues who have become some of my closest friends to this day. After graduating with my bachelor’s degree in Jazz Studies in 2016, I began a freelance career as a performer, composer, studio musician and educator in northern Nevada and California. I feel incredibly humbled when looking back on the countless tours, recording session experiences, and students I’ve had the opportunity to work with over my years in this field so far.
I was invited back to UNR as alumni in 2017 to perform at the Reno Jazz Festival. There I met adjudicator and California Institute of the Arts jazz program director David Roitstein. I expressed to David my longtime fascination with CalArts and he graciously invited me to make a campus visit. After spending less than a day touring the institute, I knew this was where I needed to be. I am proud to now call Los Angeles my home, and to be starting the second year of my Master’s degree at CalArts this fall.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Though I feel technically proficient on my instrument after many years of practice, the real challenge for me comes when attempting to block out internal doubts that often arise when I’m improvising or composing. I strive to get to a place with my art form where I can move past those feelings of doubtfulness and embrace every moment of music-making. I also find a challenge in deciding which avenues to explore with my music and prioritizing my artistic goals. My curiosity for music is constantly pulling me in different directions, but I do my best to keep an open mind and take inspiration from whatever source I can. These are challenges that we all face in our own ways, and I believe they must be met with patience and humility. I will always be a student of music and of life.
My journey thus far has been fairly smooth. I am privileged and grateful to have received such unending support from my loving family, encouraging friends and inspiring mentors. Attending CalArts has already helped hone my artistic voice in ways I could never have imagined. Music is truly a gift, and I am reminded of how saving it can be when life’s challenges arise.
Can you give our readers some background on your music?
I am a drummer, percussionist, composer and educator. My compositional works range from avant-garde jazz to chamber, folk, pop, electronic, and experimental rock. Improvisation lies at the forefront of my musical and artistic practice. My music allows for ultimate freedom of expression, and I love to keep in mind the personalities of my fellow collaborators when composing. My EP ‘The Hang After’ (2019) draws a balance between structured composition and improvisation. I am fascinated with how music can reflect the spontaneity that exists in our natural world. I have also developed a solo project called ‘greggy on the moon’ where I play a drum set and synthesizer simultaneously. The integration of electronics into my acoustic drum set up has opened up a whole world of musical and improvisational possibilities.
While I love composing for myself and for others, I find the upmost joy in playing the music of my friends and collaborators. I am currently a member of many unique music ensembles that have allowed me the opportunity to record and perform throughout the states and beyond. My drumming and electronic percussion work can be heard on the recently released album ‘One Million Things’ from Of Lyle, an indie/art pop group led by my very talented friend Jordan Caroompas. I also co-founded ‘Rob Ford Explorer’, a duo band that consists of myself on drums and Cameron Sax on electric guitar. Our music is most commonly described as ‘math rock’, though we often find it difficult to categorize our sound. The two of us teamed up with vibraphonist Sean Collins and bassist Dave Strawn to form the chamber jazz/folk quartet Vatican City Fight Club. We are excited to be releasing our debut album this summer!
Some memorable performances include appearances at the Mathcore Index festival, Family Vacation Music Festival, Reno Jazz Festival, Pioneer Center for Performing Arts, DCI World Class Finals, Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, 924 Gilman, CalArts Wild Beast Concert Series, and the Roy O. Disney Music Hall. I am looking forward to sharing my art and connecting with new audiences for a long time to come! My discography, as well as all upcoming performances and record releases, can be found on my website listed below.
My commitment to music has led me to discover an equally rewarding passion for teaching. As an educator, I love helping students of all ages and skill levels reach their fullest musical and artistic potential. I worked at my alma mater high school teaching percussion for a number of years before starting my own private lessons studio. As humans, we all process information in our own unique ways. I have found success in developing multiple ways to relay information to my students, and I am constantly reaching to expand on my teaching methods. I am proud of the impact I have made on my students, and hope to inspire a newer generation of artists as my mentors have inspired me.
I am currently a graduate teaching assistant under the supervision of legendary drummer/educator Joe LaBarbera at CalArts. I am working on an electronic music commission for an upcoming podcast release and composing works for a new chamber ensemble that I plan to debut this fall. After graduation next spring 2021, I hope to delve deeper into the Los Angeles music and arts scene, further my experiences as an educator and continue to book national and international tours with my ensembles.
I would like to acknowledge that much of the music that I engage with and benefit from is inherently Black American music. I am heavily inspired by black music and culture, and am working everyday to dig deeper into the historical contexts in which my music draws influence from. I recognize whole-heartedly that this beautiful artform was born out of the historical struggle of black people in the United States, institutionalized racism and systemic oppression. I stand in solidarity with the BIPOC community, and will always strive to lift up the voices of friends and family of color.
What were you like growing up?
Watching my father perform on keyboard with his band night after night, I naturally gravitated towards the piano. I was placed on a piano bench around age six and took lessons until age 10. My older brother Allen is also a musician and would have his bands over to rehearse at our house on a weekly basis. I would find my best hiding spot in hopes to observe their rehearsals knowing full well that if caught, I would likely be kicked out. When his drummer first brought a drum kit over and set it up in our garage, I was awestruck by its magnificence and power! He was kind enough to let me play on it after their jam session, and from that moment on, I became obsessed with drums. I still love to play piano, and constantly use it as a vessel for composition and a place to transcribe my favorite songs and film scores.
Aside from my musical interests, I spent a great deal of my childhood exploring the beautiful northern Nevada desert in which I grew up. I loved to skateboard, ride bikes and go swimming with friends – regular kid stuff!
- $5 – Greg Lewis Quintet – The Hang After EP (2019)
- $5 – Rob Ford Explorer – Buh Bye EP (2019)
- $7 – greggy on the moon – OP1 Vignettes Vol. 1 (2019)
- $10 – Of Lyle – ‘One Million Things’ (2020)
- Website: www.gregmileslewis.com
- Phone: 775 741 5301
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gregmileslewis/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robfordexplorer/
- Other: www.greglewis.bandcamp.com
Myron Fung, Scot Marshall, Nick Ponticello, Julianne Wilson, Stevie Tavener