Sunday, December 7, 2014
Henry Lewis-1st African-American Conductor and Musical Director
Henry Jay Lewis was an African-American double-bassist and orchestral conductor. Lewis attended The University of Southern California and at age 16, joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic, becoming the 1st black instrumentalist in a major symphony orchestra. After six years as a double-bassist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, he played double-bass with and conducted the Seventh Army Symphony in Germany and the Netherlands while serving in the United States Armed Forces. After returning to the USA, Lewis founded the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. In 1963 he travelled with his orchestra in Europe under the auspices of the State Department. He gained national recognition in 1961 when he was appointed assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1968 he became the conductor and musical director of the New Jersey Symphony. He was the 1st African-American to lead a major symphony orchestra. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1972. From 1989 to 1991 he was principal conductor of the Netherlands Radio Symphony.