Lewis Riley

Lewis RileyLewis Riley – guest leader, professional pianist, composer, arranger, teacher, author

Growing up in Lancashire, Lewis envied his best pal having piano lessons and promptly followed suit. He can’t remember his first piano lesson aged nine, but is adamant that he wasn’t a child prodigy. But from the age of 16, his mind was made up. He wanted to become a music teacher.

At grammar school, he concentrated on Music and Art, playing classical piano, but he was also mad about the 1960s pop music scene, learning to play guitar and bass. By the time he pitched up as a student at Dartington College in 1970, he was a firm fan of progressive rock, in particular Cream, Jethro Tull, Coliseum and Frank Zappa, loving the improvising and not realising that the bands included jazz musicians such as Jack Bruce, Jon Hiseman and Dick Heckstall Smith. Soon he was discovering contemporary British jazz via luminaries such as Mike Gibbs, Mike Westbrook, John Surman and John McLaughlin.

After qualifying as a secondary school teacher at Rolle College in Exmouth, Lewis headed north again to his first job – teaching music at a high school in Worcestershire. But he was soon back in Devon teaching at Dartington Hall School until it closed in 1997. He co-lead the jazz course at Dartington Summer School for more than 20 years and has set up many jazz education projects in schools including the highly successful SaMS Saturday music school in Totnes.. Now he works as a freelance teacher, composer, arranger, and performer.

He also plays tabla, having been a student of the late Ustad Latif Ahmed Khan of the Delhi garana, and has run Indian music workshops in schools. This influence can be found in many of his compositions.

Lewis is particularly proud of his daughter Harriet, a professional percussionist based in Bristol, busily playing orchestral as well as jazz, folk and anything else that interests her. She recently joined her Dad’s quartet on a short tour including an appearance at the Teignmouth Jazz Festival.