Lewis inducted in Bandmasters Hall of Fame – Lifetime achievement award for former SPHS Director of Bands

Published 4:34 pm Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Ken Lewis of Pope, who was Director of Bands at South Panola High School 15 years as part of a career that stretched more than three decades and touched thousands of young musicians’ lives, has been inducted into the Phi Beta Mu Mississippi Bandmasters Hall of Fame.

Lewis, affectionately known as “Sir Lewis” and “Chief”, served as a music educator for over 32 years. His induction took place at the  84th Annual Mississippi Bandmasters Association State Band Clinic in Natchez where he was introduced by one of his former students, Len Killough of Hernando, who hailed him as a mentor and hero.  

Many band directors present for the induction have been his students, colleagues, and friends over the course of his illustrious career in music education.

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Lewis has also served as music director at Pope Baptist Church for 42 years along with his wife, Karen Martindale Lewis, as pianist.  He attributed his long career and induction into the Hall of Fame “a rich blessing” adding that “The Lord has been his guide throughout his career.”

He graduated from East Tallahatchie High School in Charleston, and attended Northwest Mississippi Community College where he was President of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and Assistant Director of A Capella Choir. 

Lewis then graduated from The University of Mississippi in 1971 with a Bachelor of Music Degree, where he was the Principal Tubist for the U of M. Wind Ensemble and later returned to earn his Master of Music Education Degree. 

In January 1971, he became the founding director of the Alcorn Central Band program where he taught until accepting the Director of Bands Position at Baldwyn High School. He went on to serve as Director at W.P. Daniel High School.  During his time there, he served as the President of the Northeast Band Directors Association and served on the board of the Mississippi Bandmasters Association. 

In 1981, he accepted the position of Director of Bands at South Panola High School in Batesville, where his bands consistently earned superior ratings in Mississippi, as well as, in festivals in Chicago, Gatlinburg, and St. Louis.

The S.P.H.S. Band performed at the Cotton Bowl parade in Dallas, and performed at several locations in Washington D.C. such as the National Veterans Monument, U.S. Navy Monument, and The Pentagon.  

Lewis’ bands were well known for their tonality, rich-sound, blend, balance, and musical interpretation. 

In 1996, Lewis was named Director of Bands at Delta State University where he served until his retirement in 2003.  

His years at DSU produced fine marching and concert bands that performed across the state at numerous marching festivals including Gulfport, Meridian, Pearl, Grenada, and a Division II National Championship performance in Florence, AL. 

The band’s reputation stood firm as many nationally known Honor Band Clinicians at DSU would recognize the DSU Wind Symphony to rank in the top 10% of the nation.  

Upon his retirement, it was noted that over 35 of the active band directors in the state of Mississippi had been members of Mr. Lewis’ band at Delta State.  “Watching former students succeed as band directors and professionals brings such great happiness and honor. I am so very proud of them,” said Lewis. 

Lewis served in many capacities throughout his tenure as a music educator. He served as the President of the Mississippi Bandmasters Association (1991), President of the Phi Beta Mu International Bandmasters Fraternity, Delta Chapter, and I55 Bandmasters Association.  Lewis was the Mississippi Representative to  ASBDA and served four years as the Southeast Regional Representative to the National Federation of Interscholastic Music Association.  He was honored to serve as the concert Director for the Mississippi Lion’s All-State Band (1994). 

Lewis’ outstanding awards include the 1991 Mississippi Band Director of the Year and 2009 Outstanding Contributor Award for the Mississippi Bandmasters Association, Northeast Mississippi Band Directors Association Hall of Fame induction in 2009, and the Amro Music Educators Walk of Fame in 2015.   

Lewis has served as a guest conductor and clinician at all Mississippi Regional Honor Bands, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and USM for the MS Community College All-State Band. He has also served as a concert and sight-reading adjudicator in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Oklahoma, and adjudicated Marching Festivals throughout Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Virginia.  

He and Karen have three children: Slade Lewis, Brandon Lewis, and Ashley Lewis Drumheller; and five grandchildren, Sam and Julia Lewis, and Trey, Carter, and Reeves Drumheller.