For those wise enough to take the time to enjoy the dedication and the talent displayed by the musicians who comprise the Ukiah Symphony, first-chair cellist Clovice Lewis is no stranger. A musician's musician, composer and instructor, Lewis has more than just a gift for music - he has passion. But few people know about the other side of Lewis - the entrepreneur, inventor and futurist who is set to change the way we respond to disasters and by doing so, save and improve the lives of the most afflicted- here and around the world.

Q. Tell us a little about how you got into music.
A. My father had a beautiful voice. There were 11 kids in his family and all were musicians. We were surrounded by music of all kinds. I remember hearing Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis. Sammy Davis Jr., Vivaldi and Gershwin as a kid. In the summer of 1968, my parents dropped us off with my grandmother. I had cousins who played instruments. Something happened to me on that trip. I came back to Texas after that summer, went into the school orchestra room and asked if I could play the bass. Dennis Bell, the strings teacher said, "You're too small to play the bass. But there's this little bass called a cello. That's about your size. When you get bigger you can play the bass." Mr. Bell asked me to play the C Major scale, saying he'd be back in 10 minutes.

I asked another student to help me. He showed me where to put my fingers and how to hold the bow, and I did it.

Q. I take it that it was love at first sight - or sound.
A. I touched the cello and it was what I was born to do. Six months later I was winning solo competitions in Texas. I started composing about three weeks after that. It would baffle people, but for me it was so natural. I remember thinking; you read and write, how can you not write music that's in your head? Of course it turns out that very few musicians compose, especially out of their heads and onto paper. But I didn't know that at the time.

Q. So you continued with music?
A. I accessed some kind of fountain of creativity that I found at that time - about the eighth grade. It was like a switch going off in my head. Things came together in a lot of fascinating ways. That's when I discovered I could compose, play cello, write, win speech contests and debates. I thought I was going to become an attorney, but I became a composer. My first symphony was composed at the age of 17.

Comment by email:
Mr. Zick, Thank you very much for including me in the Africlassical blog. I frankly had no idea such scholarship was being done. My experience as an African American musician working in the classical world has been rarely punctuated with meeting others like me. Even in all this time, I have yet to meet another African American composer. Your blog and the site has been most illuminating.  Peace,  Clovice  [Clovice A. Lewis, Jr.]