Pleasanton leaders recently celebrated the wide-ranging contributions of Julie Lewis and her late husband Don when the couple were presented with the 2023 Mayor's Award in recognition of their positive impact on local youth, the Pleasanton community and the music industry at-large.
The city award specifically called out the couple's years of work organizing their "Say YES to Music!" assembly series and "Young Expressions" youth music program and their time with the Rotary Club of Pleasanton, as well as Julie Lewis' efforts with the Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council and Amador Friends of Music and Don Lewis' international legacy as a synthesizer pioneer.
"It's an amazing feeling to live in a city where one can feel so supported and appreciated," Julie Lewis told the Weekly after the ceremony. "It was a lovely way to acknowledge his contributions to our community during his 42 years here."
Don Lewis, a professional musician who performed and composed for decades and invented the Live Electronic Orchestra (LEO) synthesizer system in the 1970s, died last November at the age of 81.
Mayor Karla Brown revealed the partially secret award during the city's annual Commission and Committee Recognition Dinner and Mayor's Award event at Casa Real at Ruby Hill Winery in Pleasanton on April 13 -- Julie Lewis said she knew Don was getting the posthumous award because she was asked to postpone a trip in order to attend, but she didn't know she would be honored as well.
"Becoming a champion for music education was never on his radar, but now it is his legacy," Brown said in her speech. "But that's only half of tonight's award-winning duo. I'm sure that if you know Julie Lewis, you know she was with Don, step by step through it all, serving as his steady supporter and his biggest champion. Together, Don and Julie created two programs to encourage kids' interest in music and the arts: 'Say YES to Music!' and 'Young Expressions.'"
"The city of Pleasanton is lucky to have had two such generous people leave their mark here," the mayor added.
Son Marc Lewis joined Julie Lewis onstage at the ceremony to accept the award and honor his father.
"It was a wonderful evening to see the current and former mayors and councilmembers in attendance, as well as friends from Leadership Pleasanton, the Chamber, and from various groups such as Rotary, PCAC and different commissions," Julie Lewis told the Weekly. "This recognition really encouraged me during this difficult time and reminded me that there is more to come."
In addition to years of supporting young musicians and local nonprofits, Julie Lewis worked for 20 years as a pediatric nurse and has been a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences since 2012.
Don Lewis attended the Tuskegee Institute and served in the U.S. Air Force before embarking on a storied music career that included touring with the Beach Boys and working in the studio with Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones among others. His original LEO system would become the inspiration for the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) in the 1980s.
The city of Pleasanton is sponsoring a tribute to Don Lewis at the Firehouse Arts Center next month, as well as a screening of the documentary "Don Lewis and the Live Electronic Orchestra", which was produced by Ned Augustenborg and aired nationwide on PBS earlier this year, according to Julie Lewis.
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