Pianist and composer Ramsey Lewis was honored as a Stamps Distinguished Visitor during the 2007-2008 season at the University of Miami Frost School of Music for his performance style and musical selections that display his early gospel roots and classical training. A native Chicagoan, Lewis began taking piano lessons at age four. Ramsey Lewis captivated fans with his first album, “Ramsey Lewis and the Gentlemen of Swing,” by the Ramsey Lewis Trio in 1956. By 1965, he was one of the nation’s most successful jazz pianists, topping the charts with The In Crowd, Hang On Sloopy, and Wade In The Water. He has three Grammy Awards and seven gold records to his credit and has been honored with three honorary doctorate degrees. Lewis’ most recent awards include the National Endowment for the Arts highest award in the jazz category, the Jazz Master Award in January 2007, along with the Illinois “Living Landmark” award in March 2007.
In addition to recording albums and performing live, Lewis hosts WNUA-FM Chicago’s weekday morning drive-time radio show, The Ramsey Lewis Morning Show. He also hosts the syndicated Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis, a two-hour radio program that airs in more than 75 U.S. cities and in London. Active in community affairs, Lewis helped to organize the Ravinia Festival’s Jazz Mentor Program. Not only does he serve as its artistic director, but he also was elected a trustee in 2002. In addition, Lewis serves on the Board of Trustees of Chicago’s Merit School of Music. In 2005, Lewis created the Ramsey Lewis Foundation to help provide youth with the opportunity to play musical instruments and develop skills to enhance their self-confidence and sense of personal accomplishment. Lewis performs primarily with his trio, composed of Larry Gray on bass and Leon Joyce on drums. Their latest release, With One Voice (2005), is a gospel album on the Narada Jazz label.