Saturday, 02 March 2024

Mike Lewis: Six Strings and a Bridge

One foot taps lightly on the floor as Mike Lewis’s fingers move up and down the fret board, dancing from string to string, note to note, chord to chord. His eyes are closed and the only thing that exists outside of his guitar is the music resonating from it. There is no house, no world, not even a universe it seems. There is just the music.

Like many musicians, Lewis talks while he plays his guitar. Often when there is break in the conversation, even a small one, his right hand begins to pluck at the strings while his left hand does the talking. For Lewis, there are two ways of speaking.

The legendary coach Herb Brooks knew this. His instrument was a pair of skates and a hockey stick, and he played the ice the way Lewis plays the fret board. With carefully chosen words and phrases called “Brooksisms,” he bellowed instructions to his team. After six and a half months of this they got the message that took them to the gold.

“I’m a big picture guy,” Lewis says, “not a details one. I like to look at the whole picture through my songs. I like to leave things open to interpretation. For me the art of music is showing an audience, not telling them.” I think Coach Brooks would have liked Mike Lewis, because Brooks was very adept at showing the world what hard work, discipline and dreams can produce.

Again and again Herb Brooks told his players “the name on the back of the jersey means nothing, it’s what’s on the front that counts.” In this same light, there is no ego at Windsor Park. No one ever tries to upstage one another. Lewis had nothing but words of praise after we viewed Doc’s Windsor Park story on Steve Gibson. He never once indicated that he should have had a bigger part in the show, if anything, whenever there was footage of him, he would respond with self-deprecating humor.

When the opportunity presented itself, Doc returned the favor. He told us about the very talented people who worked with Mike at a recording session in Nashville. Bobby Ogden who played for Elvis, Dave Pomeroy who frequently appears on the David Letterman Show, Kerry Marx who’s a regular on the Grand Old Opry stage, and Steve Gibson who is legendary as a guitarist and a producer.

And when Doc left the room to get a tape for the video camera, it was Lewis who said, “You really need to listen to what Doc has to tell you, he has a lot to teach you, and there are very few men like him around.” Never once did he say “Look at all the wonderful things I have done, aren’t you glad you had the opportunity to work with me?”

Our Miracle at Lake Placid Project gave me an opportunity to demonstrate how music can effectively communicate the nature, tone, and spirit of the meaning of the Olympics. The original music that Mike Lewis is creating will capture the inspirational tone of Herb Brooks’s leadership. It will also illustrate the way 20 seniors embraced the miracle project which took them to places they never dreamed possible.

Lewis’s fingers come to an abrupt stop, the room is quiet, and everyone assembled who hears the music knows that it is perfect for the project. The goal of this part of the project is to show the way music can effectively communicate the philosophy and inspirational force of Herb Brooks. It also illustrates the way 20 seniors at King’s College can learn from two great teachers, one who we have in the classroom once a week, and the other who unfortunately is no longer with us, but whose family and friends are keeping his legacy alive.