Courtney Lewis credits a "really wonderful high school music teacher'' with igniting his passion for classical and orchestral music.
It has taken him from his native Belfast, Ireland, to his role today in front of the Minnesota Orchestra as its associate conductor.
Now it's his turn to inspire others.
Lewis will lead the Minnesota Orchestra to Dawson for a performance Tuesday as part of a three-city tour. The concert series will also include performances in Brainerd and Watertown.
Lewis sees this as an opportunity to introduce new audiences to orchestral music. He's aware many in rural areas have limited opportunities to enjoy live, orchestral music and the performance he hopes will introduce them to the energy and excitement at the heart of the music.
He says there are few orchestras that can deliver the "high energy" of the Minnesota Orchestra.
The Dawson concert will feature Tchaikovsky's famous Symphony No. 6, Pathétique, Wagner's Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, and Strauss' Horn Concerto No. 2 as performed by the orchestra's principal horn, Michael Gast.
Lewis took on his role as the Minnesota Orchestra's associate conductor in September, after serving a year as an assistant conductor.
His path to Minnesota began with his studies at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England, where he graduated with first-class honors.
He completed a master's degree and attended the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England.
He has worked with orchestras and chamber ensembles from London to Venezuela, and most recently worked with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. He also founded the Discovery Ensemble in Boston.
The chamber orchestra serves to introduce inner-city children to classical music. Lewis said it was definitely a challenge: The public schools in Boston offer only limited musical instruction.
He said he's been happy to discover Minnesota students enjoy the opportunity for music education and was elated when offered the opportunity to audition for a role with the Minnesota Orchestra.
He said those attending the Dawson concert can expect a "very lively, fun-filled night."
A portion of the Dawson performance is funded through Minnesota arts and cultural heritage funds, a Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council grant, and local sponsors.
Tickets are $5 for students and $15 for adults. For more information about the concert, call 320-769-2955 ext. 246 or go online at www.dawson boydarts.org.