Dr. Ralph Lewis is a composer and music theorist who currently serves as Adjunct Instructor of Music Composition at Millikin University. His compositions seek meeting points between sonorous music and arresting noise, alternative tunings and timbre, and the roles of performer and audience. Lewis’s music has been presented at national and international festivals and conferences, including the International Conference on Technologies for Music Notation and Representation (TENOR) in Australia, Convergence, the ARC Project, Radiophrenia Glasgow, and Sonic Cartography in the United Kingdom, Pärnu Days of Contemporary Music Festival in Estonia, International Computer Music Conference/ISSTA in Ireland, the Orpheus Institute’s Performer-Composer Conference in Belgium, Audio Rocket Festival in Japan, as well as numerous events in the United States including New Music Gathering, Verdant Vibes, Thirsty Ears Festival, SEAMUS National Conference, Boston Microtonal Society, SCI National Conference, College Music Society National Conference, Electronic Music Midwest, MOXsonic, N_SEME, CHIMEFest, Electroacoustic Barn Dance, and the Music for People and Thingamajigs Festival. Throughout the 2020-2021 academic year, Lewis served as Composer-in-Residence for the Oberlin Arts and Sciences Orchestra. He has also had artist residencies at Banff Art Centre, Westben (with his duo partner Dr. Dave O Mahony as shan-uh-kees), and Wave Farm/WGXC. Lewis has been featured as a guest composer at University of South Florida, Heidelberg University, California State University, Bakersfield, and other institutions. In 2023, he was elected as the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States’ first Member At Large for Outreach. He also serves as Newsletter Editor for Society of Composers, Inc.
As a teacher and researcher, Lewis is especially passionate about empowering music composition and music theory students. He currently teaches composition lessons at Millikin and will begin teaching an introduction to music composition course here in Spring 2024. Lewis works hard to honor the musical and life experiences students bring to their creative and analytical projects, believing we can be respectful, caring, and grow as people as we strive for technical and aesthetic excellence in music. Previous to teaching at Millikin, Lewis was ranked several times as an excellent teacher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign while serving as a music theory and aural skills teaching assistant. Lewis’s pedagogical approach is also informed from experiences teaching music composition and theory with All Score Urbana, a free-to-the-public community engagement music composition workshop he founded in 2016. Through programs for all ages and in partnership with Urbana High School, Lewis and the other composition and performance teaching artists meet new and continuing creators where they are, supporting and guiding them toward final projects. In 2022, he led a panel of past and present All Score Urbana teaching artists at the Teaching Composition Symposium at University of Maryland, Baltimore County and was selected to present his paper talk reflecting on the first six years of All Score Urbana for Penn State New Music Festival and Symposium and College Music Society National Conference.
Lewis’s dissertation was also written with these ideas about empowerment and accessibility in mind, combining need-to-know aesthetic information, analysis, and performance practice information gathered from interviews with expert practitioners of Aaron Cassidy’s music, including members of JACK Quartet: “Aaron Cassidy’s Second String Quartet: Resilient Structures, Indeterminate Localities, and Performance Practice” has since been presented in peer-reviewed paper talks at several conferences, including Society of Composers National Conference, College Music Society Mid-Atlantic Conference. and College Music Society Great Lakes Conference. His recent research presentations include “Johnny Reinhard and Performer-Composer Embodiment of Microtonal Possibility” at the Orpheus Institute’s Performer-Composer Conference in Ghent, Belgium as well as “DuoTube: Inspiring Experimental Creativity in Common Digital Spaces” at the Australiasian Computer Music Conference (ACMC) at University of New England (AU) and SEAMUS National Conference at Columbia University with his frequent collaborator flutist/YouTube creator Robin Meiksins. His academic research as a student, “Revisiting the Music Box-Like Foundations of Rebecca Saunders’ Compositions,” was honored by College Music Society Northwest Conference for Best Student Paper and featured as part of Darkwater Womxn in Music Festival and Indiana University Graduate Musicology & Theory Associations’ Symposium for Music Research. Lewis has also contributed concert and recording reviews to Computer Music Journal since 2019.
Lewis graduated from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2021, receiving a DMA in Music Composition. He previously received an MA in Music Composition and an MFA in Electronic Music and Recording Media from Mills College, a BA in Music Composition from Oberlin Conservatory, and a BA in Classical Civilization from Oberlin College.