The American conductor, J. Reilly Lewis, began his career as a member of the National Cathedral Junior Boys Choir under the direction of Richard W. Dirksen. He received his B.M. from Oberlin College, and his M.S. and D.M.A. from the Juilliard School. Former teachers include Nadia Boulanger, Anthony Newman, and Albert Fuller. He was the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship in 1969, which he used to pursue specialized study of the keyboard music of J.S. Bach with Helmut Walcha in Germany.
J. Reilly Lewis, founder and music director of the Washington Bach Consort, is recognized internationally as an accomplished conductor and keyboard artist, as well as a leading specialist of Baroque music, particularly the music of J.S. Bach. Under his direction, the Washington Bach Consort was founded in 1977 as an informal group of musicians with an irrepressible urge to perform Bach's music and has evolved into an internationally acclaimed professional ensemble of singers and instrumentalists specializing in the performance of 18th-century music.
A native of Washington, D.C., J. Reilly Lewis s performs regularly in his home city, but has also appeared before international audiences, both as a conductor and keyboard artist. In 1985, his Washington Bach Consort was the only North American ensemble invited to perform in Leipzig for J.S. Bach's 300th birthday celebration. Dr. Lewis and the Consort will return to Germany in July 2000 for a tour commemorating the 250th Anniversary of Bach's death. Other international festivals in which Dr. Lewis has appeared include the Händel Festival in Halle, an all American music festival in Taipei, the Cologne New Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival and the Mostly Mozart Festival. Over the past twenty years, Lewis has collaborated with many of the world's most renowned performing artists and conductors, and his ensemble continues to garner the highest praise for its unique sound and uncommonly high artistic standards.
In Washington, J. Reilly Lewis has appeared frequently at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts where he was the keyboard artist and associate conductor of the Handel Festival Orchestra for ten years, and for six years assistant staff pianist with the National Symphony Orchestra. Since 1985, he has served as music director of the Cathedral Choral Society, the resident symphonic chorus of the Washington National Cathedral, where he has been the group's accompanist from 1978 to 1985; and he has been the organist and choirmaster at Claredon United Methodist Church in Arlington, Virginia, since 1971.
J. Reilly Lewis and the Washington Bach Consort have made several recordings. In 1989, they recorded a compact disc with the Pro Organo label, featuring the complete motets of J.S.Bach. Lewis and the Consort released their newest compact disc in February of 1999 on the Newport Classic label, the Magnificats of J.S. Bach (BWV 243) and his son, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.
Throughout his career, J. Reilly Lewis has received numerous honors and awards. As a recipient of both the Chester J. Petranek Award and Paul Hume Award, he has been honored for his outstanding commitment to enriching the musical life of Washington, D.C. In 1957, he received a "WAMMY" from the Washington Area Music Association as best conductor.