Felix Lewis: McDonogh 35 Class of 1994

Felix Lewis: McDonogh 35 Class of 1994
Posted on 01/22/2021

Pierre A. Capdau Music Teacher and Band Director Felix Lewis feel in love with music while he was a student at McDonogh 35 and is now passing on his love of the subject to a new generation of children.

“I wanted to become a music teacher basically so that I can help give the students an outlet like I was given and help them find the passion that I found for music in the same way,” Lewis said.

Lewis, a 2013 graduate of McDonogh 35, said music was an outlet for him growing up.

“To be honest, when I was in band back in school, it was a way to express myself in a safe, productive way,” he said.

Today, he provides that same opportunity to about 75 fourth through eighth graders who participate in Capdau’s marching band.

“It’s a good thing,” said sixth grader Laria H., who has played trumpet in the Capdau band for 3 years. “I like to play music and be with my friends. It’s something to do after school so I don’t have to go home and watch TV.”

Though he originally didn’t consider teaching at the elementary and middle school level, he said he’s glad he decided to give it a try.

“It forced me to dig into my craft and really think about the things that I had to learn, so I can figure out creative ways to teach my students,” he said. “Because they are younger and not as advanced with the world as a high school student, I have to think of ways to relay messages in a way that they can receive.”

“At this age, they are just so excited about everything,” he added. “And when it’s time for band, they are tuned in, locked in, and ready to go, and I really appreciate it a lot. It makes it a joy to come to work.”

Lewis is a tuba player in a few local brass bands himself. And though current COVID restrictions prevent both these and Capdau’s band from currently performing, it’s not stopping Lewis from continuing to instill his love of music in others.

“Music is important to everybody really. Studies have shown that music is able to help people in ways that other things can’t,” he said. “I love that music is a way to express myself, and listening to music is a way to hear other people express themselves. Physically, you can literally feel music. You mentally process it and connect to it emotionally.”

Lewis said he’s blessed with students who are eager to learn, and tailors his program so that it he can build on their knowledge and enthusiasm over the years.

“With the younger kids, the focus is on introducing them to music in different ways like through the recorder, learning basic fundamentals of notes and instruments,” he said. “As they progress and get older, it’s more so traditional marching band and music theory.”

Lewis is looking forward to building out the music program to eventually include a concert band and a jazz band.

“Right now, we are pretty much getting everybody acclimated with the fundaments of reading music and performing,” he said.

Lewis said he’s lucky to currently work with one of his school mates from McDonogh 35, Veronique Dorsey, who is an instructional coach at Capdau and helps out with the band.

“It’s great to work with her. We kept the McDonogh 35 band together,” Lewis said of the time when they were without a band leader. “She was in college at the time, so I held down the fort during the day, and she helped us after school until we got a new director.”

These days, Lewis said a lot has changed for his alma mater.

“When I first started there, we had a good culture. Unfortunately, it went off track a bit during my school years, but it’s starting to come back with InspireNOLA,” he said. “It’s in the rebuilding stage and it’s heading in the right direction.”

Lewis said he learned a lot about Black history and New Orleans culture in general at McDonogh 35, and he’s happy to see its legacy continue.

“I’m a proud alumni! Can’t nobody tell me nothing about any other school!” he said, with a laugh. “There is none better.”