ENGLEWOOD – Donnie Lewis, tour manager for famous musician Peter Frampton, was one of three individuals with ties to Preble County honored with induction into the Miami Valley Career Technology Center Hall of Fame on Thursday, Oct. 6.
Lewis, a 1979 graduate of Preble Shawnee High School, attended the Small Animal Care program at MVCTC when it was known as Montgomery County Joint Vocational School.
Coming from the small town of Gratis, Lewis never dreamed as a child he would travel around the world several times, visit every one of the 50 states, and meet with Presidents, and sports and entertainment personalities. He just knew that he loved to play drums and take care of his numerous pets.
So when he decided to attend the MCJVS/MVCTC, it seemed the logical course of action. He loved taking care of animals and if a student wanted a career in this field, CTC was the place to go and learn a profession. It provided him with the experience and technical skills to get a job at a veterinarian office.
But, as life has a tendency to do, it changed course. Opportunities to follow his other passion, music, became a reality and his course deviated slightly from taking care of small animals professionally to becoming a full-time drummer and touring around the country. The opportunity to play drums along with some of his buddies turned into a career that has spanned nearly 40 years.
In the early 1980s, Lewis moved from Gratis to Sheridan, Arkansas then on to Nashville, Tennessee where he became the drummer of a group known as the MidSouth Boys. With a growing fan base, MidSouth revolutionized the format of Southern Gospel music. They were successfully able to put a new spin on the old four-part harmony style of Gospel music and establish the foundation of vocal bands which are prominent on today’s airwaves. Crafting a new style of music, MidSouth had quite a few chart-topping songs and multiple industry awards including a Grammy Award nomination. They even established a new trend in the music industry by being the first musical group to ever have a graphic picture on a CD.
After many years of touring and recording with MidSouth, Lewis decided to make an industry move from behind the drums on stage to the management side of the music business. Working with the “First Lady of Country Music,” Tammy Wynette, Lewisb learned the ins and outs of the business-side of the music industry from Wynette’s husband George Ritchie.
From the onset of his career change, Lewis said he wanted to give back by becoming a mentor and helping to give direction to young, musicians who were new in town. Throughout the 1990s and into the new millennium, he was tour manager for Trisha Yearwood. During this time, he began to be a tour manager whom other tour managers would come to for tips on how the put a successful tour together, to find out who were the best people to work with on travel, contracts, and leasing tour buses.
He was fortunate enough to be with Yearwood at music award events, the Oscars, two White House dinners, as well as in attendance at two Presidential inaugurations, and countless sporting events, such as the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia when Yearwood sang the National Anthem.
For the last 13 years, Lewis has been working with renowned guitarist, Peter Frampton.
Due to Frampton dividing his yearly time between touring and working in his recording studio in Nashville, Lewis has been able to guest lecture at Belmont University on several occasions, speaking to students about the music industry in general and the best way to make an impact and start a career in the very competitive field of touring personnel and artists.
The fundamental skill sets, which Lewis says he learned as a student at MCJVS/MVCTC, have allowed him to expand his career choices in ways that he never anticipated. Organization is the key element to everything he does. The title of “tour manager” encompasses so many roles and responsibilities that he has to be extremely organized to keep not only himself but the entire tour on schedule.
Lewis found in leaving his familiar high school for the MCJVS/MVCTC, a chance to spread his wings and meet new people, accept new challenges and step up into a leadership role that when beyond his academic program and has helped sustain him throughout his long career.
“I arrived at MCJVS/MVCTC as a shy junior in high school,” Lewis said. “In coming to this school, I learned how to interact with new students who ultimately became friends. They entire experience allowed me to step out of my comfort zone. FFA was also a great experience as I learned skills that I use today I public speaking. I treasure my two years of education here at MCVJS/MVCTC.”
The 10 new MVCTC Hall of Fame members received a special crystal award presented to them by MVCTC Superintendent Dr. Nick Weldy and Director of Instruction Rhonda Phillips at a dinner meeting attended by over 350 program advisory members. The inductees’ portraits will be displayed in the school and their names will join the other 49 names engraved on a perpetual Hall of Fame plaque in the student activity center.
MVCTC Hall of Fame members are inducted every five years from nominations which come from educators, family members, business, and employers. Cathy Hutton, Northmont Area Chamber of Commerce Director; Eddie Mowen, Editor for The Register-Herald, and Ohio Representative Jeff Rezabek judged the Hall of Fame nominations this year.
“We are proud to honor our returning alumni who have been so successful after leaving the Miami Valley Career Technology Center,” Dr. Weldy said. “Their former instructors provided a firm foundation to assist them in building careers that have blossomed. I appreciate the fact that all of the inductees returned to campus from across the United States to participate in the ceremony and show their dedication to our current mission of educating students to be career and college ready. They serve as inspiring role models for our current students. I congratulate each of our inductees and wish them the best of luck in their quest for continued success.”