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Relatively speaking: Courtney Lewis

By Joanne Sweeney

Courtney Lewis from Belfast has just become music director of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra in the USA. The former RBAI student is the son of the late Paul Lewis, a barrister, and Professor Sheena Lewis, who works at Queen’s University, Belfast. He has a brother, Adam (28), and a sister Cara (27), both doctors

Name: Courtney Lewis

Age: 30

Occupation: Music director, Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra

Relationship to Sheena: Son

Becoming music director of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra is a very big step forward in my career career as I wanted to achieve this before I was 30.

A music directorship, or being principal conductor as it's known at home, is a big responsibility and there's a lot of aspects to it. But first and foremost I'm a musician.

My mother is very important to my life and I really hate that I'm not able to come home more often. So something that I'm really looking forward to in this job is that it gives me more time to travel and visit home – I'm hoping there won't be these long six-month periods of not seeing each other anymore.

I've always been very proud of mum, particularly when she got the chair at Queen's and became Professor Lewis while I was still at Cambridge University.

I'm incredibly proud of that and it's been really amazing to see how successful her business has been as not many academics would have a clue how to do anything in business.

My mother and father obviously had very high expectations for all three of us but I don't think that we ever felt pressurised to achieve things.

I often wondered how they got the balance right as it's something I would like to do with my own kids. Despite Mum's career, I've never been conscious of that ever getting in the way of her being a parent.

There's lots of things that are very similar between us both. We both have jobs where leadership is an important part. We both can be slightly impatient when things don't happen as quickly as we want them to.

And we have become even closer since Dad died suddenly several years ago.

One of the things that has been slightly strange about the grieving process is that we all seemed to have gone through things at pretty similar times, but that's also has been very encouraging."


Name: Sheena Lewis

AGE: 58



I'm so proud of Courtney. He has such a passion for his work and such a clear vision of how music can enhance people's lives.

He wanted to be a principal conductor before he was 30 and this latest appointment came just a day before his 30th birthday.

Courtney's musical ability was obvious very early, as he played clarinet, piano and saxophone as a boy. He was always absolutely fascinated by music, as was my late husband Paul.

When other parents used to ask us if we had a problem getting him to practice his instruments, it was the opposite. We had a rule at home that Courtney was not allowed to play the piano before 7am or after 11pm at night.

One pleasure that Courtney and I share is food, we both like fine wine and a nice meal.

We would both be very focused and work very hard. We also like to work out and when I've been out to see him in Minneapolis we've enjoyed going to the gym.

We both also travel extensively for our work so we discuss the joys of losing luggage and tips about airports around the world. And I like to joke that he got his ravishing good looks from me.

The one thing that does annoy me is that he's mentioned on more websites on Google than me. I think that it's appalling, considering I'm twice his age!

We are very good friends, we Skype every week, as of course I do with my other two children as well.

I was very determined that after Courtney was born I was going straight back to work. I did so but survived only three months as I was absolutely besotted with him. I ended up taking a five-year career break.

When my youngest was two I went back to work part-time. I'm very glad I did that, although it did put my own career on hold.

I can pick that up now and I think that it did help to build really strong relationships with my children."

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