John Lewis was born in Fiordland and was brought up on his parent’s dairy farm near Invercargill.
He began playing the cornet at age nine, doing much of his practice in the cow shed where he learnt to entertain both the cows, and later, people.
In his formative years, he played with the H&H Cougar Brass Band (now Ascot Park Hotel Invercargill Brass) and later went on to study music at the University of Otago in Dunedin.
At this time, John was appointed Principal Cornet of the St Kilda Brass Band. Four years later, he graduated from Otago University with a Bachelor of Music with first class honours and won several scholarships for graduating first in his class.
In 1997 he won a Royal Overseas League Scholarship which allowed him to travel to London to perform at St Martins in the Fields, St James Piccadilly, The Great Hall at Dartington International Summer School and at the Royal Overseas League headquarters in London.
Following this success, John returned to the books again to study for a diploma in Journalism at the Peter Arnette School of Journalism where he won several more scholarships for graduating first in class.
He is an award winning Journalist and was formerly Assistant Editor of Brass Band World Magazine in the United Kingdom. At present, he is a senior journalist at The Otago Daily Times.
John has won the New Zealand Cornet Championship seven times, and in 2001, he achieved the incredible by winning the New Zealand Cornet Championship, the Australian Cornet Championship, the Australian Champion of Champions, the New Zealand Champion of Champions and the New Zealand Invitation Slow Melody Contest – making him the Australasian Champion of Champions and the first to win all five internationally contested events in the same year.
Following his 2001 solo success, John returned to the UK which enabled him to realise his aspirations of playing for one of the finest brass bands in the world – Brighouse and Rastrick – where he held the position of Assistant Principal Cornet from 2001-2005.
More recently, John has been the Principal Cornet of the 2005, 2007, 2009, 2014 and 2017 National Bands of New Zealand, and was the Ern Keller International Soloist of the Year in 2012.