The hills are alive: Ambassador Lewis does O’Fallon proud

David Lewis outside of Buckingham Palace with other members of the Illinois Ambassadors of Music program. (Submitted Photo)

David Lewis outside of Buckingham Palace with other members of the Illinois Ambassadors of Music program. (Submitted Photo)

O’Fallon’s own David Lewis has become an international man of music. Lewis was selected to participate in the Illinois Ambassadors of Music program and tour Europe for 19 days.

Lewis was a member of the OTHS Band programs for four years, with three years as both the Drum Major for the Marching Panthers and Principal Horn for the Wind Ensemble.

He is the Principal Horn for the Illinois Ambassadors of Music band, which is comprised of over 120 students. Prior to leaving, Lewis completed a three day long band camp at SIUE, where the students learned seven songs with six different conductors.

Lewis has agreed to send updates about his travels to the O’Fallon Weekly. We are sharing the first six days worth here. For more photos from Lewis’s trip, visit

June 24:  After a long wait in lines at the airport (two hours of hurry up and wait which began at 6 a.m.), the Illinois Ambassadors of Music boarded three different flights.  My plane took me to Minneapolis, where I spent the next 11 hours socializing with friends and my family, resting, and walking circles around the large terminal. I met a wonderful dog named Scutter who helped stress-ridden passengers a chance to relax by being a calm companion.  We eventually boarded the plane and took off for Europe.

Lewis arriving in London Heathrow Airport. (Submitted Photo)

Lewis arriving in London Heathrow Airport. (Submitted Photo)

June 25: The plane arrived in England at noon local time, which is 6 a.m. in O’Fallon. The Ambassadors were greeted by a kind man who escorted us to Immigration. Like at Disney, we waited 45 minutes to pass through the stop, instead of the promised 25 minute wait. We then claimed our bags and exited the airport, with the only damage to all our possessions being one broken trombone case.

Our flight arrived the latest, so our trip to Windsor could only last 50 minutes. The castle was stunning, perched in the landscape. The golden flag that was raised above the castle meant the Queen was inside and she had remained there throughout the day.

We arrived at the hotel and ate dinner before taking a walk throughout London. We passed St. Paul’s Cathedral before crossing over the Millennium Bridge. Lastly, we passed Roman ruins on our way back to the hotel.

June 26: Performance day. The choir was first to perform on this Sunday. Inside Wesley’s Chapel, the Illinois Ambassadors Choir sang in front of the rest of the Ambassadors and the church’s congregation during the Sunday Worship. They joined with an Asian college choir for the final piece, which was a glorious harmony conducted by O’Fallon resident and UMSL Professor Dr. Gail Flemming.

Afterwards, the Ambassors battled unbelievably slow-moving  London traffic before finally reaching the Victoria Embankment Gardens. There, all three groups rotated performing on a stage which looked out over the beautiful park. While playing “Stars and Stripes Forever,” the crowd of townspeople stood, cheered, clapped, and even danced around the stage. European and American flags flew side-by-side, which showed me for the first time how influential music is to forming relations with other people from anywhere in the world.

That night, I joined a group of students in walking over the Thames and touring the South Bank. We bought food from brightly-colored food trucks and watched people as they strolled alongside the river. Our day’s final stop was the London Eye. The near-constant rain diminished our view, but the experience still capped the day off nicely, as the 30-minute ride offered many pictures of the Greater London Area.

David Lewis with Tour Director Dr. John Bell, who is the Professor of Music and Director of Bands at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. (Submitted Photo)

David Lewis with Tour Director Dr. John Bell, who is the Professor of Music and Director of Bands at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. (Submitted Photo)

June 27: Our last day in London. We ate another breakfast of yogurt, ham and cheese, and croissants before stepping onto our coaches for the city tour. Our guide was named Nigel, an older chap with maroon pants and a fun tie. Nigel gave directions to Hans, our world-class bus driver who can navigate the massive machine through gates only inches bigger – while battling the London traffic. We toured the city, seeing St. Paul’s Cathedral Parliament, and much more.

For lunch, we exited the bus and grabbed a sack lunch to eat while watching the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. Then, we traveled to the Tower of London, where we saw the tower, it’s walls, and the Crown Jewel exhibit (which had hundreds of golden kitchen supplies, crowns, scepters, and rings).

June 28: Today was our day to travel, so we all woke up at 3:45 a.m. The first two hours were nothing to speak of, as everyone was asleep, but we awoke to a ferry. On the ship, as it departed for France, I captured pictures with the Dover’s iconic White Cliffs.

A short while later, the bus drove off the ship, and stopped at a rest area. Here, the language barrier became present. Having taken four years of Spanish, I felt out of place trying to communicate with the French people. Eventually, my struggle ended as we boarded the bus again for our next few hours of driving before Paris.

A couple hours passed before we ran into traffic, which (even though I thought it to be impossible) was worse than in London. We arrived at a restaurant in Paris’s 18th district, where we enjoyed our first true croissants. The night ended as we faced traffic again on our way to the hotel.

June 29: Our first stop of the morning was at Montmartre, a tiny village within Paris which overtakes a small city hill. After many warnings, the

David outside Windsor Castle (Submitted Photo)

David outside Windsor Castle (Submitted Photo)

Ambassadors pushed through the pickpockets and the scammers before ascending hundreds of steps before reaching the Sacre Coeur, a cathedral atop the hill. The view from outside the cathedral is said to be one of the best in Paris, and the sights on the inside are spectacular.

Next, a small group and I decided to stroll through the shops and restaurants of the Artists Quarter, where we bought goodies and souvenirs for home. We sat down to eat at a restaurant, where my group and I had to order and eat without angering the already furious two-person staff who were yelling in French about previous customers. We scurried back to the bus and took a seat for our city tour.

Our tour guide spoke very broken English, so the tour wasn’t helpful, and the traffic forbade us from seeing anything spectacular. We ended the tour by taking pictures at the Eiffel tower and unloading the bus at the Louvre. The staff of the magnificent museum claimed that it would take a person six weeks to see all the pieces of artwork for one second, so my friends and I raced to see everything we could in the alloted hour and a half. After eating dinner, the Ambassadors traveled up and down the River Seine and passed many iconic landmarks.

Look for more from David’s travels next week in the O’Fallon Weekly!