Shari Lewis made her mark as a talented ventriloquist with a sock puppet named Lamb Chop. But as Arts columnist Brian Brennan discovered when he interviewed her, Lewis had much more going for her talentwise than ventriloquism. An excerpt of Brennan’s latest Brief Encounters column, A Playmate Who Loved Good Music: Shari Lewis (paywall):
Before I met Shari Lewis, I was under the impression – probably like a lot of people – that she was just a popular children’s entertainer; a ventriloquist with a cute sock puppet named Lamb Chop. To my surprise, I discovered she was much more: a trained musician who played violin and conducted symphony orchestras, an actor-dancer who had done Broadway musicals on tour, and a published book author and newspaper columnist. If she had to settle for one career, she said, it would be as a writer. But she was doing it all.
We spoke just before Lewis was due to perform a Christmas show with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. She had taken up conducting a few years earlier, mainly because of the encouragement of her music director, a man whose real name – Stormy Sacks – sounded like it might belong to one of her puppets. “Mother used to say that, for me, music was a vaccination that didn’t take,” said Lewis. “My great joy has always been solfeggio (sight-reading exercises) and musical theory. But the orchestra is now my instrument.”
Was she nervous when she did her first orchestral gig, with the Dallas Symphony? “Facing the Stravinsky score was more of a challenge than stepping up in front of the musicians,” she replied. “When I looked at it, I realized it would be a real challenge for me to communicate this. But once I got to the podium I knew just what I had to do” … log in* to read A Playmate Who Loved Good Music: Shari Lewis.
*You’ll find lots of great free stories inside our site, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising. We do need and appreciate your support – a day pass is a buck and monthly subscription costs less than a cup of coffee.
Here is Brian Brennan’s columnist page; here is F&O’s page to purchase a subscription or $1 site day pass
*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Why? We appreciate your interest and support: for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1. A subscription is required for most F&O original work. Subscribe for free to Frontlines by entering your address in theform on the right (we won’t share your address), or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.