Keith Lewis loves people. He loves to talk to them, entertain them and make them laugh. He has helped a deaf person hear, made people fall in love and brought people out of Alzheimer’s. All of this was accomplished through his accordion music.
Lewis grew up in Springville, and when he was young his mother wanted him to play the piano. However, Lewis wasn’t interested in piano. His mother was insistent that he “learn to play something!” so he chose the accordion and started taking lessons when he was six years old.
“It is the one instrument everyone scorns,” Lewis said. “After the years of taking lessons as a kid, I was getting pretty good. Still a geek, but getting pretty good going into high school.”
After Lewis began his accordion lessons, his father set aside $10 a week from the time he was seven years old until he was seventeen. Then in 1969, he was finally able to buy his own professional accordion for $3,500.
A few years ago Lewis and his wife went to an accordion shop in Vegas, and he took his instrument to the owner. “He looked at it, and got real serious real fast,” Lewis said. “He told me that the instrument was worth well over $45,000 now. But it is actually priceless. It takes the touch of the master’s hand.”
And Lewis is a master indeed. He has entertained people with his accordion music for years at restaurants, weddings, parties, European study abroad groups and at over 100 performances of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Locally, Lewis performed at Ottavio’sRistorante Italiano in Provo for 11 years before it closed. Now he performs at Gloria’s Little Italy in Provo on Friday and Saturday evenings. He has met many locals and celebrities during his time entertaining.
“When Gloria’s hired me, I brought all my stories with me,” Lewis said. “I get to meet everyone!”
Over the years of playing at the restaurant, Lewis built a good friendship with former Utah Jazz player Jeff Hornacek, who would bring his daughters to BYU to help them move in for school, and the family would eat at the restaurant and request to see their favorite accordion player. Lewis also played a sweet lullaby for Hornacek’s grandbaby on one occasion.
But Lewis’ favorite experience happened with a local Utah County family. “They were all eating dinner and I was singing to their table,” Lewis said. “The little girl was just riveted, staring at me. And like a dummy I didn’t even notice. Then the granddad pulled me aside and said, “This young girl is nearly deaf, but for some reason she hears you.”
Lewis has shared his talents with people from around the globe, and he continues to play songs by request and with a smile.
“That is my gift,” Lewis said. “And I do it with a stupid accordion.”
See Keith perform Friday and Saturday nights at Gloria’s Little Italy.