Metro riders have probably heard a man with a booming voice singing hymns and songs of worship at station entrances near Dupont Circle, Farragut and downtown. Andrew Lewis is the 50-year-old owner of that voice, and he’s been spreading his sharing his message with morning commuters for the past three years.
“The Lord spoke to me and told me to step out here on the streets and do full-time ministry,” Lewis said. “That’s what I’ve been doing ever since, reaching out by singing praise and worship.”
Ask Lewis what he does for a living and he’ll tell you: this. He keeps a donation box close by while he belts out holy praises at the top of his lungs.
Despite not having any formal musical training, Lewis shares this message through song. Though his message isn’t always well-received, Lewis said his goal is to be heard, even if people aren’t listening.
“I don’t have any complaints,” he said. “I’m doing what I’m passionate about, and that’s key. Regardless of what I’m going through, I know who my source is. That’s what got me through the fire.”
“The fact that I can reach people in the great capacity I have over the last three years is a blessing in itself,” said Lewis. “We’re in a world where not everyone believes, so I know what I’m up against. For the most part, it’s been a great journey.”
The Richmond native was ordained as a Baptist deacon in the summer of 2009. At the time, he lived in Newport News, Va., and worked with the ministry at the Providence Baptist Church.
About month after his ordination, Lewis was preparing to make dinner late one night by heating up some vegetable oil in a stockpot. He left the room for a moment and came back to find a disaster.
“When I came back into the kitchen, the apartment was on fire,” Lewis recalled. “I didn’t have a fire extinguisher and I wasn’t really thinking, so I pitched some water on it. It was just instinct.”
That panic-driven instinct resulted in an explosion that covered Lewis in hot oil. He was able to exit the apartment through a window and seek help at a fire station across the street, but he was badly burned.
After a full day of being blind in both eyes, skin grafts, surgeries and five months of recovery, Lewis was well enough to leave town. He bounced between Virginia and New York before settling in D.C. three years ago.
Though Metro riders have gotten used to his morning gospels, Lewis said his journey is coming to an end, at least for now. In December, he’ll move back to Richmond to care for his elderly mother and try to find other work.
In terms of the rest of his future, there’s only one thing Lewis knows for sure.
“Even if I’m not singing, the ministry will always be in my life because that’s just who I am,” he said. “I just want to keep reaching people and letting my light shine.”
Morning commutes might be a little quieter for a while: The well-known public performers behind DuPont Brass are moving on from busking to become a “professional ensemble.”
The band shared the bittersweet news with its fans over the weekend.
“We are no longer the DuPont Brass that started out at Dupont Circle in the winter of 2011,” read an e-mail from the group. “With our brand continuing to grow and our members wrapping up their perspective degrees, we’ve decided to stray from busking and focus on developing ourselves as a performance group/service.”
DuPont Brass will play a “send-off show” for its fans tomorrow at the Marion Street Intergenerational Community Garden in Shaw at 2 p.m.
Flugelhorn and trumpet player Jared Bailey said his bandmates are looking forward to giving up early mornings and lugging heavy instruments onto the train.
“Doing it every day is very draining,” Bailey said. “As far as doing other things, we’re definitely ready for that.”
Bailey added the main reason for quitting busking was that the group — made up of mostly Howard University students — was on the verge of graduating. “We don’t want go out there and fool people that we’re raising for tuition,” he said.
Tomorrow’s show will be a blowout brass bash meant to celebrate the band’s four-year run as street performers.
“We’re trying to introduce people to our new sound,” Bailey said. “The send-off is meant to introduce them to the new sound that we’ve been working on.”
In addition to the usual brass and drums, tomorrow’s performance will pack the stage with a keyboard player, a guitarist and a second drummer. Expect the old arrangements and some new stuff, said Bailey.
“It’s probably something that you’ve heard before, but we’ve added to it to make it even better,” Bailey added.
The performance will also include other local performers, a food truck, live painting and an auction to kickstart the group’s professional career.
As for what’s next, Bailey said the band has some grand plans.
“We’re trying to raise money for a tour that we’re putting together that’s in the works, a college tour,” he said. “We’ll be going to colleges and putting on seminars.”
Bailey said he hopes his band can teach small ensembles across the country how to form their own DuPont Brass-like busking groups.
“Not just performing for them, but also showing them what we did to make it to where we are,” said Bailey. “That’s something we want to share for people, just how we did this.”
Photo via Facebook/DPBrass