Despina Chletcos-Lewis Musician and Beloved Teacher
Despina Chletcos-Lewis was born in1923 at 1008 Pine Street, Philadelphia’s antique row, in house delivery. She was the youngest of six children to parents who immigrated from Lichna on the island of Lemnos, Greece. She was raised in St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral where she was the church organist. She attended the Hamilton School of Music in Philadelphia where she graduated with honors.
Despina Lewis was a child prodigy in piano. She taught piano privately for seventy-one years without even hanging a shingle outside of her house. She started teaching piano privately at the age of fifteen in 1938. Her future husband became a student as he was also a child prodigy and piano virtuoso before going to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music on a scholarship. In addition to teaching thousands of students of all ages from three to ninety-three in the Delaware County and the tri-state area she also taught her three children and six grandchildren.
Her first child, Veronica Lewis-Crisp, was also a child prodigy and a vocalist virtuoso being taught by her mother. Veronica attended Beaver College, a school for musical virtuosos while attending high school. In 1973, 1974 and 1975 Veronica won the vocal chorale competition three years in a row for the entire state of Pennsylvania, making her music teacher and mother proud.
Despina’s musical teachings sparked the love of music for thousands of children and adults throughout Delaware County and Philadelphia who went on to excel in a career of music on their own and pass on the love of music to others. “Saturday Night Live’s” star writer, actress and comedian Tina Fey, who lived a few doors away, was introduced to the love of music by Despina with private piano lessons.
After seventy-one years of teaching, she announced her retirement to the dismay of her hundreds of students in the Delaware County area who wrote notes and cards to her chronicling their numerous sweet memories of their favorite teacher, Despina. In all of her teachings, she was known to have created a lifelong love of the arts which continues to be lived through all those she has touched with her love of music.