So — you decided that you want to invest some time, money and effort into music lessons for yourself or your child. Where to turn?
Rhonda Buckley, who recently joined Levine Music as head of campuses and strategic development, wants to convince people that the benefits of music are accessible to anyone who takes that step toward furthering his or her musical acumen.
“Everybody can do it,” said Buckley, known to many in D.C. as the founder and longtime executive director of the Sitar Arts Center in Adams Morgan.
Luckily for people who live in the Washington area, Levine Music offers multiple locations: Northwest D.C.; Southeast D.C.; Silver Spring and Bethesda in Maryland; and Arlington, Virginia.
Levine Music was founded in 1976 in a small church basement through the combined efforts of Diana Engel, Ruth Cogen and Jaclin Marlin. The three decided to start the school in honor of the late Selma M. Levine, an attorney and amateur pianist who encouraged young musicians to further their craft. Levine died in 1975 in an automobile accident.
From the beginning, the school encouraged people to take part in music classes from an early age. Through its First Music program, children as young as four months old can take a class, as long as a parent or a caregiver is present. First Music is for children up to 8 years of age. There are also programs for children between the ages of 4 and 12 and for those between 13 and 18.
Levine also brings music to families that are economically challenged. According to the website, more than 650 children receive free or subsidized instruction annually.
With close to 200 faculty members, the departments include guitar, percussion, piano, strings, voice and woodwinds and brass, along with jazz, rock, Act Two (musical theater), chamber music, composition, music therapy and Suzuki.
As an adult, it is easy to believe that it is too late to try to become some sort of musician, but there is a division for people over 18. It wouldn’t be surprising for someone with little music experience to feel sheer terror at the thought of stepping into a new field of knowledge. One might even think that Levine would be a place where newcomers are immediately judged on their ability, as though they were trying to audition for “The Voice.”
The About page on the website is reassuring, emphasizing that the school is “a welcoming community” and that every person is “a cherished friend.” Buckley makes clear that when a new person comes to Levine Music, the application process does not determine admission, but focuses on what the seeker is looking for.
The main D.C. campus, on Upton Street in Van Ness, is a hub buzzing with activity. The calendar is filled with a myriad of events open to the musically interested public. One can listen to a Young Concert Artists Series performance or pay $5 to take part in a Community Sings event, for which no previous music experience is required.
Interested in taking a class or starting lessons? The spring semester begins on Jan. 30, though lessons can begin at any time. Registration is also open for this year’s Camp Levine, from late June to early August, which has a Caribbean theme.