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She keeps kids tuned in

March 25, 2002|BY JULIE E. GREENE

Editor's note: This is the last installment of a weeklong series during National Women's History Month, recognizing women in the Tri-State area who make a difference in their communities.

When Kate Levy sees toddlers and preschool children tapping their legs in rhythm to a performing string quartet or a trio of drummers, she feels hopeful.

"I hope that they will continue to have opportunities to experience music," said Levy, creator of the Kinder Konzerts series that provides young children an opportunity to see live concerts up close.

"You can see that they respond during the concerts. They move, they sing, they conduct in the air," Levy said.

Levy, 41, of Hagerstown, can't say for sure whether this early exposure to live music will enhance a child's musical capability, but she hopes it makes a difference.

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Levy, Symphony Music Center coordinator at Hagerstown Community College's Center for Continuing Education, would be satisfied if the up-close demonstrations just encouraged the children's love of music as a listener.

St. John's Preschool Director Beth Adams said the school's children love Kinder Konzerts and the one-on-one attention Levy pays them.

"She's very vibrant. They see her moving along with the music," Adams said. "I think she's a wonderful influence for the children."

Before the kids go to the concerts they spend two weeks learning about brass, string, wind and percussion instruments to help them understand what they'll be seeing and hearing, Adams said.

Kinder Konzerts started in October 1997 after the Maryland Symphony Orchestra Guild asked Levy what else the guild and symphony could do to promote music education. Levy patterned the concert series after a program she and her husband, MSO Executive Director Marc Levy, saw while living in Iowa.

Kinder is German for children and Konzert is German for concert.

This year, Washington County public schools began sending kindergarten and prekindergarten students to Kinder Konzerts at the request of Levy, said Rob Hovermale, the school system's music resource specialist.

At two concerts earlier this month there were approximately 500 children at the Valley Mall listening to drummers.

"It was a fantastic concept that she had. It's definitely working," Hovermale said. "The kids are seeing firsthand the professional musicians and they're really enjoying it.

"The kids' eyes are just wide open. They're really into it," said Hovermale, whose daughter has attended Kinder Konzerts.

"Kate's real good with the kids," he said.

Levy tries to keep the children focused on the music by pointing to her ears to indicate they should be listening or tapping her leg to the beat to get them to feel the music's pulse, Hovermale said.

Levy compares such actions to parents splashing water to get their children acclimated to swimming.

By involving the children, Levy hopes to encourage the musical capabilities they have naturally so they can draw on them later in life.

Levy and HCC's Symphony Music Center aren't limited to enhancing the musical experiences of young children.

The center helps expand the musical horizons of groups from older children to senior citizens through various programs, Levy said.

This summer three different music camps are being offered, including programs in which MSO members and MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze will work on chamber music with senior citizens and high school students, Levy said.

"I think we're serving the full span of age as well as we can," Levy said. "There are still more things we can do."

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