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'A wonderful example of oom-pah'

August 11, 2002|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

In music, a rest is defined as a measured interval of silence between tones.

Marc Levy, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra's executive director, and Kate Levy, music program coordinator for continuing education at Hagerstown Community College, are leaving the area.

Think of their departure as a rest.

Not that the organizations they have worked to build in the past several years will miss a beat. The Levys have done a good job and leave the MSO and HCC's Symphony Center finely tuned.

But their absence will create a hard-to-fill space in the area's musical community.

Kate Levy, who earned her doctorate in music education in the past year, will be assistant professor at the State University of New York in Fredonia.

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Marc Levy, who has a master's degree in arts administration, hopes to find a job in his field.

"It's always been sort of a seesaw thing," Kate Levy says, the spouses accommodating each other's goals and opportunities. "We have taken turns."

The couple has accomplished quite a bit since arriving in 1996.

Shortly after Marc Levy started his job, the orchestra's founding director Barry Tuckwell announced his resignation. Levy was able to keep himself separate from tensions between the maestro and the board. "We took care of business," he says.

That business included a search for the orchestra's new music director. After the 1998-99 season of audition concerts by four candidates, Elizabeth Schulze got the job.

"She's been super," Marc Levy says. Orchestra and audience surveys reflect the MSO community's happiness with her selection. "We know we did our job right," Levy says.

Schulze is happy with the job Levy has done. His leaving is a big loss, she says. "He has been just brilliant."

The MSO's progress has "only come with support," Marc Levy says. "People worked with us and were open to ideas," he says. He credits the board, the volunteer guild, the musicians, the staff. "It really takes all of these groups to work together to have a successful organization," he says.

"We are very sorry to have him go," says Marjorie Hobbs, president of the MSO board.

Education and broadening the orchestra's audience have been high on Marc Levy's list of goals for the MSO.

Many people think of the symphony as an elitist organization - stuffy - something you have to get dressed up for, Marc Levy says. "It's anything but that. Classical music is fun," he says.

Offerings have expanded. A second holiday concert was added last season. Thirteen hundred more fourth-graders got to hear the MSO with the addition of a third youth concert to last season's calendar. A fourth is probable this year, Marc Levy says.

Schools were involved in an art and lyric-writing contest. Members of Hagerstown Choral Arts have had opportunities to perform with the orchestra as have student musicians from Washington County schools. The MSO was on the road again, performing in Western Maryland and closer to home at the Alumni Amphitheater at HCC.

Marc Levy hopes that the 2-year-old family concert will continue. "There needs to be something for young kids," he says. They are the audience of the future.

Kate Levy also has been working on the future at the Symphony Music Center, a partnership between the MSO and HCC. Classes are offered for young students - as young as 6 months of age - and their parents. Enrollment has grown from four students in 1997 to close to 700 last year.

"Preschool is a very urgent time to see that children are involved in music," she says. "Parents are surprised that the fun stuff we are doing really has an effect - beyond the music."

Kinder Konzerts, designed especially for young children, are performed by MSO players at Valley Mall.

"You teach them in the way they can learn it," she says.

The program has brought opera to local children, and its children's musical theater will present "Oklahoma" next spring, Kate Levy says.

Older citizens also have been making music. Kate Levy started the New Horizons Band in fall 1997 with 15 students aged 50 and older. The band has grown to 50 members. They learn and play together and have become friends, she says.

An Elderhostel chamber music program welcomed students from as far away as Alabama and Nova Scotia.

Elaine Braun, MSO director of operations, has worked closely with both Levys. She will assume Kate Levy's baton as conductor of the New Horizons Band, and she plans to teach a music-appreciation class for MSO concertgoers at the college's Symphony Music Center.

She calls Marc Levy "the greatest boss."

"I'm going to miss him."

The years haven't all been upbeat. "We have had some hard times to deal with," says Marc Levy, referring to the unexpected deaths of trumpeter Robert Grab in 2000 and Board President Bennett Rubin last year. "It definitely brought us closer together."

The MSO's 2001-02 20th anniversary season was a wonderful finale for Marc Levy. The Sept. 22 pops concert, soon after the horror of 9/11, featured Doc Severinsen. HCC's Athletic, Recreation and Community Center was transformed into a gala cabaret for an audience of 1,800. "We all needed that," he says.

During their time in Hagerstown, when their schedules allowed, the Levys played with Hagerstown Municipal Band. Kate Levy plays French horn; Marc Levy, the tuba.

Lynn Lerew, the band's director for 28 years, joins the chorus of praise and affection for the couple. He counts the Levys among the musicians who "play for the love of it."

"They are really, really nice people, and dependable to play the part. They are a wonderful example of oom-pah."

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