- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2003

One day 25 years ago, three self-described “transplanted New Yorkers” decided that Washington needed a first-class, community-based music school.

Ruth Cogen, Diana Engel and Jaclin Martin drew up budgets, persuaded friends to enroll their youngsters in music classes and scraped together $4,000 in donations to open for business in a small church on Massachusetts Avenue NW.

Today, the Levine School of Music, named for the founders’ music-loving friend, the late Selma M. Levine, boasts four facilities in the District, Maryland and Virginia, employs a top-flight faculty and serves students of all ages — from 6 months to 96 years.

Levine celebrated its silver anniversary Thursday night at the Almas Temple Club downtown, where supporters sipped cocktails and sampled Asian hors d’oeuvres under a gilded dome before repairing to the ballroom for a surf-and-turf buffet.

During a ceremony emceed by WRC-ABC 7 News anchor Maureen Bunyan, the school recognized its three founders, National Symphony Orchestra Music Director Leonard Slatkin and the Abramson Foundation.

In typically understated fashion, Sonny Abramson declined to make any remarks when Knight Kiplinger presented a silver anniversary award to his family for its generous support of the school.

Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser (“my boss,” Mr. Slatkin joshed) bestowed the school’s honor on the maestro, who emphasized that Levine will produce not just some of tomorrow’s musicians but, perhaps more important, tomorrow’s music lovers.

Long a Levine supporter, Mr. Slatkin said the school “helps to reinforce the idea that music should be available to everybody. It’s the history of Western civilization in sound.”

“Music speaks to everybody” Miss Engel added after dinner. “It enriches lives.”

To that end, the school serves children and senior citizens alike, humble amateurs and aspiring professionals. A trio of the latter, all Levine students of high school age, got to strut their stuff during the ceremony.

Violinist Gray Dickersonand pianistCharisse Henry played Grieg’s Sonata in F, while 15-year-old virtuoso pianist Pallavi Mahidhara chose two etudes by Liszt.

Earlier that evening, the Levine Suzuki String Program, a troupe of adorable tweens, welcomed arriving guests on their violins as parents clicked away on their instruments of choice — cameras.

Even if the budding fiddlers don’t end up in the NSO, Mr. Slatkin thinks the school will have done its job if they leave it with a love and appreciation for music.

“It’s all well and good to produce performers,” Mr. Slatkin said, “but it won’t mean much if we don’t produce audiences to listen.”

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