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Levine aspires to share love of violin after graduation

By Michelle Kim

Section: Arts

March 21, 2014

Like most college freshmen, Rachel Levine ’14 came to Brandeis with an open mind. “I wanted the options. I liked that I could explore my major,” she said.

Although Levine, a Music Performance major, has been studying the violin since she was four years old, she did not plan on studying music when applying to universities and therefore did not look at music conservatories, which, being extremely competitive and intense, are for those who are not only driven but also know they want to be music performers or professors. She knew that she wanted to attend a college that had a good music program in addition to providing a liberal arts education.

Levine explained why she chose Brandeis over other universities that are affiliated with music conservatories: “I wanted to explore. I really did enjoy the courses I took outside my major. I am also studying International and Global Studies as a minor, which I considered as a major for a while. I liked having that extra knowledge. Undergrad is a very important time; it’s when you can really explore a lot of different areas. After Brandeis, I’m not going to have such easy access to all these different fields of study.”

Despite wanting to become a violin instructor, Levine hasn’t been able to teach yet. “Being isolated on the Brandeis campus without a car makes teaching violin difficult. I would also feel irresponsible teaching without being trained,” she said. Brandeis doesn’t have a music education program, so Levine hopes to start her training as soon as possible so she can begin a career in teaching the Suzuki method of violin.

After graduating from Brandeis, Levine wants to eventually move to Israel to teach the Suzuki method ( which is also known as the “mother tongue method”) and hopefully start a school someday. Students who are taught with the Suzuki method usually start at an early age and are trained to play at a high standard without being subjected to the harsh environment that often accompanies classical musical education. There are a few teachers who use the Suzuki method in Israel, but they, unlike American and European instructors, don’t have a school or belong to a Suzuki association.

“There is so much musical talent in Israel, and they have different methods of teaching. From my experience, when you start children young, it creates some incredible results, sort of like how kids can easily learn their native tongue,” Levine explained.

Levine, however, is not going straight to graduate school. Instead, she will take a gap year and take time to focus on the violin. “I think that it is important to be really good at whatever you’re going to be teaching.”

Like many music majors at Brandeis, Levine values the liberal arts education provided by the university, but naturally finds it time-consuming. She gives as “close to a hundred percent as I can to my personal craft,” but believes that that is not what it means to be a liberal arts student and to have a valuable well-rounded education. In addition to more focused training during the next year, she also plans to research graduate schools that have a Suzuki training program.

It took some time for Levine to decide her post-graduation plans. “I think it was a gradual process. A lot of things happened at once … I was asking myself what all of it meant for my future and my career. I knew I was interested in music and that I loved to play the violin, but also did not want to become a soloist. It’s an extremely high pressure and crazy kind of lifestyle.”

Something very interesting about Levine’s past music education is that she was taught by her mother, who is a Suzuki instructor and taught Levine for most of her life. Contrary to what some may think, Levine was never forced to play the violin. Similar to most instrumentalists, there were a few years, like in middle school, when she did not want to continue playing the violin. She soon overcame that sentiment, however. When Levine told her mother that she wanted to become a Suzuki violin teacher, she also had to explain that her decision was completely her own.

For those who are interested in pursuing a Music Performance major, Levine advises taking full advantage of the music courses that are offered at Brandeis. “There are a lot of requirements. I would start on them as soon as possible. Even if you end up not becoming a music major, you’re still going to have a lot of fun. I really love the theory classes. I find it so interesting to look at pieces at such a detailed level. As a performer, it’s important to know all the aspects of the music you’re studying.”

Levine is currently working on the Bach unaccompanied G minor sonata, the Beethoven spring sonata, in addition to others, all of which will be performed at her March 30 senior recital.

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