Thomasina Levy

Sound Bites: A Q&A with Performer, Teaching Artist Thomasina Levy

In Blog, MfP Stories by jan_mfp

Thomasina Levy
Photo by Corey Lynn Tucker Photography

Thomasina Levy insists that music is in everyone—and everything. “We all have drums in the classroom. They’re called ‘desks,’” says the acclaimed performer and teaching artist with a whiff of understatement. “We have so many objects in our environment that create rhythm and music.”

A proponent of grassroots music making, Levy helps students of all ages discover their innate creativity. On April 11, she will share her expertise with participants of Music for People (MfP)’s Innovative Educator Series, benefitting K-12 classroom teachers of all subject areas. The former Connecticut State Troubadour will present an interactive program titled “Connecting Curriculum to Poetry and Music.”

“The series will show how MfP’s best practices can be used by almost anyone who relies on music, sound and rhythm to help participants to find their own creativity,” says Levy, an award-winning mountain dulcimerist, singer-songwriter and poet. “In the words of [MfP Co-Founder] David Darling, music is in each of us, waiting for the right time to emerge.”  

We recently caught up with Levy, a graduate of MfP’s Musicianship and Leadership Program, to discuss the role of music education in the COVID-era classroom.

You and Alina Plourde will present programs on April 11. Tell us about yours.
I will lead participants through several easy activities, in which they will write their own lune poems and then create musical soundscapes to accompany them.

A “lune poem” is—
A short, simple, three-line poetic form. It is an Americanized version of Japanese haiku, based on work count. Almost anyone can write a lune poem.

This kind of work can foster team building, risk taking, active listening, creative thinking and group cooperation. It’s a lot of fun.

Interesting how much music and poetry have in common. 
Rhythm is music’s pattern in time. The lyrics to a song are really a poem set to music. Whenever we experience rhythm in music or poetry, every cell in our being is affected.

What do you think of the movement toward STEAM [science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics] education in schools? 
My workshops often connect music, rhythm and words to curricula in math, science, the language arts, the visual arts, history and other areas. I believe in engaging the whole learner. I also subscribe to [Harvard professor] Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences—that there are different types of human intelligence, each representing different ways of processing information.  

We can sing facts about math, science or history. We also can dance to the rhythm of a quadratic equation. If we use our senses, we can learn almost anything. That’s what it means to add the arts to STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics].

How has the pandemic changed your teaching approach?
This time last year, all my work as a teaching artist and performer vanished into thin air. But like everyone else, I adjusted to the “new normal” of real-time meetings via Zoom and Google Meet, and work began to reappear. 

Thomasina Levy
Photo by Corey Lynn Tucker Photography

I now lead virtual workshops involving people from all over the world—mostly music improv and dulcimer workshops. I also have participated in dulcimer festivals and live music concerts. 

Last month, I participated in a virtual artist residency, in which I taught Kingian Nonviolence [a philosophy of nonviolent conflict reconciliation in the tradition of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.] to second graders. The students wrote original poems and letters to Dr. King and created artwork, all inspired by his “Six Principles of Nonviolence.”  

You did all this virtually?
The teachers and I agreed that it went better than expected. The experience may not have been the same as a live, in-person residency, but the students were engaged and really enjoyed the program. Anything’s possible.  

Click here to learn more about the Innovative Educator Series.

Author: Robert Enslin