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Arts and Entertainment

Art Focus: Sam Levenson

By Jane Qu
Published: March 2009

Senior Sam Levenson lives and breathes music. He sings in Newtones and various other choruses, acts in South Stage musicals, and plays the trombone in Newton South’s Jazz Ensemble. Though Levenson does not have as strong a connection to trombone playing as he has to singing and acting, music is still an integral part of his life.

One of the most important aspects of Levenson’s life as an artist is his participation in the Newton South a cappella group, Newtones. First joining the group sophomore year, Levenson has since become its president. “We really have a tight group, he said. “We’re disciplined, but we love being together. It’s so much fun.

His passion for the group extends to the actual singing as well. “There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you hit a high note, Levenson said. Some of the unique aspects of a cappella are “the fun harmonics and people singing the sounds of instruments. One of Levenson’s favorite parts of Newtones is the International Championship of High School A Cappella, a competition that takes place in New Jersey in mid-March.

In the two weeks leading up to the event, the group increases its rehearsals from four and a half hours per week to two to three hours per day except Saturday, “we call it Newtones Boot Camp, Levenson said. “We really polish our pieces and delve into the music. We get into a number of performance elements. It’s really a great time for our group to mesh.

Besides Newtones, Levenson is part of chorus and attributes much of his vocal growth to South music teacher Benjamin Youngman. “What’s special is the excitement that he brings to class everyday. It’s that excitement that gets everyone to perform at their highest level.

This past summer Levenson’s interest in classical singing was heightened when he participated in a six-week program at Boston University Tanglewood Institute with 70 other vocalists.

The classes included voice classes, individual voice training, and master classes. “Seeing all those people and the dedication to music at that program reinspired me, at least in classical music.

Levenson also attends New England Conservatory. Though his participation in the small chamber choir Camerata began last year, Levenson has been a part of Youth Chorale under the direction of Ryan Murphy since his sophomore year.

The difficulty of the music and the quality of the other tenors in his section have helped him improve his voice.

This year, Levenson also takes the English elective songwriting. “I’m just realizing how hard it is, he said. Levenson usually brainstorms stories and characters before sitting at a piano to find a melody through trial and error.

“Sometimes there’s an element of wanting to be original. Obviously if you have a message you want to get across, often times it’s really personal so it’s easy to want to be a perfectionist.
One of his inspirations is the rock group U2. He loves that they began as a high school group and find their music unique both musically and lyrically. He also admires how they support humanitarian crises both through their music and their active involvement.

Besides singing in choruses, Levenson performs frequently in South Stage musicals. His past roles include First Drunk in Wonderful Town, Bobby Strong in Urinetown, Willard Hewitt in Footloose, and Nicely-Nicely Johnson in Guys and Dolls.“This past role was definitely the most fun to play, Levenson said, referring to his role in Guys and Dolls.

Levenson has loved being in each show, especially the group dynamic that comes with being a part of a cast. “You develop really tight bonds in the two months leading up to a show, which is really tough when it’s over, Levenson said.

He also has a great appreciation for South Stage. “It’s really been a great place to grow as both a singer and an actor, he said. “Everyone I’ve been directed by here has really put learning first. I think we’re really lucky to have such a good theater program in a high school.

In the fall Levenson will attend the University of Pennsylvania, which has 13 a cappella groups and two student-run theatre groups. While Levenson is not sure if he’ll continue his music studies as a major, he plans to participate in some of these groups. Besides music, Levenson is also interested in economic history and applied mathematics.

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