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Benjamin Levy Leaving U.Va. on a High Note

Benjamin Hirsch Levy III Shares His Passion For Music

May 9, 2001-- Pre-med and distinguished music major Benjamin Hirsch Levy III has two passions -- music and the University of Virginia. His grandfather and father graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences, in 1932 and 1970 respectively. Levy knew he wanted to attend U.Va. since first grade.

What he didn't know is how much he would love promoting arts on Grounds and introducing fellow students and the community to the music he so loves.

At Valediction, Levy will receive the Class of 2001 Performing and Creative Arts Award.

Levy learned to appreciate music and give to the arts growing up in Savannah, Ga. Encouraged to learn an instrument, first the piano and then the cello, and attend concerts -- from classical to jazz -- Levy also witnessed the behind-the-scenes activities at these events. His father was on the board of the Savannah Symphony for many years, and his mother was recently appointed to the board. He hung out with musicians and learned as much as he could about their passion for music and for the pieces they played.

As when the musicians shared with him, Levy passed on that infectious enthusiasm for music at U.Va.

As a first-year pre-med student, Levy volunteered at the U.Va. Medical Center and encouraged doctors and nurses to attend one of the three or four concerts on Grounds each weekend. Sometimes he brought his cello to the hospital and played for patients and their families. "I felt I was making a difference in people's lives, especially the families" said Levy. "I also hoped they would remember the hospital at U.Va. as a special place."

This was only the beginning of Levy's quest to promote the arts on Grounds.

Levy combined his love of music with his Jewish heritage and in the spring of his second year created a Jewish Concert Series sponsored by the Hillel Jewish Center. The first concert, "Jazz Sabbath," featured jazz arrangements of traditional Sabbath music performed by U.Va.'s faculty jazz ensemble, Free Bridge Quintet. Other concerts in the series included the Dzaesmin quartet, an avant garde jazz group from Boston's Berklee College of Music and a concert by Masada, a jazz group with Middle Eastern and Israeli influences. The series was a success.

Levy says understanding music breaks down many barriers, and it's important to introduce students to music and to excite them about the arts so they will support the arts all their lives.

In his third year, Levy began raising funds to bring world-renowned pianist Andre Watts to perform in Old Cabell Hall. "It was fun. I wanted to make it as big as I possibly could," said Levy. He thought this would be his last project.

He raised more than $30,000 and recruited friends to help promote the event. The concert sold out three days before the performance, and Watts played to a standing-room-only crowd. "It was a great challenge and learning experience," Levy said.

But this wasn't his last big project. Levy's distinguished music major project took on a life of its own and grew from a paper to a two-day event, "Music Suppressed by the Third Reich International Conference." Levy raised more than $40,000 and recruited 70 student volunteers to help with conference logistics. Some of the world's most renowned Holocaust music researchers and performers gathered to explore the music banned by the Nazis before and during World War II. The conference concluded with a "Gala Concert" featuring music that had premiered behind barbed-wire fences to audiences in concentration camps, as well as compositions labeled degenerate by the Third Reich. The conference was a resounding success.

Levy hopes to work on the administration side of a symphony orchestra before attending medical school and plans to give back to the university by raising money for the arts as an alumnus. "U.Va. is so special," said Levy. "Students want to give back to the University because it makes them happy."

Contact: Jane Ford, (804) 924-4298

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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