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Julia was inspired by old movies and loved musicals a€” unaware that these were traits she would share with her future husband. As a testament to her advanced talent, Julia was invited to join her piano teachera€™s family musical group a€” one of the only non-family members so honored.
Julia went to college at Briarcliff University in Sioux City, Iowa, getting a degree in Music and Education.
As a member of a 200-person choir a€” part of her study program a€” she had fun, but it led to something more auspicious. Julia spent a summer on a cruise ship on the inside passage of Alaska playing jazz piano, which is what inspired her to move to the West Coast. Around 1996, she moved to Marin, Calif., and continued to teach K-5 musical education, not bothering to pursue her own music.
She had already decided it was time to get back to playing music and had begun performing at coffeehouses again. Iraa€™s dad would frequently pull a classical record out of a closet full of them, put it on the turntable, and tell him to close his eyes and describe what he a€?sawa€? a€” a great way to develop an imaginative relationship to music. Hea€™d hold a€?Evenings with Iraa€? in his parentsa€™ living room, entertaining his parents and their friends with various monologues and comedic bits originated by Shelly Berman, Bob Newhart and Mel Brooks. Iraa€™s father was appointed Floridaa€™s Secretary of Commerce, so they moved to Tallahassee and thata€™s where Ira finished high school.
After high school, Ira attended Florida State University in Tallahassee, majoring in theater. After graduation, Ira taught drama at a community center for a summer and played in a band. Ira started doing singing telegrams in Boulder just before moving to Berkeley, Calif., and continued doing them there. At the same time, Ira had been doing a lot of rock a€?na€™ roll with Jewish community centers as a director of music at summer camps.
After Julia met Ira at Freight and Salvage and went to his house for the songwritera€™s soiree, they became good friends. My Friend Hafiz (2009) is based on the writings of Persian lyric poet Hafiz of Shiraz (1326-1390), widely recognized as one of the great Sufi poets. On the EP, they cover the old standard a€?Blue Skiesa€? with a melodic twist I hadna€™t heard before. Ira and Julia love writing together and were the winners of the 2011 CT folk Festival songwriting contest. As a testament to her advanced talent, Julia was invited to join her piano teachera€™s family musical group a€” one of the only non-family membersA  so honored.
Obviously because she's allegedly a Muslim her life MUST be strange, there's no other explanation. You don't feel dirty because of [Ariana's] music, you feel dirty cause your nasty ass ain't never cleaned your face.
Beginning in the seventh grade and through high school, Julia became the piano player for all the choral teachers.
The choir director drafted her into the university madrigal group, telling her a€?I need you for this part.a€? It involved singing a big solo in a piece by the late heralded operatic composer, Benjamin Britten, and gave her a new perspective as an accomplished singer she hadna€™t realized she was.
She joined the Northern California Songwritera€™s Association (NCSA) which held open mics at the Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley. When he performed Bill Cosbya€™s a€?Chickenhearta€? routine in school and his classmates chanted his name, he was fatally bitten by the entertainer bug.
A friend showed him the basic chords and how to play a€?Maleguena.a€? From there Ira ran with it, learning on his own.
Music by The Allman Brothers Band and Southern rock in general were added to his growing storehouse of influences.


While he did a lot of theater, he also played in clubs and bars, doing acoustic rock covers, solo or with a friend. The director of the community center where Ira worked said to him, a€?Ia€™ve created a songwriting class for you to teach the kids.a€? Ira responded with a skeptical, a€?Oh really?a€? but readily agreed to do it. She helped him pack for his trip to Scotland for The Fringe Festival as a performer of childrena€™s music. The romance got serious as they watched a DVD of the movie The Philadelphia Story one night, knocking back glasses of champagne along with the actors, then slow dancing in the wee morning hours. The album 36 (2008) is based on the Jewish concept of the 36 Lamed Vavnicks, 36 humble and righteous saints who live on earth and hold the fate of the world in their hands. Although I tend to raise an eyebrow at the cliches of songs about coffee, when they sing a€?Coffee My Love,a€? Ia€™m won over. At first, I wanted to hear them do it the way Ia€™d always heard it before, perhaps with that archly sad version some artists use.
Ozzie and Harriet, Laurel and Hardy, Simon and Garfunkel, Lennon and McCartneya€¦ Ira and Julia Levin.
However, unlike many in her age bracket, she became a big fan of British jazz pianist Marian McPartlanda€™s late-night radio shows. It happened that a certain musician was highly involved there a€” Julia Bordenaroa€¦ meet Ira Levin. Later, Ira went on a a€?Teena€? travel tour when he was 14 and was exposed to a variety of music and what he terms a€?the counterculture.a€? His parents called it a€?the big mistake,a€? he recalled, laughing. During this time, he and a group of friends formed an a€?undergrounda€? (non-performing) band called The Testonious Phibonz BanzA . Ira took classes at The Institute for Music at Naropa University and got deeper into musical theory. No one batted an eyelash and he thought to himself, a€?OKa€¦ this is a wild place.a€? The tentacles of Iraa€™s continuing development have a long reach. Ira got intensely interested in Fats Waller, Charlie Parker and the music of the Harlem renaissance period a€” Duke Ellington and The Cotton Club.
He followed the festival up with a trip to London, busking at Covent Garden, a highly competitive scene. She is listed as a€?Aunt Eyea€? on Hyperactive Talking Cows, playing on a number of tracks. In this day of discord between Muslim and Western societies, the embracing of this essentially Muslim-sourced material is typical of The Levinsa€™ focus on one-ness through musical expression The Levins plan to rerelease My Friend Hafiz with bonus tracks and original stories in early 2013.
Shea€™d turn on her tape cassette recorder at night before going to sleep, press a€?recorda€? and a€?see what I would wake up with the next day.a€? Adding to that, after hearing Harry Connicka€™s jazz version of a€?If I Only Had a Brain,a€? from The Wizard of Oz, Julia wanted to focus on playing solo piano and singing. She then moved to the a€?big citya€? of Des Moines, as she laughingly called it, continuing to teach while she played music. His father was the general manager of one of the first talk radio stations in the United States, WKAT. His mom played a little bit and therea€™d always be sheet music on the piano of themes from then-current movies.
They would wait until someonea€™s parents left for an evening, then would converge at the house and bang out versions of songs by The Doors, The Who and Jethro Tull. He dabbled in writing his own material but mostly did stuff by Neil Young and The Grateful Dead as well as those he did with Testonious Phibonz. He was in a band called Ceiling People where he sang, played guitar and flute (self-taught), and later, after a key player left, filled in on saxophone.
He studied voice with Judy Davis, a legendary vocal coach whose students included Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland. Comfy Chair shifted from art rock to a€?slam swing.a€? Ira wrote an entire albuma€™s worth of music based on that period.


After one such performance, Linda Hirshorn of Vocolot saw Julia and asked her to join her a cappella group and Julia accepted.
A central idea in the concept is to treat every person one meets as if they are one of the 36. Additionally, there was a progressive piano teacher, Monica McGregor, in Jefferson a€” quite unusual in a small town of 4,000 people.
Playing the baseline was necessary in emulating Harry Connick, but had to be discarded when she got into ensemble playing a€” giving it over to other instruments. Though he was obliged to also invite her then-current boyfriend, it quickly became obvious that, next to Ira, the boyfriend had no shot. Ira became enamored of the Marx Brothers, Woody Allen and Mel Brooks, absorbing their brazen wackiness.
Ira and Julia got married in 2002 and when they returned from their honeymoon, Julia joined the group. Every time I hummed the song to myself, the melody running through my head was The Levinsa€™ version. Ira and Julia got married in 2002 and when they returned from their honeymoon, JuliaA  joined the group. When Monica found that Julia was learning more by ear than sight reading, she stressed chord structure to keep things fun and allowed Julia to play pop songs such as those by Cheap Trick. Upon seeing Iraa€™s band room, filled with rock posters, Julia found herself thinking a€?I cana€™t marry this guy!a€? Then, examining those unexpected thoughts, she pondered, a€?Why am I thinking this?a€? We found the answer in examining the life forces that had created the galvanizing personality of Ira Levin. He was a€?thrown intoa€? the theater crowd at around 5 years old, doing child roles (a€?Auntie Mame,a€? etc.) in community theater.
His mom would play recordings of the scores of Broadway musicals on a regular basis and that went into the influence database. The swing revival hit and Electra, their record company, put out a compilation, Jump Up and Boogie (1998). Their single, a€?Cereal Days,a€? with its nostalgic look at the breakfasts we loved as kids, has had audience members waving boxes of cereal as they sing along. Other than the last name pronunciation, therea€™s no confusion a€” especially regarding talent a€” once Ira and Julia Levin start to sing.
Although Julia eventually learned to sight read musical notation, Monica was wise enough to show Julia how to improvise using chords that worked well together.
The Levins were invited to play in both Amsterdam for the Jewish Music Festival and to Englanda€™s UK Limmud because of this album. The band morphed again into theatrical vaudevillian rock and put out an album, Hello Dali, a tribute to the Surrealists.
He developed a persona called a€?Uncle Eyea€? and appeared on PBS as a singing storyteller. Employing a kind of hybrid rock, a cross between Shel Silverstein and Frank Zappa, he did two frenetically energetic albums as Uncle Eye.
A review from Parentsa€™ Press for one of them, Hippo On My Head, read a€?definitely not for naptime.a€? The title track of his second Uncle Eye CD, Hyperactive Talking Cows, came to life in 45 minutes with an assist from a large room filled with 80 camper co-writers.
The origins of all that talent and energy blossomed in each of their pasts, building a depth of experience uniquely suited to their musical essence.



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