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Search over 300,000 sheet music arrangements available instantly to print or play in our free apps. 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. As I was building the layout of this feature article, I found myself unprepared for the iconic beauty I encountered in the photos by Asia Kepka on Meg Hutchinsona€™s website. A phone interview with Meg uncovered some of the unique elements that went into the creation of this fiercely dedicated poet and songsmith.
Meg affectionately referred to her parents as a€?hippies,a€? [extremely bright hippies] and said that their record collection included all the classic stuff, including Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Jackson Browne.
When her grandmother passed away, an uncle sent the grandmothera€™s guitar, a beautiful old Martin, to Mega€™s family. In eighth grade, Meg wrote a song, a€?Freedoma€™s Ocean,a€? about apartheid in South Africa for a geography project.
In spite of the revelation that came after singing her apartheid song at the talent show, Meg, overwhelmed by the culture shift and her parentsa€™ unraveling marriage, put her musical ambitions aside in high school and concentrated on athletic pursuits. By the time she was 17, while attending Simona€™s Rock, Meg had her own apartment and worked at an organic farm. Meg experienced many mood swings during her early years that she attributed to a€?artistic temperamenta€? but they became more pronounced as she got older. Her first self-titled album grew out of her college poetry study, working on the farm and dealing with her varying emotional states. Her next album, Against the Grey, was more formally produced at a studio by musician Robby Baier and released in 1999.
Meg had been a a€?huge Martin Sexton fan,a€? and wanted his producer, Crit Harmon, to produce a CD for her.
Passim, the renowned folk club in Boston, runs a fundraising festival each year called a€?The Cutting Edge of the Campfire.a€? Meg was grouped with fellow songwriters Antje Duvekot, Anne Heaton and Natalia Zukerman. 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. Ita€™s the aural equivalent of having very expensive imported chocolate melt on your tongue a€” a velvety, bittersweet tone that carries with it all the pain and all the dreams in her life. The picture I chose for this first page reminds me of a George Hurrell Hollywood photograph from the 1940s.
Mega€™s father has been an English professor at Simona€™s Rock College (now called Bard College at Simona€™s Rock) all her life. She remembered, once, after playing in the yard, she came stomping into the kitchen in protest while her mother was playing Bob Dylan. She went to the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School, one of the network of Waldorf schools. Simona€™s Rock College had an early entry program for students with good grades, so she began her college career at around age 15 and, because her parents worked there, got free tuition. She said that she had no idea how serious things were, but attempted to express the depths of her feelings through poetry and music. Meg was now being managed by the same woman whoa€™d helped her earlier, and a€?was teaching me about the music business,a€? Meg said.
Shea€™d met him at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, but was too shy to present herself as a prospective client.
After my early infatuation with a€?Everything Familiar,a€? ita€™s difficult to pick a favorite. She was hospitalized by July of that year, and after several months of treatment and therapy in and out of a mental health facility, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
She was signed by Red House Records and in 2008, Come Up Full, produced again by Crit Harmon, was released.
This time around, she ponders both the depths shea€™s plunged and the heights to which her bipolar disorder has taken her. Theya€™d been on the same circuit together and quickly realized how good the combination was and how much fun they were having.
In quelling her bipolar symptoms, Meg lost the manic creative highs, but forges on, banking on truthtelling for inspiration.
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. This is unlike her first song to get its hooks in me, a€?Everything Familiar,a€? from her previous album, The Crossing. Her mother would go on walks and play the recorder and both her mom and dad sang lullabies to all three kids. Her mother stayed home to raise the children and later became a writing teacher at the same college. The family didna€™t have enough money to visit her often, so she remained an elusive revered figure. Their grief for the loss of their matriarch seemed to transfer to the guitar and everyone wept upon seeing the damage. She sat onstage in the auditorium, calmly playing for the very first time in front of an audience. There were manic periods of great energy where shea€™d write and perform, feeling very powerful. The album, named after watching Maine fishermen pull their nets from the water, is full of new self-awareness. 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. They encouraged children to be creative a€” allowing them to move their bodies, draw, build stuff and make gardens a€” a path to letting the child be a whole person.
The entire family suspended their normal routine and made a pilgrimage to the Martin guitar factory in Nazareth, Pa., to get it fixed. She laughed as she recalled how, at one point, shea€™d fallen in love with a champion high school wrestler and lost him to a cheerleader. One friend had a four-track recording setup and allowed her to use his living room as a studio and put the tracks together. 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.
One main teacher acted as a a€?a€?corea€? teacher and a€?that teacher would become like a third parent,a€? Meg said.
Meg said that this was a powerful, extremely moving experience for her, bonding her with her family over the value of music and this particular instrument.
She wrote an unrequited love song that was the extent of her song production during high school.
She finally met Crit at a Folk Alliance conference and he agreed to allow her to demo a song for him. 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.
You did a good job!a€? Meg was actually overwhelmed with the sudden knowledge that she had just experienced what she was meant to do.
The song demo grew into a series of a€?living room sessionsa€? where a€?hea€™d rip my songs to shreds.a€? Crit would dissect each song Meg presented and send her home with pieces that were like a puzzle for her to put together again.
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. They left the guitar there, and it was later shipped (safely this time) back to Massachusetts.
She walked out of the school, into a snowy day, carrying her guitar case, feeling that she was a€?home.a€? The song was so well-received that later she performed it at a number of open mics in town. She told one interviewer, Bob Edwards (Sirius xm), that it was possible some days, between tips and selling CDs to make $200 in a few hours. Crit may not have known what he was dealing with, perhaps expecting Meg to dissolve and run away in tears. 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. During this period, shea€™d express elements about her recurring depression, but not own it as being about herself. Meg accepted every criticism and rebuilt her songs, her lyrics becoming leaner and more concise, less dense than her earlier work.
Employing a kind of hybrid rock, a cross between Shel Silverstein and Frank Zappa, he did two frenetically energetic albums as Uncle Eye. My tendency to get swept up in melody and rhythm led to a late-blooming awareness of Mega€™s poetic lyricism. 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.
Similarly, my knowledge of Mega€™s journey through the dark landscape of bipolar disorder came only after my online discovery of other interviews shea€™d done. As I continued listening to her music, each bit of knowledge gave the songs greater weight. 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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