With In The Heights quickly approaching, music director Douglas Levine is busy man. This Pittsburgh based artist is not just a music director, but a pianist, composer, arranger, and teacher, having worked with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh Public Theatre, City Theatre, Dreams of Hope, Gateway to the Arts, Shakespeare in the Schools, Point Park University Conservatory Company, Pitt Repertory Theatre, Renaissance City Women’s Choir, Pittsburgh Musical Theater and Opera Theatre of Pittsburgh. Levine recently took the time to answer some questions about his career and about working with students at Pitt.
What has been the most exciting part of working on In the Heights?
The most exciting part of this project for me has been two-fold: The incredibly dynamic, tuneful, and beautifully conceived and written score combined with this wonderfully talented and hard working Pitt Theater cast’s realizing of that score, in all its heartfelt detail. It’s great music, and they’re singing the heck out of it!
What do you find most exciting in your musical work?
Being part of the process of taking a group of dedicated student talent from soup to nuts—from day one of reading the script and learning the music to the final dress rehearsal, where a fully formed company of pros is ready to deliver the goods to a paying audience—that’s simply said, the bomb!
What advice would you offer to emerging artists?
Take advantage of every opportunity available to attend student and professional productions. Support the former as you would want them to support you. And of the latter, most have student ticket rates for your benefit. The best classroom for any aspiring performing artist is as part of an audience.
Besides your current work, what have been some of your favorite projects?
In addition to my musical direction work, I’ve had great fortune in Pittsburgh to have had my work as a composer/arranger supported, as well. A favorite project was the Playhouse REP Company’s 2008 production of the musical Eastburn Avenue, co-written with bookwriter/lyricist Marcus Stevens, for which I wore the dual hats of composer and music director. Marcus and I are looking forward to a reading in NY this summer of our recent re-working of this piece.
What do you enjoy most about Pitt?
This is an easy one: the students! Their dedication, work ethic, and passion has made coming to rehearsal a pleasure. To them I wish a hearty, “Break a leg!”
UPStage’s production of the Tony Award Winning musical opens March 27th. Click here for tickets: http://www.play.pitt.edu/current-season/tickets