When Andrew Levin reflects on what he will miss most about his years as director of the Clemson University Symphony Orchestra, the excitement of this time of year stands out.
“The fall semester is when everything is possible, and there’s no limit to what the orchestra can accomplish,” Levin said.
It’s when students march into the cavernous, large ensemble rehearsal room, maybe for the first time, tune up their instruments and launch into familiar classics such as “Night on Bald Mountain” and selections from “Les Miserables.”
Levin is set to pass the baton to a successor after 28 years as Clemson’s maestro.
Leslie W. Hicken, professor emeritus and the Charles E. Daniel Professor of Music at Furman University, has been appointed director of the Clemson University Symphony Orchestra as a visiting professor for the 2021-2022 academic year.
Hicken has held a number of leadership positions in the Upstate, serving as the former director of the Furman Music by the Lake Concert Series and the Lakeside Concert Band. Currently, Hicken is the artistic director of the Carolina Youth Symphony and co-director of the Poinsett Wind Symphony.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to work with the bright and talented students of the Clemson University Symphony Orchestra this academic year,” Hicken said. “I have tremendous respect for the work that Dr. Levin accomplished during his many years of service at Clemson and hope to continue the fine tradition of musical excellence that he established.”
Levin’s tenure is filled with treasured memories.
“There’s the joy of working with talented young musicians who might be playing their first-ever Beethoven or Mendelssohn symphony,” he said.
An associate professor of music, Levin particularly relished premiering new works and collaborating with student and professional soloists: the latter including Jay Ungar, fiddler and composer of “Ashokan Farewell,” and Milton Stern, his undergraduate piano teacher.
It also takes a small village to manage the logistics of running an orchestra, and “to that end it has been a privilege to work with such a supportive and dedicated faculty, administration and staff,” Levin said.
In addition to conducting, Levin also coached the Clemson University String Quartet and taught music theory and aural skills.
Composer and scholar
Levin, an active composer during his time at Clemson, has written and arranged more than 100 works for orchestra and various ensembles. A particular favorite is “Flourishing True,” a work he composed and conducted with the Clemson University Symphony Orchestra to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts.
Levin has been a substitute violist with the Greenville Symphony Orchestra and plays violin, viola and piano for social and church events in the Clemson area.
Among his many activities, Levin wrote a chapter in the 2009 book, “Thomas Green Clemson: A Life and a Legacy.”
“It was interesting to learn how music and social dancing played an important part in the lives of the Thomas Green Clemson family,” Levin said.
As a scholar, Levin produced a critical edition of Joseph Schubert’s Viola Concerto in E-flat Major for A-R Editions in 2013. In 2018, Levin helped re-discover orchestral works by the American romantic composer Frank van der Stucken, leading performances of his works in California, Virginia and South Carolina.
Levin earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from California State University (Los Angeles), a Master of Music degree in conducting and piano performance from Rice University, and a Doctor of Arts degree in conducting and viola performance from Ball State University. In 2009, Levin was awarded the Ball State University School of Music Alumni Achievement Citation.
Music will continue to occupy a big part of Levin’s life in retirement.
“I look forward to playing piano again for my own pleasure, to play viola in string quartets for fun, read books, hike and kayak, and spend more time with family and close friends,” Levin said.
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