Justin Levy, 31, is a well-known name in the music scene around Towson. From high school through his post-graduate career, he has been teaching percussion and piano throughout the local community.
He was playing drums by age 10, and by age 14, he had picked up the piano and was performing with live bands. By the time he got to college, piano took over percussion as his primary focus, and he began his classical training.
At the University of Maryland, College Park, Levy earned his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and planned to go to medical school. He worked at the National Institutes of Health for two years but continued to give music lessons on weekends. As much as he loves music, he has always been more passionate about teaching, having taught music since high school.
As a result, when he hit 25 students, Levy decided to stop working in the medical field entirely. In 2015, Levy decided to open his own studio in the Towson area, a goal which was realized with the opening of The Music Space this past February.
Why did you decide to open your own studio?
I have worked and studied in a bunch of places over the years. Just knowing what kind of place I would have wanted to come for lessons as a kid, I built this place with that in mind. For me, writing music is the most important thing. My goal is to encourage my students to write their own things, and they can record it here in the studio. I want to pair up kids in bands. I want to get my students involved in other projects and just build a network in the community.
I understand that you hire teachers yourself?
I’m really looking for teachers who perform. There are many musicians who can sit down and read and be incredible, but I want people who are actually out there creating music.
How much work went into opening The Music Space?
I’m a really good woodworker, I have great attention to detail, so I did everything myself. I put literally everything I had into it, all of my savings, and I got a business loan. My original band, Eureka Birds, recorded three albums and got a licensing deal with a bank in Germany, so I got money from that which went straight to buying the piano. It was a grind — every day from 7:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., I’d be here doing the manual labor, then I would go to my students’ homes in Towson to teach them. For four years before I opened, I was going to door-to-door, teaching kids who were pretty much in the same network — friends and then friends of friends.
So how is The Music Space doing now?
I have around 60 students. I have added 30 extra students since February. Before, I had to teach one student and then teach someone nearby, so if one of the families wanted to recommend me to a friend, if they lived far away, it was hard to make it work. When I had to go to houses, it had to work out perfectly. With this central location, everyone can come here. It is drawing really well.
What do lessons typically entail?
All the teachers are a little different, but I think we all agree that inspiring students to want to play is the most important thing. It all comes down to the student interest. The game for me is to figure out what they want to do and what they are able to do and find what is important enough to the student to make them want to practice.
Why should kids want to come to The Music Studio?
I built this studio just knowing what kind of place I would have wanted to come for lessons as a kid. I think recording is such a crucial part. I had a 5-year-old student here the other day for her third lesson, and she played “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” so I said let’s record it right now. She got really excited. Looking back in a couple of years when she’s an advanced student, that recording will be something that is priceless. I like the idea of tracking progress along the way because you practice. But it’s so much easier to see your progress if you can listen to the differences week to week.