Rob Levit has
an unbounded enthusiasm for the creative arts. As a guitarist,
composer, and educator who authors poetry and essays, Levit has
now discovered another creative expression—painting. Diverse
forms of artistic expression and originality, the mark of a true
multi-dimensional artist, have always distinguished the work of
of merging unique and sometimes contradictory creative genres
is what Levit is all about. It is what he calls “creative
His personal style is a complicated blending as well. Levit, known
for his energy, humor and playfulness, also possesses a serious
intellectual curiosity. “I guess you could say I have my
head in the clouds but my feet in the mud,” he says.
As a musician, Levit is a five-time consecutive recipient of the
Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award, a recipient
of the Doris Duke/Chamber Music America Jazz Composition Award
and an artist-in-residence at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts
in Annapolis. He has recorded 15 CDs. While his music encompasses
classical and cutting-edge jazz, world, folk and contemporary
styles, the sound is pure Levit.
Levit, 38, discovered his musical gifts at age 19 when he picked
up a guitar and never put it down. Not surprisingly, his interest
is jazz—it is the improvisational nature of the music, the
process of exploring sounds and ideas, which intrigues him. “Jazz
is not set, and the unexpected can happen. It’s like a conversation.
I don’t want to know the outcome. I have to trust my skills
as a musician to create a compelling performance and result.”
The Rob Levit Trio performs frequently in Annapolis. The bass
player, Amy Shook, says, “It is fun to play with Rob. He
is an all around artist. He has very high standards but is still
willing to try new things and to take chances with the music.”
Levit’s exploration with painting began in 2000 after he
saw a film about Jackson Pollock. He was immediately attracted
to Pollock’s intuitive approach. “I loved his spontaneity
and his boldness. This is work, whether you admire it or not,
that takes the risk of being ridiculed. It’s courageous.”
Inspired by Pollock, Levit purchased some art supplies and began
to experiment with paint. “I painted and I painted. Eventually,
I got better and better.” Using pastels, acrylics and watercolors,
Levit describes his work as abstract impressionism where color
is the main focus.
In Levit’s studio at Maryland Hall, where he is the first
musician to be an artist-in-residence, his eclectic style and
voice sing out loud and clear. There are paintings in a variety
of forms and stages, musical instruments, chairs upholstered in
pretty fabric, a mahogany partner’s desk and window panes
painted with delightful, childlike designs.
But the eight words freely painted on the wall in bold black are
the most provocative element in the studio—Levit’s
eight core values: creativity, passion, patience, compassion,
service, celebration, spirituality and strength.
During his past two years at Maryland Hall, Levit has taken an
active role. Among other things, he created the Lew Cronin
Concert Series in honor of the beloved musician and local community
supporter. More recently, he has founded an outreach program for
students in the community who are underserved in the arts or at
risk. Levit goes into schools for concerts and residencies but
also hosts students at his studio for painting, music and activities.
His experience as an artist-in-residence at the Summit School,
a school for children with learning differences in Edgewater,
furthered his interest in integrating creativity and artistry
into classroom learning. “We should teach history with poems
and art. It has more impact. Being creative makes you confident
and when people are confident they are successful.”
Levit has the support of Linnell Bowen, the executive director
of Maryland Hall. “Rob is a breath of fresh air,”
Bowen says. “He is a great ambassador for the arts programs
at Maryland Hall. This is Maryland Hall’s 25th anniversary
of keeping the arts alive for the next generation, and Rob Levit
Nadja Maril, president of the Cultural Arts Foundation of Anne
Arundel County, agrees. “Rob really relates well to the
younger generation, which is so important to Maryland Hall and
to the community.”
And it is a community that is important to Levit and his wife
Elaine a kindred, creative spirit and speech pathologist at Mills-Parole
Elementary School. As an accomplished musician and composer, Levit
has already performed at the Montreal International Jazz Festival,
the Boston Globe Jazz Festival, the Kennedy Center in Washington,
D.C., and the Knitting Factory in New York. Levit could reside
as a professional musician anywhere, but he and Elaine choose
to make their home in Annapolis.
“I find Annapolis to be a place where intellectuals, artists
and business people all congregate. They are people who are open
to new cultural ideas,” says Levit. “I feel that to
be here and to be able to work as a multidimensional artist is
a true privilege.”
Still, some might wonder why the prolific Levit refuses to settle
down and focus on just “one thing.” Levit has an answer.
“What is challenging to me as an artist is the taking of
all of my interests and talents and uniting them into one statement.
To me, creative convergence is about the unification of the whole
body of work. Being creative is my “one thing.” The
forms of expressions are just different shades and colors of the
For performance schedules and other information: www.roblevit.com.
Lynn Schwartz is a freelance writer. She also owns and operates Café
Beaux Arts at Maryland Hall.