Dr. David Levy has been the music teacher at Sunset Park Elementary since the school’s inception in 2007, and he loves helping his students learn to unlock the creative potential within themselves. Levy also composed the school song, “The Eagles of Sunset Park,” which helped create a culture of pride and unity among students, staff and families in that inaugural year.
What brought you to your school?
I came to Sunset Park for two reasons: No. 1, it is much closer to my Clermont home than my former school, and No. 2, I was swept away by our opening principal, Ms. Carol Russ. Her first words to me in my interview were, “I believe music and art are integral to every child’s education.” I loved my former school, too, but from the moment she made that statement — and having worked for a number of administrators before who only regarded the arts as merely ancillary subjects — I just had to work for her. And I am so glad I did!
What do you love most about your school?
It may sound cliché, but I genuinely love the students, families and staff of Sunset Park. Kids are kids, and there are good and bad days for all of us. But, on the whole, our students are very sweet, very kind, very mature and very serious about their education. They are truly a joy to be around. We also have the most dynamic and supportive PTO ever, and they have been instrumental in promoting positivity and consistency even through some difficult changes throughout our school’s history.
What is your motivation?
My motivation is knowing that, every day, I get to share the gift of music with children. I get to help them see the world through the lens of music, and I get to help them attach personal meaning to so many of the otherwise abstract things they learn through their other studies.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I get to see many of our students grow from post-toddlerhood to middle-school age. It’s very rewarding to be able to see them grow and flourish through that time — not just with music, but in everything they are doing and becoming. Furthermore, having been in the community for a while, I am often privy to information about other notable achievements in their lives even after elementary school.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my spare time, I live what I teach: I love to perform, compose, arrange and listen to music. I also like to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And, most of all, I love hanging out with my wife, Heather, and daughter, Dylan.
Who was your favorite teacher when you were in school? Why?
I have two favorite teachers from my own school journey. Ms. Patterson was my sixth-grade teacher. I was sort of a squirrelly, annoying, slightly mischievous kid before her, but she made two things clear to me right away: No. 1, I was never going to get away with anything in her room, and No. 2, she saw a world of potential in me, and she wanted to help me unlock it. My other favorite teacher was one of my high school band directors at West Orange High School: Mr. David Laniewski. He genuinely took an interest in each of his students’ musical endeavors. My musical ambitions were quite lofty by the time I got to high school, so he quickly became my inspiration and mentor through the rest of that journey.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
I wanted to be a teacher and a musician. I wanted to be a teacher because of Ms. Patterson; I, too, wanted to be in a position where I could see … kids’ true potential and then work to help them realize it for themselves, too. I also wanted to be a musician, because my grandfather was an awesome one.
What is your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s story is “The Little Red Hen,” because it taught me the value of working for what you get. If I don’t share in the work, I shouldn’t share in the reward.
Who is your biggest inspiration and why?
I’ve listed three very influential people — Ms. Patterson, Mr. Laniewski and my grandfather — and it’s quite difficult to separate them. However, to play along and choose my one greatest inspiration, it would have to be my grandfather. He was an awesome musician; knew math, chemistry, and physics like nobody’s business; fluently spoke and/or read four languages (German, Hebrew, Spanish, and English); and he was easily the funniest person I have ever known.
If you could only listen to three bands or artists for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?
This is a tough one — because I would truly despise being limited to only three — but probably Louis Armstrong, because he personified everything I love about jazz; Ella Fitzgerald, because not only could she do nearly everything possible with the human voice, she did it as an African-American woman in the mid-1900s; and Prince, because, when it came to music, he could do it all, too.