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Levine School Chief Stresses Track Record of Collaboration

Concerns of some leaders of the Falls Church “CATCH” arts and culture promotional group that the possible location to Falls Church of a Northern Virginia headquarters of the Levine School of Music are unfounded, the president and CEO of Levine told the News-Press in an exclusive interview this week.

The concern of some of the “City of Arts, Culture, Theater and History” (CATCH) group have been heard loudly around town, fearful that fledgling local efforts, like the ArtSpace Falls Church and its primary tenant, Creative Cauldron, will be overshadowed and marginalized by the Levine School.

In fact, the Levine School is considering a potential site directly across the street on S. Maple from the modest ArtSpace location. Talks have been underway with the Herndon-based Lincoln Property Company, which has acquired the land where the Saab dealership sits for purposes of building a large-scale mixed use project there.

But Peter Jablow of Levine, no stranger to Falls Church since first trying to relocate here in six years ago, insists that any such fears on the part of locals are unfounded. In fact, from his experience, he said, the result should be the exact opposite.

“Any arts organization that thinks we’ll detract from them needs to know more about us,” Jablow said. He said Levine partners with five organizations in Montgomery County to everyone’s betterment, and works with nine partners at The Arc in Anacostia. The work an agreement with the Sunrise Senior Living to provide music therapy for its residents.

“We’ve been an effective, good neighbor in any community with non-profits and the arts,” he said.

A deal with Lincoln Properties and the latter’s quest for special exceptions needed from the City of Falls Church to move ahead with plans for 224 rental residential units above a grocery store, some retail and, possibly, Levine, are all a long way from fruition. But it is the kind of project that carries an aura of eventual success, should all the parties be patient and persistent.

Jablow became a familiar face at City Hall in Falls Church when he was openly eager about moving his current facility from the cramped Westover Baptist Church in Arlington into the friendly Little City. Levine was being rolled into the plans for Atlantic Realty’s $314 million City Center development that won all the necessary approvals, but tanked when the Great Recession hit.

According to Richard Rose, vice president at Lincoln, when he began talks with the City’s Economic Development office about potential occupants of its ground floor retail space, Levine came up right away. It seemed a natural, he said, because of its proximity to the ArtSpace, as if the two could work in tandem in that corner of town.

Indeed, ArtSpace and Creative Cauldron have an ambitious schedule of public events and performances, and so will Levine if it winds up there, as well.

Jablow envisions a 150-seat recital hall as part of the 8,000-10,000 square feet it would be looking to occupy lease, and already at four total locations, Levine offers over 200 public events as part of its Levine Presents program, many free or with minimal admission costs.

It is conceivable that ArtSpace and Levine would be competing on some nights for audiences. But the other side of the coin is that one program bringing people to its venue would help to publicize and promote the other, and the likelihood would be far greater that the area, as a whole, would develop a reputation as a “go to” destination for lovers of the cultural arts of all kinds, especially if it is well publicized that there are nice restaurants nearby, which there are.

Just down the road from that neighborhood is a fine arts movie theater complex, opening this week at the Mosaic on Rt. 29 at Gallows Rd. Just a few blocks the other direction is the already-famous State Theater live contemporary music venue.

The Levine School, Jablow said, already has “tons” of students from Falls Church and environs, offering classes 22 musical instruments and voice. Students range in ages from four months to 100 years, with many elderly students participating in a senior chorus.

He noted that the school also has $500,000 in scholarship assistance to offer anyone who wants to cultivate their musical talent.

All the issues pertaining to this matter with undoubtedly be the big buzz of conversations at the ArtSpace next Tuesday, when at 5:30 p.m. it will host the monthly social mixer there at 400 S. Maple of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce.