Rory Levinson - Electric Bassist

From playing in her high school’s marching band to chasing her dreams of being in a rock band, junior Rory Levinson leapt into the world of Electric Bass at Creative Music Institute in December 2019. Despite her extensive experience on woodwinds like the Oboe and Clarinet, learning to play the Electric Bass came as a complete reboot to Levinson’s musical life, providing a deeper level of self expression and musical liberty. 

Levinson first began playing music in elementary school and joined the symphonic band with the Oboe, a traditional woodwind instrument that inspired her with its unique sound. Switching between instruments came naturally as she took on her first challenge of picking up the clarinet to one day play in the Emmaus High School marching band.  

“I wanted to do something bigger with [the] marching band,” said Levinson as she described her drive to take on another instrument, something that continued to grow. “It just seemed like the natural progression to go from there, to play a [rock] band instrument,”. 

With a longstanding interest in joining a rock band, learning to play the Electric Bass was the first step toward her musical future as Levinson immersed herself in new sounds and techniques. Learning incredibly quickly, after just a few weeks she was able to play her favorite tracks with others as she worked toward her goal of someday playing performances.  “[Playing on stage] just seemed so pure, it was just this pure energy that I wanted to experience,” said Levinson. As she continued to learn, she soon experienced her first taste of the performance energy that she was so drawn to when she played a gig with other CMI musicians at a local garden party, bringing her that much closer to her dream.  

As she continued to hone in her skills, she took inspiration from her childhood favorite band, the Beatles, and viewed their discography as her practice book. Classic rock had always been around her as “It was just always playing in my house, and growing up I [remember] my dad’s music [was] always playing,” said Levinson. The sunny, romantic scenes found in that music mirror her modern muses, as nature scenes and sunny afternoons spark bursts of her creativity. This is especially true as Levinson begins to expand into writing her own songs and considers the ideas she would like to involve in her work.  

Although writing wasn’t her initial priority, studying at CMI exposed Levinson to a more creative and experimental perspective on playing the bass. This self-directed study also encouraged her to feel more comfortable with improvisation, something that she identified as her greatest challenge in learning to play. “I come from a concert band environment where everything is basically laid out for me, and I don't really have any room to improvise. Working on those scales and making my own little lines in songs has been pretty hard,” said Levinson, showing her determination and motivation once again as she said that she “ really [looks] forward to getting better, working toward [her] own goals. I really like coming to CMI Sessions for group lessons and having that environment with them.” 

In addition to playing bass in ensemble sessions at CMI, Levinson has also been studying with Virtuoso Bassist and CMI Instructor Mark Corradetti In these lessons, Levinson has been working on advanced electric bass techniques and music theory and concepts. “Before I started training with with Mark, I had never learned anything about the components  [of what I was playing] and what makes a good song and how you can make it sound like the recording or how you feel... with Mark it’s like learning those small things that can make something sound really good,” said Levinson. 

Choosing to be in both a group session and individual lessons proved to be extremely beneficial for Levinson as a musician, as the ability to have ensemble experience and individualized critique represented the best of both worlds for Levinson.  “I feel like training in both CMI Sessions and Lessons is the best case scenario because you get the experience of learning in a group  and figuring out how you fit in, but with Mark it’s like you get personalized stuff, stuff that can make you a better player for the group,” said Levinson. 

This specialized attention also taught her how to zoom in on and analyze the details in the music she played--a skill that translated into her everyday listening habits and evolved her perspective on other music. 

“Now when I put on my headphones I can identify all new parts of songs and I think about who’s playing what, [lessons with Mark] make me listen to and understand the details more in music,” said Levinson. 

With a new skill set and all encompassing study through both classes, Levinson is eager to jump into the unknown once again, as she expresses interest in songwriting and composition at CMI.  

“I’m not really good at writing lyrics but in the next few months I [want to] work on that, and I want to learn how to play [slap bass], like that’s just so awesome,” said Levinson as she discussed where she intends to take her studies at CMI in the coming months. 

However, her creative expression is nowhere near limited to the Electric Bass, as she has expanded to playing the Guitar and singing as well--all while still being involved in her high school’s symphonic and marching bands. With a drive to create her own path in music and reach new horizons with her talent, Levinson is well on her way to becoming the best player she could possibly be at CMI. 

Adithi Katikhaneni 
CMI Music News