This I Believe
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And now, This I Believe, a series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Harry Levenson is a musician. He studied the violin in his native New York, in Philadelphia and in Paris. He received his training as a conductor from Pierre Monteux. His violin and teaching careers in Worcester, Massachusetts were interrupted by World War II. But his musical talents were utilized by the Air Force in their Special Services Office. After the war, he founded two musical organizations: the Worcester Youth Orchestra and the Little Symphony. These have contributed much to the enrichment of his community. He has made a reality of some dreams which are at the basis of his
personal philosophy. This is what Harry Levenson believes.
My life and experience are those of a professional musician. As a natural consequence, I believe in the value of arts. I believe in individual effort, in hard solitary work, in the importance of developing one’s own creative urge. As everyone knows, the way of the artist in this country is difficult. I have literally starved in order to pay for music lessons. At an age when most persons are reaping the fruits of their education and early toil, I have again and again become a student. But I believe it is more important to develop one’s talents than to feed the body.
I believe that no man is an island, in music as in other affairs. The soloist and the composer must
have an audience; the conductor must have an orchestra. I have derived great satisfaction from developing individual talents and spreading an appreciation of music within an entire community. As a son of immigrant parents, raised in the slums, rich only in family affection and devotion, I believe that America offers limitless opportunities to anyone with sufficient desire and ability to contribute to his country. To cite one example, in my Youth Orchestra one needy lad was recently given a 4,000-dollar-a-year scholarship to Yale University.
I believe in cultivating your own garden in the noble sense of developing my own talents and encouraging those around me to do the same. Few of us can ever become presidents, or even appear as
soloists as Carnegie Hall. I can use my abilities to good purpose in whatever area I may be. There is no defeatism in this idea. There’s a simple recognition that a greater America, a greater world, is built on the construction of many little Americas, many little universes. But these tiny areas of effort require large souls, magnanimous beliefs, a great understanding of the worth of every individual, a deep repugnance toward crippling, bigoted principles. We are all, so to speak, potted plants, but let us each break the urn which constrains us and there can be an intermingling of rich perfumes, a garden of sweet fragrance unto the Lord.
I believe in courage and persistence, in the value of hope. I don’t know how these qualities are to be
inculcated. There are obstacles in everyone’s path. Pessimism is a dogged and persistent enemy. I have toiled endlessly, fought many discouragements, to achieve what seems to me very little. But I shall continue to struggle. That is man’s fate and man’s glory.
These are political days when over every one of us there hangs the threat of another world war. Nationalism and Totalitarianism are running wild. Yet, in the Boston Symphony, to name just one, men of all nationalities are joined together to produce a great music. Perhaps someday, communal effort, without regard to race, color, status, national origin, communal effort based on our common possession of the creative desire, will defeat Communism and all other forms of tyranny.
That was Harry Levenson, a violinist and conductor of the Worcester Youth Orchestra and the Little Symphony. His is an optimistic, living philosophy—what he might call, through the universal language of music, a hope for a harmonious world.