12 questions with Harrison School for the Arts principal, Kevin LeVine

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This piece is part of our LALtoday Q+A series. Do you know someone we should interview? Nominate them here.

Kevin LeVine is the principal at Harrison School for the Arts and is in his ninth year as an administrator. He performs trumpet in the Lakeland area, is a member of the Florida Music Educators Association, and is a certified adjudicator for the Florida Bandmasters Association. He and his wife, Mandy, live in Lakeland and have three children.

Today, we asked Kevin 12 questions about the arts in Lakeland. Keep reading to see what inspired him to teach and what his hopes are for Lakeland in the next 10 years.

Q: Tell me about your connection to Lakeland.

A: I grew up in Babson Park, between Lake Wales and Frostproof, and graduated from Frostproof High School. I came to Florida Southern and liked the idea of being close to home but far enough away.

Q: What were the last three things you did locally?

A: I attended the Renee Fleming concert that the Lakeland Symphony Orchestra had last month. I enjoy the outdoors and being on the water so whenever I can go kayaking on one of the lakes, I do. I typically end up with pizza and ice cream at The Joinery, of course.

Q: What got you into education?

A: I wanted to be like my high school band director because I saw how much of an impact he had on all of us and how he inspired us to work hard to accomplish our goals.

Q: What makes Harrison special?

A: We’re very fortunate to have strong support for the arts. The students have to apply to the program. They’re showing an extra level of dedication to their specific art form. Last year, we had a young lady from Hong Kong that applied and she was accepted into the dance program. We literally have had people from the other side of the globe apply and move to come to school here.

Q: How do you think Harrison facilitates student success so well? IE: Broadway alumni/actors, etc.

A: We’re giving them a lot of real-world experience. It’s a competitive audition process — that’s what the real world is. Giving them those experiences allows them to see the amount of time, hours, and energy that goes into putting on full-scale productions.

Q: What impact have the arts had on Lakeland students?

A: It provides a need for certain students where they really feel the arts are their niche. But beyond that, what we’re able to give back to the community, whether it be through our performances here or when we do things like painting a mural on the WSC building, or writing thank you letters + singing for residents at a retirement home. It’s those kinds of things that I really treasure.

Q: Name two local leaders you’re impacted by.

A: Darryl Ward, who was the previous principal here. He is one of my mentors or inspirations and helped shape me, leadership-wise, into who I am as a school leader today. Outside of the school system, I really appreciate Mayor Mutz and his desire to give back to the community of Lakeland. He’s interested in lots of different areas within the city.

Q: What can everyday citizens do to support your school?

A: We do a sponsorship program through the parents association for businesses or individuals to contribute. We’re very grateful to all our sponsors. This year, our season sponsor is Highland Homes, they sponsored the whole season.

Q: We hear about the upcoming gala, happening next month — can you give us some background on the event?

A: It’s the parent association’s annual fundraiser on March 12. We have hors d’oeuvres catered on the campus for a silent auction. When that ends, we have performances from our students. It’s a really great opportunity for people who aren’t familiar with Harrison to see the departments perform and view the visual artwork in the gallery.

Q: Tell me about the state of Polk County Schools as they currently stand.

A: I think our school district is in a good position. There have been some very positive strides from a student achievement standpoint. I think our new superintendent is working on taking some things to the next level to make us go from a good school district to a great school district.

Q: What would you like to see in Lakeland in 10 years?

A: I think that I would like to see some more diversity in the art scene in general. I do think that we have some underrepresented populations, in the elementary + middle school levels. I would like to see more opportunities for students who don’t have the means to afford private lessons to get that opportunity early on.

Q: Any other pertinent information we should know?

A: I feel very fortunate and blessed to be able to come to work here every day. It’s an amazing school. The students and staff are incredibly talented and they love what they do. They’re the heartbeat of this school. If there are any readers that haven’t been to a Harrison performance, I would just like to challenge them to look up our calendar and pick an event and come to it. I guarantee you’ll be amazed by what the students are doing.