The highways and byways of Saugerties are populated by interesting and gifted folks who go about the business of living with quiet grace. Pete and Terre Levin exemplify this “down-home” attitude.
Pete and Terre live in an 1825 farmhouse on 30 acres of land cultivated by a local farmer. Walking into their home is like visiting a beloved aunt whom you haven’t seen for a long time. The house itself holds country warmth that is palpable. Its furniture is an eclectic mix of beloved antiques interspersed with books and music. Its owners welcome you as old friends, with coffee, smiles, and an introduction to Coco, their wonderful mixed-breed giant of a dog.
Terre was born at the outset of World War II and grew up in Bangor, Maine with a working mom and a dad in the military. She met Pete in high school because their schools staged a combined concert each year. Terre was first chair clarinet and Pete played the French horn. They remained friends while she completed her college education at the University of New Hampshire. With degrees in biology and teaching, Terre began her career teaching in Bedford, New York. Pete studied at Boston University and received a master’s degree from the Juilliard School of music in New York City.
The pair dated off and on for nine years until Pete was drafted during the Vietnam War. Terre and Pete eloped just before he shipped out. Pete spent his year in Southeast Asia entertaining the troops at multiple “hot” zones. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for writing the official band arrangement for the U.S. Infantry song, but came home disgusted with war.
While Pete was away, Terre, pregnant with their first child, Samantha, lived on three-and-a-half acres in New Milford, Connecticut where she nurtured goats, chickens, vegetables and herbs. Later, they had a son they named Paul.
Terre reentered the workforce as a high school teacher in Milford, teaching biology, chemistry and genetics and chairing her department. She remained at Milford for 20 years.
In the interim, Pete joined the Gil Evans Orchestra as a French horn player. His creative experimentation with synthesizer sound led Evans to incorporate this new technology into the band’s compositions. Levin became a full-time keyboardist. He played with Evans for 15 years before going on to an eight-year association with Jimmy Giuffre. Since then, Pete has played with such luminaries as Miles Davis, Annie Lennox, Charlie Mingus, Paul Simon, the Brubeck Brothers and Willie Colon, to name but a few.
Pete has performed on more than 20 albums and written scores for film and television. He is currently touring with his brother, bassist Tony Levin, performing music from their new album, “Levin Brothers.” Pete says that the two are playing the type of music they heard as kids in a style between cool and bebop. Their effort, he says, is to “make music you remember with a melody that stays with you.”
In conversation, Pete’s humility and honest evaluation of his craft was a breath of fresh air. He talked about the discipline and work that a music career takes. “It’s a sheltered existence, and a competitive business,” he said. “You can be very good at what you do and have drive and determination, but remember that there’s always someone better.”
Pete decided to search for a home in this area because of the many friends and musicians who live here. He also wanted a calmer environment than his New York City apartment, to stop commuting to New Milford between jobs, and to be near family in Kingston.
It is also here that Terre was able to join the faculty of Ulster Community College and continue her contributions to science education with courses in biology and chemistry.
Why Saugerties? Both Pete and Terre spoke of love at first sight when they found their house. As Pete says, “We stumbled into Saugerties,” and discovered that it has all of the benefits of privacy, beautiful surroundings, access to New York City and that “‘small town thing.’ We have marvelous restaurants, an old world feeling in the village, shops, historic cemeteries to explore, Opus 40, the Lazy Swan golf course, HITS, eagles on the river, naturalist courses on the Esopus and a comfortable and friendly, homey vibe.”
That “vibe” is implicit in the personalities of the Levins. They are warm, friendly, homey, talented additions to the Saugerties mosaic.