Answering the call of the pipesDrop into McGinn's Irish...


February 06, 1994|By Patrick A. McGuire

Answering the call of the pipes

Drop into McGinn's Irish pub on Charles Street some Saturday night and have a look at the fellow playing the odd-looking bagpipe. His haunting music hearkens to the Celtic pipers of old, and you might think, by his soft brogue, that he's a native of the Emerald sod. But his name is Paul Levin, he was born and raised in Pikesville and he's very tickled indeed that he's not at all what you'd expect.

He was one of a handful of young schoolteachers in the mid '70s who opened a local Waldorf school, which takes an alternative approach to teaching that seeks to mesh the intellectual with a child's natural awe for life.

It was during those heady days of the '70s that Mr. Levin, an accomplished flutist, visited Ireland and fell in love with the sound of the Uilleann (rhymes with chillin') pipes.

"It's that haunting, reedy 'nyah' sound that gives it an other-worldly edge," he says of his instrument.

"I wanted to stay up late and play as much music as I could," he recalls. "But if you do, you can't get up in the morning and teach kids."

So he left teaching after five years, playing his pipes and supporting himself by painting houses. Eventually, a friend in commercial real estate lured him back to the real world. He now works for Partners Management, but he's a musician at heart.

"I think of myself as a hard-working, committed, conscientious person who really likes chewing on a problem," he says, "whether a work situation or a tune. I work hard at both."

Indeed, the pipes are always calling.

Just the other night at McGinn's, Mr. Levin was called away when the water pipes in one of the buildings he manages had burst.

"It's very complicated to live simply," he says, smiling.

When coach Barry Young assembles his players for their weekly recreation league basketball game, they're no longer kids with a past, but kids with a future.

The Baltimore Bears team is made up of nine boys. Some have been through the juvenile services system. Others, including Mr. Young's 13-year-old son, Barry Jr., have not.

"The rules are we don't discuss charges or anything," Mr. Young says. "If I start defining these kids [as delinquents] because they made a mistake, then that only promotes further delinquency."

Mr. Young, a counselor who works for the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, takes his job way beyond 9 to 5. At night, on his own time, he teaches kids ages 14 and under to play ball.

Players must take their game seriously, Mr. Young says.

Winning is not the most important thing, he adds. "But they have to be able to compete. If they can't, they get frustrated and stop showing up altogether."

Mr. Young was raised by his grandparents in Baltimore's Cherry Hill neighborhood. He stumbled through a few troubles as a youth and empathizes with youngsters who are trapped in an environment where "you can't envision yourself going any further."

As a political science major at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Mr. Young, 40, originally aspired to run an automotive service center. But a social-worker friend persuaded him he had a knack for working with kids.

Mr. Young transferred to the University of Baltimore, switched his major to psychology and found work as a supervisor at the Maryland Training School for Boys, now called the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School. He currently works out of a juvenile services district office in Baltimore.

"I feel blessed," Mr. Young says. "I have a job, a nice family and an opportunity on the side to help kids."

Stephanie Shapiro

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