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Howard Levy Remembers Longtime Student Bernie Katz

bernie katz harmonica lesson

ArtistWorks is sorry to lose an enthusiastic member of the Howard Levy Harmonica School, Bernie Katz, who passed away on January 17th after struggling heroically with a long illness. Bernie's spirit and passion for playing will be missed. When asked to share his thoughts on Bernie, Howard had this to say:

"Bernie Katz was probably the most high spirited member of my harmonica school. He was the oldest when he joined, by far, but his spirit was indomitable. He was incredibly determined to pick up the harmonica and get good at it. He had played when he was much younger but he hadn't played in a while, and this was something that he really wanted to do and he was just so excited about doing it.

He sent me a lot of videos, which he took great delight in doing. He enjoyed challenges and staying youthful in his frame of mind and learning how to do new things with technology, so when I would get a video from Bernie I knew it was going to be entertaining and have a lot of feeling. I think that everyone at the school who watched the Video Exchanges with Bernie got a lot of enjoyment from them.  Some of the members of the school would write to him and give him words of encouragement - that's one of the great things about this place is people do encourage each other - and Bernie really loved that. I think it gave him a sense of being connected to a larger community, because he lived in Israel and I think he was homesick for America in certain ways. It made him feel good to be connected to his fellow American harmonica players. He's also from Chicago, so Bernie and I could talk about things in Chicago - I drove through his old neighborhood once and I drove past by the elementary school that he had gone to, because he told me what it was, and I let him know that I had driven past his old school.

I had the pleasure of meeting him once when I was performing an outdoor concert in Israel near Tel Aviv in 2011. He was there with his wife and daughter and was an even warmer person in person than he was in his videos. He obviously loved my playing, and I was very happy that he did. I'll cherish that in-person meeting I had with Bernie. I'm sure that anyone else who ever meet him or was a beneficiary of his harmonica playing will never forget what he was like. His daughter told me a great story about Bernie when he was in the hospital. A clown arrived with a toy harmonica, and as soon as Bernie got a hold of it he had the entire ward up on their feet dancing and clapping. That's how we'll remember him.

What I learned from Bernie is that you're never too old to try to improve at something, whatever it is. I don't think there's any age limit - I think that playing harmonica kept Bernie optimistic and youthful."

 - Howard Levy

Bernie's family is very involved with the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind at Beit Oved, if you would like to make a donation in Bernie's name please do so from the link here

bernie katz playing harmonica

Bernie Katz - students can visit his Student Page here

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