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October 10, 2023

By Emma Johnson, Communications Manager

“It’s the feeling inside that fills us with pride; Growing together side by side, We’ll always be in harmony, I give to you, you give to me.”

Whether a current student, proud alum, parent/guardian, grandparent, or a member of the faculty and staff, nothing quite connects the Ethical Culture community like the familiar lyrics and melody of the school song, “It’s the Feeling Inside.” At the first schoolwide assembly of the 2023–2024 academic year, Ethical Culture hosted a few special guests — the family and close friends of Lucy Simon Levine ’58, the talented writer and musician behind the Ethical Culture school song who passed away late last year. 

With Simon Levine’s family sitting in the audience alongside current students and teachers, Principal Rob Cousins began the assembly in the usual Ethical Culture way: with everyone standing and singing “It’s a Feeling Inside” together. As always, it was a lively performance, complete with the signature clap in the third verse. 

Head of School Joe Algrant spoke to students about the interconnectedness and deep history that Lucy’s family has with our institution. 

Lucy’s father, Richard Simon, was the first member of the family to attend the Ethical Culture School. He graduated in 1916, initiating a robust family legacy that includes his siblings, their children, and grandchildren, including Lucy’s son, Jamie Levine ’90. Jamie attended ECFS beginning in Kindergarten and returned to the auditorium for this special assembly with several of his ECFS classmates and friends.

In 1980, Simon Levine volunteered to teach a 6th Grade songwriting class at the then-called Ethical Culture School. She approached then Principal Allan Shedlin ’59 — a former classmate of Lucy’s — to see if he was open to the idea of her and her students writing a new song for their school division. Luckily, he was, and Simon Levine began the songwriting process by asking her students to share what they think of Ethical Culture. The children looked at her and said, “It’s not what we think; it’s what we feel.” Drawing inspiration from her student’s feelings and expressions, she wrote the melody, with the support of Fieldston Lower music teacher Colleen Garnevicus, and lyrics to the now-beloved school song.

Algrant left the stage with a lasting sentiment: “I can promise you will be singing this song when you are 20, 30, and even when you’re 40 years old.” 

Next to take the stage was Charlie Levine, Simon Levine’s grandson, who spoke warmly of his grandmother’s love for music and her inspirational career. “It meant so much to my grandmother that she was able to work with the students here to compose the school song and that it is still sung today. My grandmother was a very kind woman with an incredible heart and amazing musical talent, and we are very happy you continue her legacy today by sharing her music.” 

To honor this lasting legacy, Cousins invited the current oldest and youngest Ethical Culture students, 5th Grader Everett A. ’31 and Pre-K student Leo S. ’37, to share a few words about what the song means to them and to unveil a commemorative plaque honoring Simon Levine. 

Everett also has an enduring history at the School, as both his mother and uncle graduated from ECFS. They have sung the song with him for as long as he can remember, and Everett poignantly explained just how fundamental the tune has been in his life: “I remember when I was in Pre-K hearing the song for the first time and asking myself if I would ever remember the words, but now, I can sing the whole song by heart. Part of what makes any good song so powerful is that it stays in your head, and some of them, like this one, stay with you forever.”

The plaque will be displayed outside of the Ethical Culture auditorium as a reminder of Simon Levine’s immeasurable gift to the School: a gift of a sentimental melody, thoughtful lyrics, and many shared memories. For nearly 45 years, Simon Levine’s enduring legacy at Ethical Culture has been felt every time “It’s the Feeling Inside” is sung, connecting graduates and current students across generations, and promises to do so for many years into the future.

Family and friends of Lucy Simon Levine ’58 pose on stage in the Ethical Culture auditorium following the assembly.
Back row (from left to right): Jenny Mayer ‘90; Jodi (Kaplan) Cohen ‘90 P’26, P’29; Hilary (Grand) Harris ‘90, P’19, P ‘22; Karen Lefcourt-Taylor ‘94; Heather and Jeff Lefcourt ‘90, P ‘29, P ‘27, P ‘36; Head of School Joe Algrant; Karen and Len Estin. Front row (from left to right): Loraine Alterman Boyle; Mary Ascheim P’88; Jamie Levine ‘90; Alanna Estin Levine; Charlie Levine; Subrina Doebar Hocanin.