“I DON’T HAVE A TITLE HERE, ACTUALLY, NOBODY IN MY FAMILY HAS A TITLE HERE. IF YOU’RE A LEVIN, YOUR NAME IS ON THE DOOR, AND YOU DO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO GET THINGS DONE. THAT’S IT.”
If you’ve attended anything from an underground house music extravaganza to a multi-block music festival in the nation’s capital, there is a very likely chance that you’ve heard, but not seen the work of Adam Levin, representing the third generation of Levins to be the proprietor of Wheaton, Md.-based Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center. The phrase “the man behind your favorite musician’s success” is an often tossed about term. In Adam’s case — given the number of times he’s provided an amp or guitar, set up a soundboard, or ensured that a live musician’s monitor or backline is operational and able to provide the highest quality event experience possible — it’s absolutely true.
Open since 1958, the store — which initially prided itself on acknowledging the emotional bond musicians create with their instruments, and ensuring that “novices who play for fun to professional musicians [can play] with the very best instruments at the very best prices” — spent its first decade of operation located at 17th and H Streets, NF. After the riots following the 1968 murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the store and its inventory were destroyed. Thus, the company relocated to the suburbs of Wheaton, MD. What has allowed Chuck Levin’s to exist and excel as a company beloved by the likes of legends like Stevie Wonder, noted industry professionals like Beyond Studios producer Zack Dawson and soulful harmonica player Frederic Yonnet, plus EDM upstarts like 3LAU is a customer-first mindset that also includes a city-as-community aesthetic that governs their professional retail, sales, and/or service delivery.
Adam Levin (Chuck’s grandson — Chuck, the namesake, died in 2002, Adam’s father Robert passed away in 2013) studied electrical engineering and business in college at Washington University of St. Louis, graduating in 2010. “I was a math nerd who didn’t want to take writing classes, so I could focus more on math, history, and business. Thankfully, because I set my educational path that way, I had the opportunity to learn and understand physics, to bring a math and science background to music.” Coming back home and joining the family business was not necessarily in the cards, but here he is, nine years later, overseeing what are now local, national, and global operations.
“A music store logistically touches every part of global economics,” Levin continues. “It’s fascinating. We deal with the tariffs from China, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) restrictions on shipping rosewood to other countries, shipping guitars, delivering a sound system to a church, the elephant in the room that is e-commerce, retail, it’s crazy, but fun, because at the end of the day, it’s music, and I love music.”
Regarding his love for music and moreover his love of live event delivery, Levin has simple advice regarding how he ensures that most events occur relatively stress-free on a technical level. “There’s what is the right way to do it, and what is the easiest way to get it done. I’m trained as an engineer, so I’m all about solutions.” Levin adds, “Either I have three hours to make this happen and get this gig up and running, or I have all the time in the world, it will likely go off seamlessly, and we can design some innovative sound installations, and put my personal stamp on it. Either way, it’s all about just making it happen and ensuring people have a great time.”
Though Chuck Levin’s is a retail space and is known for its musical chops on all levels, the company also designs, markets, installs, and services high-end audio-visual systems for corporate and governmental clients, plus provides podcasting solutions for those interested in engaging in broadcasting in the modern era. However, if you were to ask Adam Levin where he finds his deepest passion as a professional working in the Metropolitan area, it’s music, and the experiences attached to hearing it in ideal aural circumstances. “DC cares about music and hearing it in a quality manner. Not just in DC, but humans everywhere, we went into our phones for a few years. Now we’re putting away our phones for a bit, and are looking for these amazing live experiences. People can do anything now, but they prefer to have these richly interesting, connective, and intensely human events.”
In full, Adam Levin’s ties to his work, the city, and its residents are profound, significant, and inform those who are customers and clients with a shared sense of Adam, and his family’s, six decades of pride. “I feel an emotional connection to every event that happens in this city,” Levin opines. “Supporting the musical prowess of DC is a job that’s partially mine to uphold. These events happen because awesome people have awesome ideas. Be that at Funk Parade, Jazzfest, the Wammies — any event that brings this community together — I’m in, I love it. I’m fortunate enough to be in a position to help someone, so I do it.”