The Media School

Tamara Lowenthal discovers how music can connect people

April 2nd, 2019 by
Photograph by Jada Lucas

Tamara Loewenthal, director of Facility and Volunteer services for the Lotus Foundation, spent her childhood in Germany and England until her parents moved to Pennsylvania.

Tamara Loewenthal dances effortlessly with the Ritmos Latin Dance Troupe. Her long, blond hair flares around her head, and a smile never leaves her face. Although it’s an open house for the new Lotus Firebay, it is more than that. It’s all about the music.

Sixty-year-old Lowenthal, grew up in Nazi Germany, and she was forced to move from place to place. However, music served as way to connect her to her new home in a small town in Pennsylvania.

“I experienced some of this lack of acceptance within my growing up,” she said. “I also still kind of felt like, well, they just don’t understand, but I still think, you hear music and if you hear music first, you will find that road of communication.”

Loewenthal is the director of Facility and Volunteer Services for the Lotus Festival Foundation. She made it her mission to diversify music in the community and connect people by doing so.

The Lotus Foundation is a non-profit organization that focuses on connecting the community to music and arts from other cultures.

Lowenthal grew up in a Christian commune until Hitler closed it, causing the entire commune to move away. After three years, her parents migrated to England. However, war tensions forced them to move to Paraguay where they settled until moving to Pennsylvania. Loewenthal said her family faced difficulties due to their German ancestry and post-war sentiments.

Loewenthal said creating connections can start with music first.

“I think that people understand things intrinsically through music,” she said. “It isn’t a thought process.”

“You’re not saying is this me, Do I believe in this culture?” she said.

Photograph by Jada Lucas

During Lowenthal's time at he University of Pittsburgh, she pursued dance along with a degree in psychology.

At a young age, this developed an appreciation for culture wasn’t familiar with.

“Where I grew up people liked country music,” she said. “I learned to like that music. I started realizing that was the currency of the folks in this rural Pennsylvania town. They like this Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, and I started to understand them through this music.”

Loewenthal’s love of dance developed at University of Pittsburgh, when she started taking dance classes that weren’t available in her hometown. After 15 credit hours devoted to psychology, she realized this wasn’t the direction that she wanted to take.

“I realized I might have to work in hospitals or rehab centers,” she said. “I decided that was not me. I decided I wanted to be a dancer.”

Loewenthal graduated with a degree in psychology, but she decided to actively pursue dance. She was involved in square dancing, contra dancing and Israeli Folk dancing. After graduation, she moved to Bloomington with her husband in 1980. Then, she joined Rhythm and Shoes, a group of cloggers. During her time in the troupe, she toured in the United States, China and Japan.

Loewenthal has served many roles at Lotus. In 1998, she joined the board of directors for seven years. Afterwards, she became a sites coordinator and then a volunteer coordinator.

Two years ago, Loewenthal suffered a hip and knee injury. This made her go from part-time at Lotus to full-time, and she needed a new focus.

“I realized if I could choose anything, I would choose Lotus.” she said.

“I realized I might have to work in hospitals or rehab centers. I decided that was not me. I decided I wanted to be a dancer.” – Tamara Loewenthal, director of Facility and Volunteer Services, The Lotus Foundation

Lotus is entering a transition phase as it seeks out a new executive director and settling into its new space. Loewenthal has been in charge of managing the space and acquiring funding for it. It is detail oriented work, but she thrives on it.

28-year-old intern for Lotus Tammy Lin, works closely with Loewenthal and admires her sense of community. “She worked as a volunteer for Lotus and built and nurtured the connections with the community members.” she said.

In the future, Loewenthal wants to have a hand in helping artists who come to Bloomington. She said the artists who perform at Lotus create conversations about cultural issues.

“In their performances they’ll talk about what were my influences for this song, what national event are we responding to from our country that we are now singing about here for you,” she said.

Loewenthal hopes this presentation of different cultures will diversify Bloomington’s music landscape and bring people together.

“I often think language divides,” she said. “We see how rhetoric is used all the time with politicians and specific groups who have ideologies they want to spread. I feel like music unites.”