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Burke Musician Hammers Out GMU Alma Mater

Local musician Carol Boyd Leon has composed "Patriots' Dreams," to give George Mason University (GMU) a homegrown tune to call its own.

Although she is not a student or teacher there, she won its contest, which ended in November 2001, and her song debuted at the Homecoming basketball game in the Patriot Center in February. It was performed by "Take Note!", a four-person a cappella group.

Leon lives in Burke Centre and came up with the Ivy League-sounding song in a post-Sept. 11 patriotic mood. She's had other songs published as well.

"I start by creating a snippet of melody in my head," she said. Then she turns to her piano and computer to continue her musical creativity.

"That's usually how it happens for me," she said.

If her song didn't get anywhere in the alma mater contest, she was going to tweak it a bit — substitute red, white and blue for green and gold, Mason's colors — and list it as a patriotic song.

"To the green and gold, we will ever be true," is the first line in the song.

According to GMU staff member Alissa Karton, the alma mater will be played at special university events — commencement, convocation, University Day and other special events, ceremonies and athletic events. Incoming freshmen will learn "Patriots' Dreams" when they attend orientation in the summer.

Patty Snellings, GMU spokesperson, stressed the sense of tradition.

"An alma mater is something all universities have, a part of tradition. As a young university, we are in the process of establishing a tradition," she said.

LEON LIVES in a musical environment in Burke, with her living room dominated by a shiny black piano, guitars, song books and other instruments. Her husband plays the clarinet and saxophone. Her son Jamie Boyd, 13, plays the saxophone, and daughter Sara Boyd plays the piano when she's home. Leon calls it a klezmer ensemble. Sara is currently going to William and Mary, where she's pursuing a degree in music.

Leon’s other son, Jacob Boyd, 17, is a junior at Robinson Secondary School. He took piano as a child but enjoys watching the rest of the family when they get together for a jam session.

"Everyone has their musical talents. Everyone competes for musical space around here," he said.

Leon works in with music seven days a week, teaching at Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria, Olam Tikvah preschool and Providence Nursery preschool in Fairfax, Burke Presbyterian preschool, Beth Emeth Early Childhood Center in Herndon and Keshet Child Development Center in Alexandria.

IN ADDITION, she is the song leader and youth choir director at Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria; the song leader at Congregation B'nai Tzedek in Potomac, Md.; and youth choir director at the Community Youth Choir in the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia. Although most of her musical instruction centers around the Jewish faith, including her CD and songbook titled "Songs From the Heart: Family Shabbat," she calls it "interfaith" music.

"They were all written using Jewish concepts," she said.

Linda Waller, an administrative assistant in Supervisor Dana Kauffman's (D-Lee) office, takes one of Leon’s music classes at Beth El in Alexandria.

"As a teacher she really goes the extra step. She spent hours making a tape for the class," Waller said.

Leon is also the owner and teacher of "Music Fun," a Burke Centre-based music program for children. One well-known song around the children's music circuit is the "Ladybug" counting song.

"Hundreds of children know the ladybug counting song," she said.

MUSIC IS THE SECOND part of her artistic career. After getting an economics degree at Brown University, Leon embarked on a journalism career. She was an economist/writer for the U.S. Department of Labor from 1977-85 and the managing editor for the Gooder Group Inc. in Merrifield, and she free-lanced for local papers, including The Burke Connection when it first started.

"I was one of the original reporters for The Burke Connection. I had to make a decision between music and journalism," she said.