Alan Levenson thought he was going to make it in the jazz business when he graduated from college with a degree in philosophy. He spent a year at a record label setting up shows and working with musicians before he realized it was time for a career change.
"I maybe discovered I wasn't cut out to be in the music business," he said. "I was also making very little money and living in a very bad neighborhood in Brooklyn. I knew I needed to do something different."
Having minored in economics while at Yale University, Levenson decided to go back to school, earning a master's in business administration and a doctorate in the subject. Now, as the chief economist at T. Rowe Price Group, the Baltimore-based money management firm, he's been parsing the meaning of this week's interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve.
The quarter of a percentage point hike in a key rate that banks use to lend to each other will likely have a "very small" impact on the nation's economy and its recovery, he said.
"The early stages of a Fed tightening cycle generally prompt fear that it's going derail a recovery, and those fears are always unfounded," Levenson said.
With the country's unemployment rate improving, a small bump in the interest someone pays on their credit card, for example, might matter a lot less because they were able to obtain better employment, he said. The Fed will move slowly and cautiously in deciding on further rate hikes, Levenson predicted.
"I know we're not supposed to say this time is different, but this time is different," Levenson said. "They've expressed explicitly uncertainly about their destination."
Though he left the jazz business, Levenson maintained an interest in the scene. He's now writing a biography of jazz trumpeter Howard McGhee.
"It's fun and it keeps me out of trouble," he said. "Meeting a different sort of people, I get to exercise a different sort of muscles."
Alan D. Levenson
Title: Chief economist at T. Rowe Price Group
Born: Jersey City, N.J.
Residence: Wilmington, Del.
Education: B.A. in philosophy, with a minor concentration in economics, from Yale University, and an MBA and Ph.D. in economics from New York University's Leonard N. Stern School of Business
Family: Married for 32 years, two grown sons
Hobbies: Jazz, philosophy