SHE grew up outside Buffalo and plays an instrument better known in the hills of North Carolina, but Thomasina Levy sings for the state of Connecticut and that is why she got the job.
State troubadour. Really. That is her official title and Jan. 1 was her first day.
''I'm Connecticut's ambassador to music and song,'' Ms. Levy explained, a dulcimer resting in her lap in the airy office and practice studio she had built above her garage.
Skeptical? Do not smirk. State troubadour is a two-year position and, if the legislature approves, Ms. Levy will actually get paid -- a $5,000 annual stipend for appearing at schools, various state arts events and occasionally at the Capitol. But the title also means exposure, and Ms. Levy said it had already brought her more paid gigs on concert stages.
''This,'' she said, ''is kind of overwhelming.''
It is not unwelcome, however. Last fall she filled out the application for state troubadour with seven pages of single-spaced type.
The position originated in 1991, when a state representative pushed through legislation to make Tom Callinan the state's first official troubadour. The idea was to brighten the state mood during the Persian Gulf war. While Mr. Callinan sang songs about whaling and the environment, other troubadours have written songs about the state's heritage and have used the job to promote their careers.
''Every troubadour puts their own slant on it,'' Ms. Levy said. ''My slant is that I want to promote art and music in the state.''
In her application, she detailed her experience teaching music in classrooms for the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, how she helped found a dulcimer festival in New Milford and also noted that she had made four solo recordings, including her most recent, ''Chasing Cloud Shadows.''
She also described some of her songs, including one about Harriet Beecher Stowe, who was born in Litchfield in 1811. Ms. Levy's deep natural vibrato filled her studio when she sang the chorus one recent morning: ''She put down her rolling pin and picked up her pen and awakened our nation for slavery to end.''
She first put in for the job two years ago but she was passed over in favor of Dennis Waring, an educator, musician and instrument maker. This time she studied successful applications before submitting hers.
''I was upset about it but you know what, it's sweeter this time around,'' said Ms. Levy who is 47. ''It was a learning experience. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.''
She was chosen from among six applicants, a smaller pool than usual, according to Susan Docker, who works for the state commission that oversees the selection of the troubadour. Ms. Docker said news of Ms. Levy's appointment has prompted other states to inquire about the troubadour role in Connecticut. She said Ms. Levy offered the essential combination of educator and musician the job required.
''Some people can write a song but they can't communicate with the public,'' Ms. Docker said. ''The troubadour really becomes quite a public figure.''
Ms. Levy's term begins as the state recovers from corruption at the Capitol, endures a death-penalty debate centered around a convicted serial killer and faces the prospect of a steep budget deficit. But if Connecticut has seemed short on melody lately, Ms. Levy says her role should transcend scandal.
''I don't sing really angry songs,'' she says. ''I sing songs about unity between people. I come from a more psychological, emotional perspective on humanity.''
No, she does not apologize for sounding so New Age. She calls herself ''a folk musician who plays the dulcimer'' and says her style is rooted as much in Joni Mitchell as Jean Ritchie, the dulcimer balladeer from Kentucky.
Music was just a hobby for much of Ms. Levy's life. She has a master's degree in education from Buffalo State College and spent several years teaching special education. One of five children, she grew up in Kenmore, N.Y. Her father was an insurance salesman who made sure that each child learned an instrument. She tried the violin. ''Hated it,'' she said. She tried the piano. ''Too much work,'' she said.
SHE taught herself guitar and then, when she was 20, received a dulcimer as a gift. She liked it but did not pursue it seriously until 1986, when she and her husband, a lawyer, had the first of their two sons, who are now 18 and 15.
''All of a sudden I started playing the dulcimer as an adult, as a mother, and all these songs just started coming out,'' she said. ''It's not like I said 'I'm going to be songwriter.' It just kind of sort of happened. That's why I feel and really believe that music is in everyone, because I'm telling you, if I can do this, anyone can do this.''
When she sings and plays for school groups she teaches students how to match lyrics to melody and meter. She concedes that few have ever seen or heard a dulcimer or know folk songs like ''Old Joe Clark'' but she says she encourages children to ''own'' the music before it is ''lost in the clamor of the garbage we're exposed to out there.''
She says the phone has been ringing frequently in recent weeks and her performance calendar, playing in small concert halls and community centers, is filling up. She needs more time. ''I really want to write a song right now about being a mom letting go of my 18-year-old,'' she said. ''Maybe Monday. I'll have some time on Monday.''
Photo: THOMASINA LEVY (Photo by George Ruhe for The New York Times)