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magazine home > archives > summer 2003 > features

Encore! A Mid-South couple tunes in to the U of M's School of Music and puts some forte into their retirement years.

Going for Baroque
by Benjamin Potter

Many people set their sights on becoming lifelong learners, but what does that phrase mean, exactly? Does it describe avid readers? Someone who prefers the History Channel over MTV?

A more clear-cut example of lifelong learners are Memphis residents Dr. Edward and Linda Kaplan, who found life more enjoyable after they decided to audit music classes at the University of Memphis.

Ed and Linda Kaplan
Ed and Linda Kaplan enjoy the vast resources the U of M offers, such as the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music's extensive record collection.

Ed, a recently retired neurosurgeon, and Linda, a civic volunteer for Memphis Symphony Orchestra, always had a great love of music. But they say they felt more like passive listeners when attending concerts. A friendship with Rudi and Honey Scheidt, whose multimillion dollar gift supports the school, was another reason to give the School of Music a try.

"We took an even greater interest in the school because it had become personalized," Linda says. "Also, Ed retired about a year ago, and we had time on our hands together for the first time."

The Kaplans' intention to start with just one class didn't quite go as planned.

"We couldn't decide among the really great courses, so we ended up taking three," Linda says. So for the Fall 2002 semester, the Kaplans audited music history, music appreciation and music theory. Allen Rippe, assistant professor of music, says the couple added much to the class discussions. More importantly, he says, they have found a new way to express their appreciation and support for music.

"I dare say that music in this community was put together by people like the Kaplans," Rippe says. "Ed and a lot of physicians are supporters of the arts, and they play a vital role in keeping the arts alive in Memphis."

The Kaplans say their U of M experience was reminiscent of the campus life they lived years ago. "We had to get up early in the morning and get a parking place like everyone else," Linda says. Ed notes a distinct advantage this time around — no final exams. He says he found the professors intensely interesting and the experience worthwhile.

Likewise, University professors say the Kaplans were an enjoyable addition to class.

"Ed and Linda were a wonderful example of how art and music enriches the lives of people who open up themselves to it, even if they are professionals in other areas," says Mona Kreitner, adjunct professor of music.
The School of Music indeed has much to offer, and the Kaplans are aware that they've only scratched the surface. The school has faculty gems such as composer Kamran Ince, guitarist Lily Afshar and Grammy winner David Evans, as well as dozens of talented vocal and instrumental students.

Moreover, the Kaplans say the school's friendliness and openness were big draws.

An Audit You Won't Mind Getting

The word "audit" has gotten a bad reputation. To be fair, no one wants an audit — at least not the kind that the IRS gives. But an audit at the University of Memphis can mean something else entirely.

Danny Moling, assistant registrar at the U of M, says there are two basic requirements for senior citizens who wish to audit a course at the University. They must be residents of Tennessee, and they must be at least 60 years old. There are no other prerequisites.

"We have a number of people who have no college experience, and we have a number of people with advanced degrees,"Moling says. Although history and literature classes are the most popular, seniors have sampled courses across the campus.

Auditing classes won't earn you college credit, but it will earn you a new wealth of knowledge. Courses are subject to availability. For more information, contact the Registrar's Office at 901/678-2810.

"It's kind of an oasis on campus," Linda says. "It's a thing unto itself."

The Kaplans truly caught school fever. Not limiting themselves to class attendance, they often returned to campus in the evenings for concerts and faculty recitals. Having a wide palette for the arts, they also saw the Theatre Department's production of Into The Woods and a performance by the Dance Department.

There was an inconvenience at the U of M, but it was one the Kaplans were able to address and correct. They often had to switch rooms during their classes due to a shortage of audio and video equipment. As a result, some creative juggling of that equipment was an unfortunate necessity. But with a modest gift, the Kaplans bought some much-needed equipment that ended the room-swapping.

Ed says the school is more than deserving of his support.

"It's not a hidden treasure, but the community doesn't appreciate what it has here," he says. "I really appreciate what I've learned. I feel like I got so much out of these classes."

The Kaplans are accustomed to quality universities — Ed graduated from Yale; Linda, from Smith College — and say their U of M classes have provided just as many rich learning experiences. Ed says degree-seeking students often get caught up in focusing on what they have to take, rather than what they want to take. Now they can pursue additional extracurricular interests.

As they continue on their journey as lifelong learners, the Kaplans are starting to mull over their options. They consider the School of Music the entry way to their U of M interaction, but they are interested in exploring other areas of campus as well.

Linda says the next stop might be an English class. Or maybe the couple will take a history course. Like the proverbial kid in the candy store, the Kaplans are assured a smorgasbord of academic options at the
U of M.

"The School of Music was the most welcome place to start," Linda says. "Where we will go next, we don't know."

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