O.W.L.L. Courses

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With the collaboration of the Lexington Council on Aging, the Friends of the Council on Aging present

O.W.L.L. - Older, Wiser, Lifelong Learners.

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O.W.L.L.’s Late Spring 2022 Semester Courses

Sponsored by the COA and FCOA

Exciting April through May OWLL Learning Opportunities

OWLL offers low-cost, not-to-be-missed courses for Older, Wiser, Lifelong Learners.

Composers in Exile: Those Who Fled the Nazis


Instructor: Dotty Burstein

May 5, 12, 19, 26, June 2

5 Thursdays, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Dotty BursteinFor Jewish composers living in Germany and Austria in the early 1930s, the rise of Nazism brought with it a stark choice: face an unknown but increasingly hostile future, or abandon their cultural heritage for the relative safety of the U. S. We shall explore the lives of those composers and the works they produced. Enrollment limited.

One We will begin our study of this dark but ultimately fruitful period by examining the effect of antisemitic tropes and attitudes on the legacies of Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn and on the lives of composers who followed at the end of the century: Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg. We will explore the social and artistic climate of the Weimar Republic, whose spirit of the Enlightenment as well as political confusion and violent uprisings between 1919 and 1933 inspired the creation of works like Erich Korngold’s opera Die Tote Stadt (The Dead City) and Kurt Weill’s theater production The Threepenny Opera. Then we will discuss the lives and music of composers who fled Nazi Germany in 1933: Schoenberg, Weill, and Korngold. We also will consider the effect of “Entartete (degenerate) Musik” on composers whose music was featured in the 1938 Dusseldorf exhibition. Next, we will review the lives and works of composers like Mario Tedesco, Paul Hindemith, Bela Bartok, and Ernst Krenek, who left Europe after 1933 and produced some of their greatest music while in exile. Finally, we will look at the legacy of all those composers who fled Europe between the wars because of racial, religious, or political persecution and the opportunities they brought about for their students, many of whose names are familiar to us today: John Cage, Leon Kirchner, Dave Brubeck, and Steve Reich.

Dotty Burstein Dotty Burstein, a former science textbook editor and chemistry teacher, has had a lifelong interest in the intersection of composers’ lives and their music. Her extensive studies have led her to develop a series of courses exploring the music of composers from the Classical and Romantic eras as well as twentieth-century Russian composers and emerging American composers. Dotty has offered classes at the Tufts Lifelong Learning Institute, Winchester’s Jenks Center, the OWLL program at the Lexington Community Center, and the Arlington Center for the Arts. Several times a year, Dotty speaks to groups such as the Harvard University Retirees Association. She is a member of the honorary music fraternity Sigma Alpha Iota.

The War in Ukraine: A Deep Analysis of the Moral Rubicon and Calamity of Our Epoch


Instructor: Robert Rotberg 

5 days within a two-week period to examine the war almost in real time: Monday, May 9; Tuesday, May 10; Friday, May 13; Monday, May 16, and Tuesday, May 17

from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm

Robert Rotberg 

  1. The Real Ukraine: How It Came To Be and What It Is
  2. A Leadership of Integrity: How Zelensky Made the Difference
  3. Putin the War Criminal: How He Might be Judged
  4. How Europe and America Assisted Ukraine and What We Must Now Do>
  5. The War’s Progress: The Near Future and the Reconstruction of Ukraine

This special pop-up course will analyze the invasion of Ukraine, the progress of the war to date, and how accountability for what occurred will help to determine the future of the free world. The inviolability of national borders, fundamental freedoms, human rights, and the security of world order as it was established after World War II have all been at risk since Putin invaded a much smaller and much poorer country, with putatively weaker military forces. If (at the time that this is being written) Putin’s forces are indeed retreating, that may presage a positive outcome despite massive destruction, atrocities, hideous violations, and great losses of life. The war is a battle between good and evil. We will talk about all of these matters as well as the five topics listed. The course will be full of interactive discussion.

Professor Robert I. Rotberg has taught a number of previous OWLL courses, is a long-serving Town Meeting member from Pct. 3, serves on the Historical Commission, and taught for decades in the MIT Political Science and History Departments and Harvard Kennedy School. He writes the Substack Conflict Mitigation Newsletter, mostly on Ukraine. robertirotberg.substack.com

Six Great Poets


Instructor: Cammy Thomas 

April 13, 20, 27, May 4, 11, 18

6 Wednesdays from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Cammy Thomas  In this course we will read and discuss great poets in the English tradition who will help us see and feel the world more fully. The poets we will encounter: John Milton, John Keats, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop, and Gwendolyn Brooks. No literary background necessary.

The poets John Milton, John Keats, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop, and Gwendolyn Brooks: what holds these poets together is that they’re all spectacularly good. If you want to take pleasure in poetry in the English language and be left with lots to think and feel, these poets will not disappoint. No special experience is necessary except the experiences of your life. Going in chronological order, we will begin in the 17th century with the brilliant, blind, anti-monarchist poet John Milton. The early 19th-century English Romantic poet John Keats makes us feel the beauty and evanescence of the world. In the mid-19th century, Gerard Manley Hopkins in England, and Emily Dickinson in America, wrestle with God, each inventing poetic forms both surprising and pleasing. In the 20th century, the images of the world become, in Elizabeth Bishop’s verse, signs of the world beyond. And Gwendolyn Brooks, a great African-American innovator of form, writes irresistibly about social issues we still face.

Cammy Thomas’s newest collection of poems, Tremors, has just been released. Her first book, Cathedral of Wish, received the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. A fellowship from the Ragdale Foundation helped her complete her second, Inscriptions. All three are published by Four Way Books. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, and in Poems in the Aftermath, an anthology. Having taught English at both university and high school levels for many years, she now teaches literature to adults. She lives in the Boston area and can be found at cammythomas.com.

Late spring 2022 registration for OWLL courses!

Older Wiser Lifelong Learners (OWLL) courses, now sponsored by the COA and FCOA, are currently virtual via Zoom. Cost is $25/course for residents over 60, $50 for all others.

*Registration for "Six Great Poets" is currently open.

*Registration for the late Spring courses begins on April 20 for Residents/April 27 for Non-residents.

*To register for courses and programs go to https://lexrecma.myrec.com/ then search OWLL courses.

*For more information, or contact Lexington Human Services at 781-698-4840.

*If you prefer to send a check and register by mail, please download and complete the fillable registration form.