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Sound Bites - Issue #62 - October 2018: #302

On the Cover
Sarah Olim - Piano Teacher Par Excellence!

Piano instructor Sarah Olim (Photo by Ed Mangus)

Piano instructor Sarah Olim (Photo by Ed Mangus)

Sarah Olim is SMC Community Ed’s piano instructor par excellence. She teaches One-on-One Piano throughout the year, to all kinds of students – all ages (from 5 years old and up) and all levels, from beginner to advanced.

She teaches the students what they want to learn, whether it is pop, classical, jazz or other styles.

Olim has a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Texas at Austin in Piano Pedagogy and has done graduate coursework in music at California State University, Los Angeles.

She has taught piano and music all over the Los Angeles area, including Music Fundamentals for Adults (with an emphasis on the skill of reading and understanding musical notation) at SMC Community Ed from 1984 to 1986, 1991 to 1999, and 2006 to 2015. Her One-on-One classes – which are held at the beautiful SMC Performing Arts Center/Madison campus in central Santa Monica – have been offered for about two years.

Among the other places she has taught are University of Judaism, Los Angeles Pierce College and Pasadena City College.

What do you like about teaching piano?

I enjoy showing children and adults how to play the piano and for those who have some experience, other ways of reading and interpreting the music.  I've had many adults tell me they like having the skills to play as it calms them down at the end of the day. Teaching also involves sharing ideas, so I sometimes pick up ideas from the student and even songs from the children.   

It's also nice when I have a student return after a long while. I had one lady who just recently signed up for the private lessons. Turned out she had had a group class with me in the past and at that time had asked me to play for her 50th Birthday party. That was 25 years ago! So, it took 25 years, but she came back.

What kinds of music do you like? Who are your favorite composers?

I like most styles of music including classical, jazz and classic rock. Favorite composers would be Debussy and Ravel along with Beethoven and Chopin.

What is your idea of a perfect day?

A day where all students are prepared by having practiced whatever they are working on so that we can move on to new material with new skills.

What is one of the best compliments you ever received?

I've received applause at the end of adult group classes many times. I've also had parents come up and tell me how much their child enjoyed their class with me. 

What activities do you like to do outside of music and piano? 

I do a lot of volunteering for various organizations including ushering at The Broad Stage (SMC Performing Arts Center) and other theatre venues. I also help the Los Angeles Ballet with the boutique at their performances.

What was the last picture you took with your phone?

I videotaped a student playing so that he could hear his performance. I then used it for another student who was learning the same composition to get a comparison between the way she played the piece vs. what she heard the other student do.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Moved to Los Angeles.

Sarah Olim will teach several One-on-One Piano classes in the Winter Session.

What's New
Winter Preview - Our Special Wonderland!

Alice Meyering

One of our new classes this Winter Session is Photography with Your iPhone

We’re already planning our Fifth Annual Open House for next February

from the desk of Alice Meyering

October is a good month to preview what will be happening at SMC Community Ed later this fall and through the winter of 2019.

  • At the top of the list, you can now sign up for Winter Session classes. We’ve got a terrific lineup of courses, including two new classes, Practical Tarot: An In-depth look at the Court Cards and Photography Using Your iPhone. We’re also adding Thursday slots to the popular One-on-One Piano classes that are currently offered Wednesdays and Saturdays.
  • Thinking already about holiday gift shopping? Then you should know that you can easily send a gift card to friends and loved ones with a simple click on our website. After all, what better present can you give than that of lifelong learning?
  • And speaking of gift shopping, we will be offering Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts for classes, as well as Flash Sales. Stay tuned for details – or better yet, sign up to be placed on our email list!
  • We’re in the process of planning our Fifth Annual Open House, which grows larger every year and generates great excitement for our instructors and community members. The Open House, which will be held Feb. 2, allows students and prospective students to talk to instructors about their classes. The highly anticipated event also features mini-demonstrations and more.

Visit our award winning website at to register for classes online 24/7. Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about our classes. You can email us at or call us at (310) 434-3400 (option #2).

Behind the Scenes:
Delving Deeply Into Tarot with Davida

Tarot instructor Davida Rappaport

Davida Rappaport with students in Tarot class

Davida Rappaport has taught Tarot to hundreds of students in the nearly 13 years she has been an instructor at SMC Community Ed. But starting this winter, for the first time, she will delve more deeply into the Royal Family cards in the Tarot deck.

“These are the trickiest cards to interpret because they’re people rather than symbols,” Rappaport says. “What do they represent in your life – your mother, father, neighbor, boss? Yourself?”

The class is called Practical Tarot: An In-depth look at the Court Cards, and will cover the Court, or Royal Family, cards, their relationship to the Emperor, Empress and Aces, and different ways to interpret these cards in a reading. 

Rappaport’s existing Tarot Reading classes (Major and Minor Arcana) cover a rich system of human guidance with Medieval roots but with a simple goal: to understand ourselves better and discover how we might live better in the future. Her classes reveal a fascinating world of symbols laden with meaning, as well as the power of intuition.

Major Arcana is a suit of 22 cards in the Tarot deck that represents life’s spiritual journey. Minor Arcana are the 56 suit cards of the 78-card Tarot deck that represent the people and events encountered in life.

“I teach and use Tarot as a means of providing information so people can make their own choices,” Rappaport says. “My goal is to entertain, enlighten and empower and I teach my students to do the same.”

She said she was encouraged by several students to offer the three-week “Court Cards” so they could give more “multi-layered readings.”

“A reading might look beautiful, but life is never that beautiful,” she says. So, a more in-depth reading can allow her (and her students) to tell clients that in such cases, they have to be mindful of possible obstacles to what might seem to be a perfect situation.

For example, Rappaport says, a client might have just gotten a perfect job, but a detailed Tarot reading might indicate that a supervisor or co-worker could be someone to approach with caution and discretion.

In all her classes, Rappaport covers general book knowledge and lectures on the cards and their potential meanings. But she also tells students to ask questions of those to whom they are giving readings and to “look beyond traditional meanings” and trust their intuition. Students practice their skills in the classroom by giving readings to their fellow classmates, followed by a teacher-led discussion of the readings.

She says she cautions students to be positive in their readings – which begin with a student asking the reader a question about his or her life – and to avoid predicting the future.

“The objective is for them to use the card(s) to answer the question(s) asked – not so much as to give them an answer, but to provide information,” she says. “Generally, I comment on their readings or add information showing them what I see.”

Rappaport started reading Tarot cards for her friends at the age of 15, encouraged by a mother who studied palmistry. She started reading professionally at a Halloween party in 1980. Seven years later, she began performing readings in the Excalibur nightclub in her hometown of Chicago with her friend, clairvoyant healer Kathryn Haun. In 1994, she relocated to Los Angeles and established herself, once again, on the party circuit, working with event planners, hotels and caterers.

Over the years, she has given thousands of readings at a wide range of events, including birthday parties for people of all ages, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, graduation nights, corporate events, wrap parties, product launches and A-list parties.

Sometimes in class, personal information can be revealed. But, says Rappaport, “I let the students know it’s a safe classroom, and what is revealed in the classroom stays in the classroom.”

Rappaport will teach “Practical Tarot: An In-depth look at the Court Cards”(hyperlink) Practical Tarot -- Interpreting the Court Cards beginning January 8.

Instructors - Our Neverending Talent Search

Michelle KingMichelle King, Director Career & Contract Ed.

Stand-Up Comedy instructor Jonathan Leigh Solomon (front row, second from right) with students

Basketball for the Rest of Us class.

Mosaic class

As the Director of a department that is driven by a mission of supporting the continuing educational needs of the broader community, making time for a deep dive program assessment is imperative to achieving departmental goals. It’s during the fall that my staff and I start prioritizing our activities to add or update programming for 2019.

Community Education does not have the luxury of becoming complacent about any aspect of programming. We must ensure that we are consistently striving to offer exciting and relevant programming that is in alignment with what the community wants and needs. Of course exciting curriculum is important, but good, well-prepared instructors are the lifeblood of Community Education’s excellence in programming. 

One of our most successful formulas for rolling out new and exciting programming is to look to our valued instructors. Although I’m constantly scanning the market to keep informed of what other continuing education programs are offering, instructors are often the catalyst for developing new programming.

Realizing the potential that a good instructor can offer, we are always looking to become acquainted with new talent.

If you or someone you know has some thoughts about constructing and teaching a Community Education course, please take some time to review our Teaching information page. And feel free to reach out to me directly at to explore how teaching for SMC’s Community Education can be rewarding in so many ways. 

Warm regards,

Michelle King
Director of Career &
Contract Education


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