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Sound Bites - Issue #73 - December 2019 #329

On the Cover
Holiday Memories from Our Instructors

Christy Wilhelmi teaches Basic Organic Gardening 101

Comedy instructor Jonathan Leigh Solomon

Jewelry instructor Susan Ryza

Christy Wilhelmi
Cookie Day is a big tradition in our house. It's the day we make big batches of cookies for gifts. It started when my niece was born, when she needed full time attention. We'd hand her off to grandpa and Uncle Andrew while grandma, mom, and I rolled up our sleeves. She joined in when she was old enough to help, and now my niece makes the cookies better than her relatives.

Christy Wilhelmi will teach Organic Gardening this spring.

As I often tell my students, one of my first memories from childhood took place over the holidays. I was six or seven years old, the youngest child in my family and quite few years younger than my older siblings.

My family was packed into our station wagon. My dad was backing the station wagon down the driveway. Ahead of us was the two-hour drive from our home in New Jersey to Philadelphia where my grandparents would be hosting the family Chanukah party.

Everybody was arguing about something. The something was likely one of the standard arguments that produced passionate emotions among my siblings when traveling. For instance: Who gets to sit next to a window and who has to ride in the middle seat? My parents were trying to calm everybody down. My dad even tried his, “I will now clear my throat ominously and everyone will know I’m not pleased” trick, but it did no good. Any second I was sure my Dad was going to say, “Okay, that’s it… if you kids don’t stop fighting we just won’t go to the Chanukah party this year!”

Before that could happen, I piped up with the following: “Hey everybody, why don’t we get together next week and discuss this?!” My line got a huge laugh. Whatever the argument was about, it suddenly didn’t seem to matter, the yelling stopped, my mom smiled, my dad breathed a big sigh of relief.

Psychologists sometimes call a memory like this a schematic memory because it creates for a child an understanding of “how the world functions.” What I figured out at that moment was that humor could do two wonderful things: (1) Encourage an audience to see something they have a single calcified opinion about in a completely new light. (2) Bring people together.  

Of course, I couldn’t have put those two new beliefs into words right at the moment. I was just happy that (A) I’d gotten a laugh and that (B) I’d soon be seeing all the cousins, eating all the food – and probably most importantly – opening all the presents, that were awaiting me in Philadelphia.

Jonathan Leigh Solomon will teach Stand Up Comedy Workshop and How to Write Funny in the spring.

Susan Ryza
My family is Jewish, so we celebrate Hanukkah. I remember, as a child, after lighting the Hanukkah candles, my parents always gave us a different present each night of the eight nights of the holiday.

It was usually something fairly small, like a box of crayons and a coloring book or something similar. My favorite part of receiving these gifts was the game of “hot and cold “that we would play in order to find the presents. Each of us would start looking in a certain direction and my parents would say, “You’re getting warmer, you’re getting warmer,” or “You’re getting colder” if we went in the wrong direction. And when we got really close to the gift, they would say, “You’re getting really, really hot,” and then, “You’re burning up” when we got right to the spot where the gift was. And finally, we would find the gift, and it would be very exciting!

Susan Ryza teaches a variety of crafts classes at SMC Community Ed. This spring she will be offering a jewelry making class.

What's New
We’ve Moved! New Year…New Location

Alice Meyering

SMC Emeritus College in downtown Santa Monica

Have a wonderful holiday season!

from the desk of Alice Meyering

First of all, I want to wish our students, instructors and community a very happy holiday season.

Second, I want to let you know the administrative office of SMC Community Ed has moved to the SMC Emeritus Campus building at 1227 Second St., Santa Monica 90401. (Note: Emeritus Campus is an educational program designed for people 55 and above.)

The move has virtually no impact on our program. Classes will continue to be held in their usual locations – most at the Bundy campus, with some scheduled on the main campus or Emeritus Campus; and we continue to offer our online offerings through our partnership with Ed2Go.

Because we have such a small staff, almost all our business must be conducted online. Registration for classes is online, though if you have questions you can email us at or call us at 310-434-3400 (option #2). If you leave a telephone message, please leave information on the best time to call you back.

Again, my best wishes for a joyful holiday season and a prosperous new year filled with lifelong learning!

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.

Behind the Scenes:
Synchronicity: 37 Years Later

Plein Air Watercolor Painting instructor Tony TranPlein Air Watercolor Painting instructor Tony Tran

Tony's painting of Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock  House in Los AngelesTony's painting of Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House in Los Angeles 

A watercolor painting of St. Monica's Church in Santa Monica, by Tony TranA watercolor painting of St. Monica's Church in Santa Monica, by Tony Tran

Plein Air Outdoor Watercolor Painting instructor Tony Tran, who epitomizes the immigrant success story, has had a reuniting of sorts with his high school classmate from South Bend, Ind., much to his surprise and delight.

Carrie Caplan, who was Tran’s classmate through middle and high schools, recently reached out to Tran via SMC Community Ed’s blog SMC Mindspace. Having read a blog entry on Tran in 2017 (who was also featured in this publication), she sent a message to Tran.

“I had the privilege of being in many classes with you and of being your friend along with my brother Kip,” she posted on the blog’s comments. “You blossomed over the course of English grammar and were brilliant and well respected in school. I’m glad to read of your success with your family and career.”

Tran said he and Kaplan both graduated from Clay High School in South Bend in 1982 and recalls they were good friends who took many classes together from the time they were in middle school all the way through high school. He has not seen her since 1982, despite having attended a couple of high school reunions.

“It was a very pleasant surprise to hear from her after so many years,” he said. “Thanks to your blog, it’s good to have a reconnection.”

(The two have not reconnected beyond the blog entries yet. And this publication has not yet reached Kaplan for more details.)

Fleeing with his family at the age of 11 from Vietnam during the fall of Saigon in a harrowing escape, Tran and his family landed six weeks later in a small town in South Bend where they would start a new life.

Tran would go on to adjust quickly to life in America, be chosen as the valedictorian of his high school, and earn a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies and Art History at Stanford University and a Master of Architecture degree at UCLA. He is now an architect, planner, artist, illustrator and teacher. He also plays the violin and performs in orchestra concerts with his son Thilan, also a violinist.

“I am lucky to have been able to find a career that combines several of my passions,” Tran says. “And I consider myself very fortunate to have had such a rich, cross-cultural experience. Psychologically and emotionally, I am now comfortable being both Vietnamese and American, and can easily switch back and forth between these spheres.”

Tran’s love and passion for art, drawing, painting, history and diverse cultures around the world began during childhood in Saigon in the 1960s and early 1970s.

“I would devour and copy from French comic books such as Tintin, Asterix, Lucky Luke, Buck Danny and Les Schtroumpfs (The Smurfs),” he says. “Another source of inspiration came from the spellbound hours watching movies such as The Longest Day, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago and Once Upon a Time in the West with my parents in Saigon’s fabulous, magical old French-style cinema palaces such as the Rex and Eden, which unfortunately no longer exist today.”

Tran taught for 15 years in the Landscape Architecture program at UCLA Extension and has been teaching Plein Air Outdoor Water Color Painting at SMC Community Ed for three years.

“I really enjoy the interaction with the students,” he says. “They all have different levels of painting and sketching. I try to help them develop their abilities, but they also learn from each other and I learn a lot from them.”

Tony Tran will teach Plein Air Outdoor Water Color Painting Jan. 11 through Feb. 15. Filling up quickly - register today!

New Perspectives:
Ring in the New…Classes!

Michelle King

If you’re thinking ahead to making New Year’s resolutions, why not consider vowing to take that class – or classes – you’ve always wanted to take? Or continue to keep your mind and body engaged very soon after the New Year begins?

You can do that with a wide range of classes that kick off January 6 with the beginning of our Winter Session.

From fitness to arts to business and professional development, you will find a robust offering of courses during the Winter Session.

They include, but are not limited to:
Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation.
Plein Air Outdoor Watercolor Painting.
Beginning Modern Dance.
Legal Aspects of Business.

We invite you to browse our website to choose and register for your favorite classes. You can also access a PDF version of our Winter Class Schedule. If you have questions, please email us at

Special Announcement:  you can now preview our Spring 2020 classes at, and register for your favorite classes beginning December 16.

Ready to Try Online? For information and registration on our basic Fundamentals online courses, go to For Career Training, visit

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