Instructor Profile - Ken Hoover
Meet Ken Hoover - by Barbara McLean. October 2017.
“My passion in life is music,” said a smiling Ken Hoover, the delightfully thoughtful veteran of 10 years as an OLLI instructor. “I love teaching my music classes and have found the students very interested and interesting,” he says of his OLLI career. Although Ken spent thirty years as a substance abuse counselor around the Durham area, he has had several careers, with music being the focus of his most recent endeavors. It all began with the high school band where he played the trombone and learned the basics of music appreciation.
Born in Chicago but raised in Portsmouth, VA, Ken earned a BA degree from Richmond College, University of Richmond, and then attended Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. He served as pastor of churches in Gore and Louisa, VA, from 1962 to 1970, then, after completing Clinical Pastoral Training at UVA and Duke, he entered Community mental health work as a substance abuse counselor. “I think I am a good listener,” Ken said when discussing his career. “I learned that some alcoholics do not get better, but many do. There were so many people who were inspirational to me.” Ken and his wife Mary have two sons, so “during these counseling years, music was not as much a part of my life….. I was busy working and raising my family.”
But with a shy smile and a twinkling eye, Ken tells the story of his high school years and in particular, a trip to see Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra that transformed his life. “I was just bowled over at the sound that Orchestra could make.” He was 15. “I had a little Bendix radio that only played AM, and if I turned the dial very slowly, I might pick up a station with classical music. From that minute on, I kept a notebook and wrote down every single piece of music I heard on the radio and every concert I went to.” Three years later, Ken took a trip to NYC on the Greyhound Bus with money from his paper route to see Wagner’s PARSIFAL. During his three days there he saw opera and concerts and was dazzled with the live music. Following high school, Ken played in a jazz band in college, then sang in the chorus in seminary. “All of that was so important to what I do today.”
“But when I was able to get back into music, I discovered the WCPE radio station. I went to volunteer and right away they put me on the air. I asked if I could do the Sunday morning sacred music program. Because of the contributions that rolled in during that time slot to hear my playlist, they allowed me to increase the program from one hour to three hours. I think that program is ongoing. Those were wonderful years for me.”
Ken has been teaching classes at OLLI at Duke for 10 years. “I started with the history of sacred music, then taught one on Wagner, one on the joy of music, some of the music basics, and on Nordic music. I taught one on the Ring Cycle of Wagner too. I love doing the research for my classes…. I learn so much.”
After teaching the last Wagner class, some of the students together with Ken began to talk about forming a Wagner society. And so they did; Ken is now President of the Triangle Wagner Society. Writing for CVNC.org (the Classical Voice of North Carolina), Ken reports on concerts he attends as critic, describing to his readers what it was like to attend the concert. He and his wife Mary attend church regularly and have found a progressive social justice congregation he strongly supports.
This term Ken teaches a class entitled THE EVOLUTION OF MUSIC. “We use music for so many things,” Ken comments. “We need music to enjoy and have fun, to grieve, to be married, to celebrate, and just to live our lives. Music is so very important, in fact essential.”
Ken Hoover is a soft spoken, thoughtful, gloriously and extraordinarily sensitive teacher who has been inspiring OLLI students many years. He hopes he can continue to teach. “I think we have been deceived to think that as we get old, we should stop doing what we love. Nothing is farther from the truth.”
OLLI is so very fortunate to have Ken as a teacher and a friend. Students able to find a seat in his class are incredibly lucky.
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