Yearn to Learn? Offerings for Adults Go Way Beyond Basics


The trend in children’s education may be back to basics, but many of the course offerings for adults this fall look as if they were lifted from a story satirizing the Los Angeles life style: Classes such as “Airbrush Nail Art,” “Create Your Ideal Mate,” “Aura Reading Workshop” or “Cosmetic Surgery: Is It for You?”

Some firms specialize in providing a wide range of adult education offerings, such as Learning Tree University in Chatsworth, which has more than 500 classes listed in its September/October Valley Edition, and Everywoman’s Village in Van Nuys. Community colleges tend to feature the more basic courses (but you’ll still find a few surprises). And the small specialty stores and other firms focus on teaching a particular set of talents, such as playing string instruments or surfing.

A post-summer sampler of this fall’s more intriguing course offerings follows.

SURF STORY: From the it’s-never-too-late department, California style: C.K. Hoenes, co-manager of Perfect Balance in Agoura Hills, says that one couple in their 60s came into the shop recently for surfing lessons, saying they were determined to do all the things they had never done before.


Perfect Balance, along with a number of other surfing stores, provides private or semiprivate surfing courses. Mike Lamm, a professional surfer and also co-manager of the shop, teaches the course and almost guarantees that his students will get up on the surfboard in the first 2-hour session.

Hoenes and Lamm recommend that students take a few beginning lessons, just to learn how to paddle, how to get up on a wave and other basics, including safety, before striking out on their own. Determined surfing students can return to learn turns, such as Off the Tops, Cut-Backs and Off the Lips, and some of the more difficult maneuvers, such as 360s and Floaters.

Be warned: Take the lessons about a year before you expect to impress your East Coast friends. Hoenes says that’s the time it takes before anyone can become a consistently successful surfer (read: someone who doesn’t fall all the time). The classes are $25 an hour, not including surfboard rental or wet suit.

Perfect Balance, 28882 Roadside Drive, Agoura Hills, (818) 991-2243.


MUSIC LESSONS, THE SEQUEL: Music lessons that you take as an adult generally differ in three ways from those you remember as a child: You pick the instrument, instead of your parents; you enjoy it, instead of your parents; and you decide how much you want to practice.

You can take lessons in any instrument, and some San Fernando Valley stores even teach the more esoteric ones that take some explanation at parties, such as mandolin and Dobro guitar. At the Blue Ridge Pickin’ Parlor and Music Studio in Canoga Park, private lessons are offered in classical, bluegrass and Irish music on a wide range of string instruments.

The music lessons also can veer into the field of psychology. “A lot of students tell me their lessons are like therapy. They are stress and tension relievers,” says Frank Javorsek, owner of Blue Ridge and a fiddle instructor.

Stan Smith, a teacher at Blue Ridge, recommends private lessons because, he says, everyone learns to play at a different pace. “If you take a group lesson, the teacher ends up spending all his time with the slowest learner, and everyone else has to sit there,” he says. The private lessons are $10.50 for half an hour, or $10 for half an hour if four lessons are scheduled at one time. Smith says it takes three to five months of weekly lessons before you’d want to play for friends. For anyone else, you can play right away.


Blue Ridge Pickin’ Parlor and Music Studio, 20246 Saticoy, Canoga Park, (818) 700-8288.

ABOVE IT ALL: It’s not a practical alternative to the morning traffic jam, but it could be a great psychological escape from the metropolis. For a mere $2,000 for four to six months of gliding lessons, almost anyone can soar like an eagle. Piloting a 2-passenger fiberglass sailplane, says John Stevenson, owner of Crystal Soaring, “is harder than learning to drive a car and easier than learning to be a classical pianist.”

Gliding involves learning to pilot high performance aircraft, understanding the variables that include wind conditions, updrafts, taking off with a tow plane, turning and landing. It takes 60 to 90 training flights before a student can solo. Lessons are 90 minutes and cost $80 to $100 each, depending on actual air time at the Antelope Valley school.

The private instruction prepares the student to take the Federal Aviation Administration written and flight tests for the private pilot license for gliders.


Crystal Soaring, 32810 N. 165th St. East, Llano, 93544, (805) 944-3341.

HOME SWEET PROFIT: In the Midwest, it’s called house repair. In the Valley, it’s called “How to Profit From Buying Fixer Houses.”

The success of courses such as this one, offered by Cal State Northridge, reflects the intense demand for houses in Los Angeles. Beyond teaching house repair basics, this class covers how to buy, renovate, manage and rent property, when to sell, and how to avoid common pitfalls. The popularity of the class is enhanced by the profit potential of Valley “fixers.” One Studio City couple recently made $50,000 in three months with just two weeks of intense work.

The 1-day-only course, taught by Lance Fors and the aptly named Shari Selover, is offered on a Saturday, September 24, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., for $65 ($95 a couple), and includes a workbook.


Cal State Northridge, 18111 Nordhoff Street, (818) 885-2644.

DIRTY DANCING, TOO: “The movie ‘Dirty Dancing,’ ” says dance instructor Linda Edwards, “is the story of my life.” According to Linda, most dance instructors share the experience that was revealed in the movie: teaching one style in class, then loosening up and actually dancing in a far more relaxed, intimate style when away from class. The trend now is to teach the after-class style during class, which, of course, leaves less than ever for the teachers to do after class.

“Dirty Dancing,” says Edwards, “has brought people closer together.” And she does mean closer. She says her students range in age from early adolescents to people in their 60s and 70s, Many are drawn to dirty dancing because it is free-form and does not involve intricate foot movements or patterns that must be memorized.

Edwards teaches the mambo, a Latin, hip-syncopated dance, and dirty, which involves, in dancing lingo, “bumps and grinds, oversways, dips and lunges.” She suggests students be prepared for some muscle soreness because “many of the dance movements involve muscles people have not usually used much before.”


Students should wear comfortable clothes and shoes--even tennis shoes--and avoid dresses or skirts that could prove revealing during special maneuvers. Come prepared to meet people.

Eight Mondays, beginning Sept. 12, 9-10 p.m., $55, ($99 a couple).

Learning Tree University, 20920 Knapp St., Chatsworth, (818) 882-5599.

BURNOUT BINGE: This is the class for those who don’t feel up to taking one. Designed for the overloaded, the overwrought, for people who have lost their enthusiasm and vitality, “Battling Burnout” promises to help remove anxiety, irritability, depression and insomnia. Lila Gruzen, Ph.D., uses lectures and exercises to help students identify, understand and manage the stress in their lives.


Three Tuesdays, beginning Oct. 4, 6:30 to 8 p.m., $30.

Everywoman’s Village, 5650 Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys, (818) 787-5100.

LIFE’S A STAGE: Life can be better than the movies. It also makes great theater. Just ask Antonin Hodek, who teaches “Experimental Theater” at Everywoman’s Village by sending his pupils out into the trenches of real life.

Hodek believes that watching people can teach us how to act and to imitate reality in art. So he sends his class out in the field to observe, in post offices, lobbies, courtrooms and emergency departments.


“I teach my students to study people’s body movements, how they walk, how loud they speak, how fast they speak, every detail,” Hodek says. Students then write a play, a one-person skit, and eventually perform it in class as part of a final showcase of scenes.

Nine Saturdays, starting Sept. 17, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., $72.

Everywoman’s Village, 5650 Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys, (818) 787-5100.

SILENT PARTNERS: Call this class “What to say after you’ve said nothing.” One of the toughest things about the upcoming holiday season is the need to start--and maintain--conversations at parties and business gatherings. So Rachel Grant is teaching a course on “How to Start and Keep a Conversation Going” at Los Angeles Valley College. She teaches techniques for increasing your conversational skills, and going from shop talk and chitchat to personal communication.


When you walk into the room on the first day of class, Grant says, “Expect the room to be remarkably quiet since most students are too shy to start a conversation. But people warm up in the safe environment of the classroom. Past students have even found marriage partners in the course of the class.”

Saturday, Oct. 29 (just in time for Halloween trick or treating), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., $20.

Los Angeles Valley College, 5800 Fulton Ave., Van Nuys, (818) 988-3911.

TAKING THE FALL: For frustrated actors and others, from the only-in-L.A. file, here’s a class on stunts. Not pulling them (that’s for children, and Michael Kuzak on “L.A. Law”) but executing them. And maybe, eventually, getting paid for it.


Anthony De Longis, a stunt coordinator and actor, teaches “Basic Stunt Technique” at Learning Tree University. He’ll cover throwing and taking punches, executing simple falls, taking slaps, handling explosive gun shots and weaponry, and using camera angle and illusion to create the desired effect on film and on stage. Safety, always an issue in stunt work, will be taught.

Two Saturdays, Oct. 1 and 8, 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., $65 plus $10 equipment fee payable to the instructor.

Learning Tree University, 20920 Knapp St., Chatsworth, (818) 882-5599.