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Global Issues? Music appreciation? Everyone welcome at continuing education series

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SILL-logoSOUTH COUNTY - Freedom Plaza in Sun City Center will be host to a new learning program available to anyone in South County who wants to attend.

While residents of the Plaza will get a discounted rate of $5 per class and nonresidents will pay $10, the simulcasts from Sarasota’s Institute of Lifetime Learning will be a bargain either way.

“If they went in person,” said Pete Budzinski, executive director at Freedom Plaza, “they’d have to pay $75 to get in, plus the 45-minute-long drive down and (45 minutes) back.”

People may attend any one or all of the programs, which will be held on Mondays and Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to noon in the Freedom Plaza Auditorium, 1010 American Eagle Boulevard, sponsored by the Plaza’s owners, Brookdale Senior Living.

Pete got the idea to bring simulcasts to the Plaza because he had worked with them at another senior living residence when he lived in Sarasota 7 years ago.

“I was there when simulcasts began and they were really a hit,” he said. “Having been in on it at the very beginning, I knew what a wonderful experience it would be for people in this area.”

A few simulcasts were tried for residents last year, said Peggy Burgess, long-time special events director at the Plaza. “The residents liked it, and since we have a big screen and a large auditorium, we decided to give two complete series this year and open it up to the community.”

The series are Music Mondays- which begins Jan. 10 and plays through March 28- and Global Issues on Thursdays from Jan. 7 to March 25.

“Some of our residents attended similar events when they lived in Sarasota, and they told us how much they’d enjoyed them,” Peggy said.

The idea to open the simulcasts up to the South Shore community was Pete’s.

“We have the theater and the equipment. We want the people from the surrounding communities to join us,” he said.

It costs the Plaza money to subscribe to the broadcasts so they have to charge, Peggy explained.

Music Mondays will feature noted performers and be broadcast from Sarasota’s Holly Hall. The events will include discussion and explanation of the performances as well as just the musical portion. Some of the featured Music Monday entertainment will include the Sarasota Orchestra; Music Festival; noted sopranos and tenors; Sarasota Opera; and films including performances by Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.

Meanwhile, on Thursdays, those in attendance will get to hear expert panelists talk about significant global issues, with topics including the European Union; Islam; Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf States; Chinese power and President Obama’s first year in office.

The Thursday forums will be broadcast from Sarasota’s Players Theater.

“It will be just like being there because it is in live time,” said Pete. “And people who attend here will get to submit questions to the panelists by email. Last year, we submitted three questions during our simulcast, and all three were answered. There aren’t any guarantees every (emailed) question will be answered, because we don’t know how large the audiences will be. But we had good success when we tried it.”

Peggy said she expects many questions will be asked during world events discussions.

“People are very interested in current events,” she added.   

Coffee and juice will be served during all the events.

The programs are made possible by the Sarasota Institute of Lifetime Learning, which is  a non-profit organization that offers lectures, discussions and performances of arts and global issues. The institute was founded in 1972 by Dr. Evelyn Duvall, a retired college professor and Sarasota resident after she attended the first White House Conference on Aging.

It is stated on the SILL Web site that Dr. Duvall returned from that conference knowing that elders needed to exercise their minds as well as their bodies but until then, almost all the concentration of healthy aging was on the body.

SILL was founded with the help of the National Institute of Lifetime Learning, the National Retired Teachers Association and AARP.

After getting its start in Sarasota, it spread to neighboring communities including Bradenton and Ft. Myers, and now thanks to advanced technology, can be brought to other areas in live time through simulcasts. 

People may pay at the door but are welcome to call (813) 642-1213 or (813) 642-1215 beforehand with questions or to sign up early.


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