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Encore Learning Launches Virtual Activities

March 27, 2020

This week we held our very first virtual class meeting. It was such a success, and our members handled the technology so well, that we announced a total of four virtual courses to be offered this semester. We also announced new virtual Special Events. And some of our Clubs are now meeting virtually, as well.

One benefit of holding courses virtually is that it has allowed us to add some seats to each course. We will re-open registration on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 at 10:00 A.M.

We are using Zoom to deliver our virtual courses and special events.  View Zoom Virtual Learning Tutorial on YouTube.

Our implementation of virtual classes and events is meant to deliver our program and connect during this time of social distancing; this is not a planned ongoing offering at this time.

COVID-19 Update: All In-Person Activities Cancelled

We thank you for your understanding during this challenging time of the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact on our community is becoming more significant each day. On March 13 we suspended the Spring Semester and all in-person courses, clubs, and special events.   

On Friday, March 20, 2020 the Board of Directors decided to cancel all courses for the Spring 2020 semester with the exception of a few courses that will be offered virtually. We will be refunding registrations for all cancelled courses and the refund fee of $10 will be waived. Many individuals have already withdrawn from their courses and refunds are in progress. We anticipate completing the refund process for all credit card transactions by April 5. Refunds for registrations paid by check will be sent by April 17. 

We will update you on available virtual classes that may be offered between April 1 and May 31. Virtual classes may be taken via your computer, smartphone, or tablet. We intend to offer courses that are consistent with what was planned and described in the catalog, and can feasibly be delivered in a virtual setting. There will be online registration for these courses at the regular course fee of $55. 

Virtual special events are being planned and notification of those are sent bi-weekly via email. If clubs develop a virtual meeting, club members will be notified by the club coordinator. 

Please know that our implementation of virtual classes and events is meant to deliver our program and connect during this time of social distancing; this is not a planned ongoing offering at this time.

We are on track for planning the fall semester. Many courses offered this spring may be available this fall or in spring 2021. 

The Encore Learning staff and volunteers are working very hard during this evolving situation. We appreciate your support and patience. While we are not physically at the Syphax office, email is our preferred method of communication ( Also, we are not receiving mail at Syphax, so please hold on sending us any documents until Syphax office hours have resumed. 

We encourage you to maintain contacts with your Encore Learning friends. We are sure you will find creative ways to do that. We will share some resources in our next e-Newsletter to be sent next week  

You do not need to contact us for your refund to be completed – there is no action you need to take unless we contact you

If you would like to apply your Spring 2020 course registration fees to a donation to the Encore Learning General Fund, you may do that by emailing us ( by March 25 with the following statement: “Please apply my Spring 2020 course registration fees toward a donation to the Encore Learning General Fund.” 

Please contact us if you have any questions. We check our email each business day. 

Lora Pollari-Welbes, Executive Director

COVID-19 Update: All Activities Suspended Until Further Notice

Encore Learning is committed to the health and safety of our members. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we are suspending all courses, special events and clubs until further notice. This is effective beginning on Friday, March 13, 2020 (with no classes beginning 3/13/20). This decision was not made lightly, but limiting or cancelling non-essential public meetings is a critical component of the public health strategy to limit the spread of the infection.

We are exploring options with courses that include extending the term and virtual classrooms. Members enrolled in courses will receive updates specific to their course(s) as schedules are updated. Course instructors will be contacted individually to develop alternate plans over the next few days.

We are not cancelling courses at this time; however, any member may choose to withdraw and request a full refund of $55.00. For this Spring 2020 Semester we will not be charging the $10.00 refund transaction fee. Refund transactions are processed in our registration system and may take up to 10 business days to be completed.

To withdraw and request a refund, please send an email to  stating your name and the course for which you wish to withdraw.

Please note that the office is also closing, effective Monday, 3/16/20 and there will be no live meetings at the office. Our dedicated staff will be working part time from remote locations. Email to  is the best and fastest way to reach us. We are working on a solution for phone service.

Thank you for your patience and understanding of this unfortunate circumstance. We plan to post an update on our operating status no later than March 27, 2020.

We wish you good health and look forward to seeing you as soon as we can resume our outstanding courses, special events and clubs.

Lora Pollari-Welbes, Executive Director

COVID-19: Spring 2020

For the health and safety of your fellow members and yourself, if you are experiencing symptoms of a respiratory infection, including cough, runny nose, fever, or sore throat please do not come to any Encore Learning activities.

Encore Learning follows the closing policies of our host locations. At this time no locations are closed. If an activity is cancelled, all enrolled members will be notified via email.

For updated information about GMU’s communication on the Coronavirus/COVID-19 you may follow this page:

Arlington County provides up-to-date information on COVID-19 on this page:  

Instructor Profile: Natasha Lord

Natasha Lord always knew she’d be an educator. Her grandfather was a scholar and her mother taught. She recalls, “One of my earliest memories is lining up all my dolls for class.”

Instructor Natasha Lord.

Natasha has had a career in teaching and counseling and this semester, she is teaching her second Encore Learning class, Chekhov’s Short Stories. Her first was Russian Literature.

Natalia Kamendrowsky Lord is the daughter of Russian immigrants, Displaced Persons who came to the United States in 1946. “I grew up bilingual, bi-cultural and definitely anti-Communist,” she said. Her mother lost her mother when she was six and was separated from her father when he was arrested as part of Stalin’s purges of the intelligentsia. She was raised by her aunt.

Natasha’s parents had met during the war while her mother was in a German work camp near Danzig. Before the war, her father had sung with the Don Cossack Choir led by Serge Jaroff, an acapella group that performed Russian choral music throughout the world. In 1946 a choir member sent him an invitation to re- join the choir, making it possible for her parents to immigrate to the U.S. In New York the choir practiced at the Russian Orthodox Church of Christ the Savior in Harlem, a cultural hub for Russian emigres at the time. When a community member offered a room to let, Natasha’s parents took it, eventually moving to a seven-room apartment where initially they let rooms to others.

When Natasha’s father died, she and her mother moved to the Bronx where her mother taught Russian at Fordham University. Her mother also worked at Radio Liberty which with Radio Free Europe broadcast to countries like the Soviet Union where a free press was banned. When her mother got a job with Voice of America, she moved to Washington, DC.

Natasha stayed in New York where she earned her bachelor’s and Master’s in Russian Linguistics and Literature at Fordham. Then she worked for the Tolstoy Foundation founded by Leo Tolstoy’s daughter Alexandra to help Russian refugees. She taught English and was assistant to the Foundation’s secretary, Prince Teymuraz Konstantinovich Bagration Muchransky.

Her next job, with the Foreign Service Institute of the State Department, meant following her mother to Washington and another change in her life. “The day I moved in, I met my next-door neighbor Charlie who became my husband,” she remembered.

For seven years, she taught Russian at Howard University and team taught a course on the Russian – African – American Connection with Allison Blakely, author of Russia and the Negro.

“Educated African-Americans were recruited and warmly welcomed by the Soviet Union in the 20s and early 30s for their technical skills and propaganda value, to illustrate that unlike the U.S., the U.S.S.R had no racism,” she said. “Some of these individuals remained. Other prominent African Americans, such as Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson and the poet Claude McKay visited the Soviet Union and wrote about their experiences.”

In the Foreign Service Institute, she at first taught Russian and then counseled foreign language students as a counselor in the Learning Consultation Service. “Foreign Service Officers face many challenges in needing to learn a foreign language to a high level in a short period of time and pass a high stakes language test. Discussing their learning styles and strategies can help reduce stress,” she said.

At home, Natasha and her husband settled in the Barcroft area with their two children. After the children were grown and her mother passed away, Natasha and her husband moved to an apartment in Pentagon City.

Natasha and Charlie Lord on a recent trip to Moscow. Photos courtesy Natasha Lord.

Once Natasha and her husband retired, they chose a part-time home very different from Pentagon City. Maine, where they vacationed, has become their home from May to October. They live in the woods. There is very little traffic. She commented, “You can drive and listen to books on tape, even Dostoevsky.” During fall and winter, they are “snow-birds” returning to Arlington where Natasha has started teaching again.

How did she start teaching with Encore Learning? “Jeanne LaBella, who had been my daughter’s Girl Scout leader, recruited me,” she said. “Encore Learning students had written saying they wanted a Russian Literature class and Encore Learning responded.” Natasha hasn’t had a chance to take any courses yet but is hoping to take her first class soon.

— written by member Laura Paul

Call for Course Proposals for Fall 2020 Semester

Encore Learning is seeking course proposals for our fall semester. If you would like to teach an academic class to enthusiastic learners over the age of 50, please email your proposal on or before March 15, 2020.

We will consider all proposals, but we are specifically looking for

1.  Legal experts. We need four individuals to provide a single lecture each as part of a series for our Legal Hot Spots course.

2.  Cybercurrency/Cryptocurrency experts.

3.  Africa experts: health, nutrition, stability/instability in Sudan, the role of China in developing African countries. These topics can be refined.  

Please email a brief description of your proposed course, along with your contact information and academic credentials to We will forward your request to our Academic Programs Committee (APC) for review. A member of the APC will follow up with you directly. Please note all Encore Learning instructors are volunteers and are not compensated for their instructional services but do receive benefits including free membership for one year, up to three free course registrations and free parking. Courses are intended to be academic college-level, with at least 4 90-minute sessions offered during the day beginning at 10am, 12 noon or 2pm. Courses are not intended for the purposes of promoting or selling products, services or publications. 

You can view our Spring 2020 Course Catalog here:

Course Preview Presentations Now Online!

Couldn’t make it to our Course Preview? All of the instructors’ presentations are now available to view online.

Most Beautiful Thing – Student Essay on Jobim Course Published

Encore Learning member Marilia Mota Silva wrote an essay about her experience in our course on Antonio Carlos Jobim that was published by Digestivo Cultural, an on-line Brazilian journal devoted to Brazilian cultural affairs.  A translation of her essay by Instructor Richard Juhnke follows:

Wednesday, 11/13/2019 
Most beautiful thing 
by Marilia Mota Silva  

Tom Jobim course at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia. This is not part of their regular, post-graduate curriculum.  It is part of Encore Learning, “high quality academic” courses, as its webpage informs, aimed at people over 50 who want to devote themselves to the pleasures of study, without aiming for titles and diplomas. 

The menu offered is comprehensive and irresistible: History, Public Policy, Science and Technology, Fine Arts, Philosophy, Literature. It’s only two hours a week, so I signed up for several: one on income tax: you better know where you stand; one on Existentialism: sailing dense seas of reading; one about Shakespeare: the structure and technique in three of his comedies. 

In this traditional and sober context, the course on Tom Jobim seemed to me out of place, like a candid smile in a church service. 

I was curious to know what they would have to say about him, bossa nova, Brazil, and if there would be enough people interested in the course. With less than eight enrolled, the course is canceled. 

On the first day, when signing the attendance list, I was glad to see that thirty slots had been filled, and somewhat surprised that the only Brazilian / Latin name was mine. 

We are halfway through the course. For the past few weeks, I’ve been following Tom, every circumstance of his life, his compositions, his piano, Teresa, his children, friends and partners, João Gilberto, of course, the travels, even the dates and time spent recording certain songs. 

All very interesting and inspiring, but besides that, something unexpected has happened to me when I come home after class. 

I don’t walk down the street, as I usually do: I float just above the ground, light and transformed.  A feeling of pride, of Brazilianness takes me by the hand. 

I had forgotten that we were not always like this, as we are today. Our culture, our identity has other soul(s), like the one that bossa nova translated so well. 

The elegance, the good humor, the delicate sensuality, the romanticism without drama, without fussiness. The poetry. 

“The Girl from Ipanema” is the second-most recorded song in the world, after just the Beatles’ “Yesterday.”  The teacher regrets the translation of the first verse into English. Tom didn’t like it either, of course.

“Olha que coisa mais linda!” [Look what a beautiful thing!] turned into “tall and tan and young” – [alta, bronzeada e jovem]: from poetry to commodity. 

It is understood that it is almost impossible to make an ideal version [of a song in another language], but such a detail helps us to better see the taste, the elegance of lyrics of that time. Not to mention the originality of the rhythm, the refined simplicity of the compositions. 

“Tom translated ‘Águas de Março’ [The Waters of March] using only short words of Anglo-Saxon origin (with three exceptions),” the teacher informs us, andthe attentive class takes note. They also notice his emotion, the trembling in his voice as he reads verses such as: “It’s the promise of life in my heart.” 

Sinatra, at the height of his career, calling Bar Veloso looking for Tom. Sinatra trying to sing like Tom and João Gilberto.  His comment elicited laughter: “I only sang softer than that when I had laryngitis.” 

Saint Jobim.  The atmosphere of the classroom transformed into a cocoon of harmony, of joy.  Bossa nova as a way of being, a philosophy of life. 

Four of the students have bought tickets for Rio. The teacher will go in January.  He will pass in front of Nara Leão’s apartment, he says with sparkling eyes, as if speaking of Delphi or the Holy Grail. 

If I had Danuza’s email I would let her know that in January there will be a man staring at her window with devout eyes.[[1]] May she not be surprised or afraid: he looks at the past, the poetry, the Brazilian way of looking at life, as it once was half a century ago. 

But if it is a fact that history moves like a pendulum, and today we have reached the opposite extreme of that time, the return is inevitable; perhaps it is already happening and we do not yet realize it. 

So be it. 
Marilia Mota Silva
Arlington, VA, 11/13/2019

[1] [Translator’s note: Danuza is the older sister of Nara Leão, the “muse of bossa nova,” and still lives in the apartment facing Copacabana beach where Nara lived as a teenager and which served as the “incubator” for the young people who, together with Tom Jobim and João Gilberto, created the new sound that became bossa nova.]

Brad Bickford on How to Live Happier and Healthier

On Monday, December 9, 2019, the Encore Learning Presents series brought us Brad Bickford’s Live Happier and Healthier in the New Year. Brad’s presentation was interactive, informative, and entertaining. He provided a wealth of information. Several attendees commented that they would change their habits based on the information Brad presented. We’ve posted his slideshow online at the request of audience members.

Special Events Committee Chair Kris McLaughlin introduces Brad Bickford to a full house.
Brad lays out the themes of his talk.
Brad discusses the value of volunteering.

The Encore Learning Presents series is co-sponsored by Arlington Public Library. We hope you can join us at future events.

Save the Date: Spring 2020 Course Preview – February 1


Saturday, February 1, 2020
Doors open at 8:45 a.m.
Program begins at 9:15 a.m.
and ends at 12:30 p.m.

George Mason University Arlington Campus
3351 Fairfax Drive, Arlington, Virginia 22201

Join us! Open to current and prospective members — Bring friends, relatives and neighbors!

  • Encore Learning’s instructors give brief presentations about their academic courses.
  • Members often tell us that the instructors’ presentations at the Course Preview influence their registrations.
  • Get the latest news on our clubs, special events and volunteer possibilities along with a quick bite and hot drink.

Call the Encore Learning office at 703-228-2144 for specific directions or any questions.

Members, please wear your name badges so that we may more easily greet each other. FREE PARKING, NO VALIDATION REQUIRED – the garage gate will be open.

To become a member or to renew membership, we recommend our website, where you can pay securely with your credit card. If you wish to purchase or renew your membership at the course preview, only personal checks can be accepted.