Joseph Sasfy and his wife, Marianne Mooney, were financially secure enough to stop working at the end of 2011. What they didn’t want to do was slow down.
The couple moved to Asheville, North Carolina, for the area’s hiking, bird watching, mushroom hunting and microbreweries. They were also drawn to the local Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, where Sasfy, 65, soon took on a new role -- teaching rock history. Below are excerpts of his interview with Bloomberg’s Ben Steverman:
For more than 25 years, I was a music consultant, working mostly for Time Life Music compiling CD collections. Our life was good in Washington, D.C., but it was getting a little pat. We enjoyed what we were doing but really wanted to challenge ourselves, too.
We stumbled on Asheville. You come here for a vacation, and you kind of get seduced. The town has so much energy, so much buzz. It was so much livelier than some of the places we looked at in California, where people retired but you got the sense they were in a literal sense retiring. That wasn’t really our plan. We felt like we’ve got a whole other lifetime to start working on.
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We chose a place where we didn’t know anybody, where we’d have to build a community and find things to do. In the Washington area, you felt there was a chasm between older people and the young people who dominate the professional world. In Asheville you don’t feel like there’s a barrier to going out to clubs, breweries, concert halls and interacting with young people.
One of our plans here was to possibly get involved in the business community, where there are a lot of creative younger people starting new businesses. We met a talented young baker and chef who were launching an upscale pizza restaurant. We became a part of that, as investors, helpers and facilitators. My wife was a professional chef at one time, so she knows a lot about food and the food world.
I had taught earlier in my professional career, and the one thing I missed in the music business was teaching. Having this lifelong-learning institute here was a major part of our decision to move to Asheville. The teachers are not paid, but there’s no dearth of volunteers.
I thought I’d teach classes on rock history. I didn’t want to do this if I got a class of well-intentioned students who want to hear “oldies” and talk about memories. That’s fun -- there’s nothing wrong with that. But I wanted to teach a course about what this music means and how it interacts with American history and culture.
I figured I’d start back in the 1950s and see how it went. My first semester, we only got to 1958. The students have been fabulous. Everybody said, “Keep going.” In my second course we went from about 1958 to the early 1960s. Now I’m hoping to get through 1964 and 1965, two of the most exciting years in rock music history. It’s just a tremendously creative period in American popular music, when the music doesn’t seem trivial anymore.
The pizza place is open. It’s doing fantastic. The guys who started it have had to work their asses off. We’re really proud of what they did. We hope to do more of that here in Asheville.