Winter 2018–2019

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Greatest Generation: David Kaplan

Finding a love of music in a time of war helped this hero get through.


David Kaplan

Crestview Senior Living Crestwood, Missouri


David Kaplan, moved to Crestview Senior Living in 2016. He’s passionate about sharing his personal story about finding hope through beautiful music in a time of loss, sorrow and battle.

Having arrived just in time for the Battle of the Bulge, we were suddenly in Patton’s Third Army, and on the “line” for the next three months. Finally, we began to feel like we were winning the war again, as certain amenities of G.I. life returned: delousing, shower units, dry socks and the arrival of the USO. 

One day, with the chance to see a so-called “glamour girl” movie, we also had the option to hear a violin concert by Isaac Stern. Starved for good music, we mustered a truckload of cultural deviants to hear him instead of watching the movie. The concert hall turned out to be a beat-up church that was still within air and artillery range. It had no lights or heat. The “maestro” appeared in an oversized G.I. coat, boots and a tanker’s winter cap. He had a violin, but it looked like we were going to get a clown act. Someone asked if the violin was his Stradivarius. “No,” he said, “like my wardrobe, it is government issued.” 

Then, to size up his audience, he moved us all up close and asked for requests. A couple of inappropriate, light tunes enticed him to say, “Well, I’ll play what I think will be good for you. We’ll call it ‘spinach music.’” Then, with no accompaniment, only candles and a hand torch for lighting, he played what was for us riveting music. No clown act. The effect for me was the slow opening of a window on a rational world after the deadly insanity of winter warfare. It gave us hope that we might survive to live in a civilized world again. 

Now, every time I hear serious music (spinach music), Stern’s message comes back stronger. I shall always be thankful to Isaac Stern for risking life, limb and health (but not his Stradivarius), for opening that window when we needed it the most. I love the chance to tell about the concert in the Ardennes and the universal power of music and the arts to create a culture in which one world at peace is possible.