Randy Kaplan
Randy Kaplan

Randy Kaplan’s most recent song, “The Mouth Is Connected to the Nose,” explains why masks are needed.

Randy Kaplan teaches in two ways — through classes at Farber Hebrew Day School and through songs he writes, performs and records. Kaplan hopes both ways have the element of fun.

During the pandemic, Kaplan instructs Farber classes that include literature, composition and drama.

His most recent song, “The Mouth Is Connected to the Nose,” explains why masks are needed. It asks:

“Are you equal to the task of putting on your mask

So that it covers up your nostrils (those two holes)?”

The inspiration for the song came as Kaplan was walking through a supermarket and saw two young, muscular guys — each wearing a mask over his mouth but not his nose — regardless how close they came to other shoppers.

“It just seemed so arrogant and hubristic to me,” Kaplan said. “Whatever you believe about the efficacy of masks, it’s pretty clear about the rules of the stores. You can’t come in without a mask, and it’s better to operate within a system of rules so fairness prevails.

“This day and age, I hesitate to walk up to anybody and say ‘put your mask on.’ There are horror stories about people doing that; but as a writer, I always have an outlet. A tune comes to me, and I can say it that way. Probably, more people hear and get the message [through a song] than if I had just said something to guys in a store. 

“I don’t know what the controversy is with masks. It just seems like a respectful thing to do. It just drives me crazy when people are flouting that rule for no reason and endangering people.”

Randy Kaplan

Kaplan, 53, who lives in Bloomfield Hills, grew up on Long Island and attended the University of Michigan into his sophomore year. He moved to California to pursue a career in acting and music and appeared in guest roles on programs such as Growing Pains, Beauty and the Beast and A Different World.

While working in entertainment, he also earned a degree in English from the University of California at Los Angeles and got a temporary job at a preschool. That job veered him into music for young people and their families.

Acclaim for Songs

Kaplan has released seven full-length family albums and about a dozen digital singles, available through his website, randykaplan.bandcamp.com. During the pandemic, he released six of those singles. One, “Your Mask Is Like Your Underwear,” was written after another teacher complained of problems getting her son to keep his mask clean.

Kaplan’s recordings for children have been recognized with National Parenting Product Awards and Nickelodeon Parents’ Picks Awards. His work has been on the Top 10 lists of National Public Radio and People magazine. He also is a three-time winner of the ASCAP Plus Award. 

With teaching responsibilities partly digital and partly face-to-face, Kaplan has been able to maintain a studio at the school. 

“I like teaching virtually,” said Kaplan, who moved to Michigan in 2015 to be close to the family of his wife, the former Julie May, whom he met in California while she was pursuing a singing career. “I have tricks of sharing screens, moving to a quick video, highlighting someone and using the availability to chat. 

“The problem is that it’s hard to monitor certain students who might not be paying attention. They could wind up falling more into the background, which is not good for them. The students who are intrinsically motivated thrive online.”

The Kaplans’ 9-year-old son learns digital techniques from Dad.

“I’ve been doing MP3 digital releases, so there’s no CD during the pandemic,” Kaplan said. “People can listen to them a few times for free. They will eventually be linked with iTunes, Spotify and all of that.

“For ‘The Mouth Is Connected to the Nose,’ I got to work remotely with a friend, Mike West, who is a family recordings producer, as well as his children — now living in Wales.”

While Kaplan sang and played guitar, West performed harmonies and worked with banjo, mandolin and bass. Julian West can be heard on drums, shakers and tambourines. Vega West added to the harmonies, and Esther West did unison singing.