To the average Notre Dame student, Lenny Kuper is a force to be reckoned with. When he utters his catchphrase – “Math is fun, math is easy” – to his students, a resounding bout of nervous laughter follows. You must be sure to tuck in your shirt, belt in place and be perfectly up-to-par with the dress code if you plan to pass or enter his classroom.
At the piano, don’t be mistaken – his attention to detail is just as sharp. Yet many students find that the man who loves mathematics also finds the same joie de vivre in the music room.
Kuper earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education from Southeast Missouri State University with a major in mathematics and a minor in music. He completed his M.A.T. in mathematics, and during the start of his teaching career at Notre Dame, also worked as an adjunct instructor in Southeast’s math department. While Kuper would’ve liked to have earned his major in both areas of study, time was of the essence, and he decided that it would be exponentially ‘easier to teach math than music.’
But his 43 years at Notre Dame have allowed him plenty of opportunity to dabble in both.
“Every type of math in the curriculum: I’ve taught it at some point,” Kuper said.
And for almost every spring musical produced, he’s served as a collaborative pianist for rehearsals, and as the pianist in the orchestra pit. Kuper has also accompanied students, ensembles, and choirs for district and state music competitions each year. And, if he finds that a pupil can sing or play an instrument, he doesn’t hesitate to wrap them into the school’s liturgical music.
Kuper said his involvement in academia and the arts has allowed him to experience his students in a different light.
“You get to know them well through teaching. But you see a different dimension of the kids outside of class, be it through Mission Trips, retreats, or the camaraderie of the spring musical,” Kuper said.
In 1993, he directed music for an alumni dinner theatre production of Nunsense, a fundraising event for new curtains in the cafetorium.
Outside of Notre Dame, Kuper has served as the choir director and music coordinator for St. Vincent de Paul Parish since 1977.
He says he’s slowing down with some of his ‘extracurriculars’ such as district accompaniment. But he still has countless fond memories to look back upon.
“Math has been a joy, but my involvement with music has really tapped more into my passion,” Kuper said. “And each year, the reward is those four shows, and feeling good about the finished product.”