Remembering Herbert Karp: Atlanta’s ‘Godfather Of Music’

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Dr. Herbert Karp passed away on Friday, March 11. His achievements as a neurologist, scholar and pioneer in Alzheimer’s research were far-reaching. Karp was the inaugural medical director of Wesley Woods Center, the nation’s first geriatric hospital, and served as chairman of the neurology department at Emory University’s School of Medicine.

In addition to medicine, music was a powerful force in Dr. Karp’s life, and it was through music that I came to know him. He managed to listen to WABE at different times of day, and often called to comment on recordings. I marveled at his ability to distinguish orchestras, conductors and soloists – he enjoyed telephoning us at the station before a piece ended, to see if he could identify the performance before we gave the back announcement. I don’t recall his guess ever being wrong.

Atlanta is a world-class city for music, thanks in no small part to Karp’s effort and dedication. He served on the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra board of directors for decades, and was a guiding force on that board – advising conductors and nurturing musicians. He founded the chamber music series at the Ahavath Achim Synagogue, which welcomed the public to hear glorious works performed in a more intimate setting than the concert hall. Karp was very prominent in Atlanta’s Jewish life, having served for many years on the Board of Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters. His civic duties were many.

I think it very important to recognize Dr. Karp for the breadth of his support and influence on the cultural vitality of our community. To say he was “godfather of music in Atlanta” is not overstating it. At his funeral yesterday, I heard a woman whisper, “he lived his life well.” Yes! I thought – and in so doing he made our lives that much richer.