Merryl Goldberg, a music professor dedicated to communication arts education – EdSource

Meryl Goldberg doesn’t know anything except how to improvise. The 64-year-old was making music before he could walk.She started making beats on the tambourine when she was a child and never stopped, eventually becoming a saxophonist Toured with Boston Orchestra for 13 years klezmer conservatory band.

During her travels, she also worked part-time as a spy. In 1985, at the age of 26, she traveled to Russia to meet dissident musicians and deceive the KGB with secrets contained in encrypted music. In addition to saxophone notes and sheet music, she packed stacks of spiral-bound notebooks filled with handwritten notations embedded with hidden messages.

“I came up with a code where different notes equaled different letters, and when it came to numbers, I just associated the numbers with the notes in the scale and memorized the tune,” said Arts Advocate, Senior Music and Art Professor Goldberg said. “When we entered the Soviet Union, they searched everything. They opened it with my music, which had some real tunes in it. If you’re not a musician, you don’t know what’s what. They went through page after page. All content and then gave it back to me.

Colleagues say this bold creativity has become her calling card. She is the kind of woman who makes things happen in and out of the classroom.

She “brings the best of creativity and artistic excellence into her approach to training future educators. Her passion for teaching and lifelong learning is contagious,” said Tom DeCaigny, former executive director of Create CA, an arts advocacy group. “She blends humor and storytelling skills with academic rigor to create a dynamic classroom.”

Credit: Albert Rascon

Merryl Goldberg’s course at Colorado State University San Marcos

Her hidden drama further reinforced her unwavering belief in the transformative power of art. She has long been a strong advocate of the arts as part of a comprehensive education.

“What happened with No Child Left Behind (in 2001) was they started testing only math and reading to the detriment of all other subjects, and that was horrific,” Goldberg said. “Before this, subjects were not so separate and education was more comprehensive. In fact, music education was introduced because the founding fathers wanted people to be able to sing hymns. Visual arts started with the Industrial Revolution, and they needed people who could draw. .

Her mission is to teach the whole person, integrating the arts and social-emotional learning with academic rigor. In fact, in one of her signature courses, Learning Through the Arts, aspiring teachers learn how to teach reading, math, science and social studies through music, dance, drama, visual and media arts.

“There’s a big misconception about art. They’re not. Art changes lives,” Goldberg said. “There’s more to learning than just facts. You can look up facts. You can’t figure out how to be creative, how to improvise, how to innovate. You have to develop those skills over time, and art teaches you that.

Goldberg, who grew up in a music-obsessed family in Boston, is known for her boldness and willingness to get creative to solve problems, such as the state’s lack of arts educators, like Proposition 28, The state’s groundbreaking 2022 arts initiative, Uphill. That’s why she created a new undergraduate pathway program for art teachers at California State University, San Marcos.

“Meryl Goldberg has a big vision,” said Alison Yoshimoto-Towery, executive director of the UC/CSU Collaborative on Neuroscience, Diversity and Learning. “Joy is an integral part of learning, and Meryl embodies this passion in her work with teachers, educators, and artists. Her work demonstrates the use of the arts to accelerate mastery of other content areas such as literacy for all students and the power of language).

At a time when many scholars work in silos, Goldberg is a rare scholar able to build bridges between departments and disciplines.

“She has been a mainstay in arts education in California for many years,” said Jessica Mele, former arts education program officer at the Hewlett Foundation. charity organization. “Merill’s record and relationships with undergraduate courses and teacher training programs are key to demonstrating this. Rarely do these two departments at any one university interact with each other, let alone collaborate in this way. These relationships are rare and valuable, making her work highly impactful, bringing together education policymakers, teacher trainers and future teachers.

While some may associate art with elitism, Goldberg is down-to-earth, smiling and humble, describing himself as a “big goofball.” Oh, and did we mention she’s a huge Red Sox fan and a boxer with a wicked left hook? As you would expect, when she gets in the ring, she finds her rhythm.

“Meryl has a lot on her plate,” said Eric Engdahl, professor emeritus at Colorado State University East Bay and former president of the California Council on Teacher Education. “She brings high-level professional musical skills and creativity to the table. I was impressed by her willingness to learn from her partners and collaborators, combined with her enthusiasm for teaching. To a genuine sense of curiosity and wonder.

As it happens, her espionage activities are also rooted in her musical talent. Goldberg developed a code that to the untrained eye looked like a musical score, a melody, but in fact contained the names and addresses of dissident musicians known as the “Phantom Band.” The plan was to meet and jam with the musicians, then smuggle information about the defectors to backers in the West.

It turned out to be more severe than Goldberg expected. The KGB (now known as Russia’s Federal Security Service) remains notorious for the brutality of its intelligence collection. She remembers being searched thoroughly and agents even unpacking her Tampax. She and the other musicians were followed, interrogated, and frequently frightened, but the ruse seemed to work until one day the band found themselves arrested, surrounded by soldiers with machine guns.

“It’s scary,” she said. “They locked us up, interrogated us, and hid us. They took our passports. They wouldn’t let us call the embassy or family or anyone else. In hindsight, they were probably debating whether It’s time to lock us up for a long time.

The band was eventually summarily deported. They later learned that some of the musicians they met had been arrested and beaten.

“This is unthinkable to me,” she said. “This is very difficult for me to deal with. The people we met are so heroic. They took huge risks to fight for human rights.

Goldberg later returned to graduate school at Harvard University and majored in education, with a special focus on the role of the arts in learning and cultural exchange. She explores this topic in her book, Arts Integration: Teaching Subject Matter Through the Arts in Multicultural Settings.

The Soviet scam also opened her eyes to the connection between musical notation and all other forms of code, including high-tech coding. To create her code, Goldberg assigned notes from the chromatic scale, a 12-note scale that includes semitones (sharps and flats), to letters in the alphabet.

One of her gains is that although the relationship between the two Music education and math scores are fairly well established, but few music students recognize the connection between the inherently complex patterns of both Music composition and computer programming and the employment opportunities it may provide, particularly in the booming field of cybersecurity.

Goldberg is also a staunch advocate for equity in the arts, arguing that the arts are an important connection to our common humanity rather than just a perk for the privileged.

Most of her students at CSU San Marcos are the first in their families to attend college. Many people grow up lacking basic necessities such as food. They often work long hours and go to school to make ends meet, all in the pursuit of the enlightenment that art can bring. She sees this richness as a fundamental right, as much a part of the cornerstone of education as literacy and numeracy.

As she said, “Art is an important aspect of human development, the process of understanding the world and being in the world, and art is the foundation of education.”

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