We had the good fortune of connecting with Merryl Goldberg and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Merryl, what inspires you?
In my work as a professor at California State University San Marcos and specifically with the project ART=OPPORTUNITY, I am in a position to work with inspiring creatives all the time. In my “learning Through the Art” class this semester, my students wrote “honest poems.” I was introduced to the work of poet Rudy Francisco by a colleague and super San Diego creative Dairrick Khalil Hodges “Khalil Bleux.” An honest poem is just that, and given the opportunity to write and present poems, I was heartened to learn that some of my students had overcome overwhelming challenges, culturally, physically, and emotionally. In a seminar on music and social justice, my students and I have been learning from members of Voices of Our City Choir. The opportunity to find and embrace voice (literally) and agency to share and be heard is uplifting and hopeful. In my work overseeing ART=OPPORTUNITY, I work with so many colleagues and students – and everyday they find ways to give of themselves to others and to provide opportunities to engage and access the arts. We are working with Creative Youth Development groups to provide college and career pathway opportunities, we are creating STEAM art kits (we handed out 500!), we are providing research-based professional development to teachers.The arts of who we are as humans, and being in the thick of it each and every day is what keeps me going!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a professional saxophonist – and I played for 13 years on the road professionally with the Klezmer Conservatory Band – playing Eastern European Yiddish music. I guess you could say I began performing when I was about 10; but went onto top a professional career when I was around 20. I still perform and what gives me most pleasure is playing with Phyllis Irwin, 91 years young! Phyllis plays the piano and our duet performs at her temple, in my class (nowadays via zoom), and we hope to get back to having house concerts! When we perform we have so much fun! Music really is food for the soul, whether you play or you’re in the audience! Funny, real story: my first paying gig was at a coffeehouse at Boston University. I was playing with a friend. We were supposed to make something like $25, but the organizers didn’t make enough money to pay us in cash. Instead, we walked away with cheese and crackers! Look, being in the arts is wonderful, and it can be challenging. There are tons of jobs in the arts, but artists often come up against the bias that arts are fluff. This can’t be further from the truth. A major goal of my life’s work is to advocate for the arts, and to ensure that each and every kids has access to arts education. By the way: It’s the law!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My favorite spots in the city/county are numero uno: the beaches…and the walk at San Elijo lagoon. I live in North County and enjoy the farmer’s markets. Little Italy is always fun, as is Barrio Logan and most definitely Chicano Park. If we were to eat – I’d likely say, let’s have some dim sum in Kearny Mesa. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say…go out and also support the work happening near the corner of Market and 16th where Voices of our City Choir rehearse, youth make videos and recordings at David’s Harp, and where post covid, Dignity Delivery will set up again to have a “free market” for the unsheltered. I’d recommend getting out of your lane and trying a new lane, whether that be a walk at Shelter Island, a visit to arts organizations like ARTS (A Reason to Survive) in National City, or A Step Beyond in Escondido, or broaden your foodie possibilities by visiting an eatery in City Heights, North Park, Oceanside, or a neighborhood you’ve yet to visit.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am incredibly inspired by so many – first and foremost my students, the STEAM ambassadors, and especially Nancy Meza, teacher credential candidate and assistant extraordinaire for ART=OPPORTUNITY. https://news.csusm.edu/award-recipient-sets-positive-example-for-next-generation/ Shout outs to the San Diego Creative Youth Development Network and the leaders of Arts Amplifying Youth! (AAY!) https://www.artsampyouth.org/. The passion, dedication, and commitment of the youth and their leadership mentors give me hope for our collective future. The statewide team at CREATE CA (https://createca.org/) of which I am a council member, is amazing, as is the team at CSSSA (California State Summer School of the Arts https://www.csssa.ca.gov/), where I serve as a trustee. In my own background, I know the mentorship of so many teachers from elementary school through to graduate school made a huge difference in who I am today. I was also lucky to grow up in a family of social activists. My grandparents escaped the pogroms of eastern Europe before WWII, arriving to the US as Jewish refugees. Their experiences set the foundation for my understanding and questioning of the world. I was super lucky to be close to my grandparents and live in what I would describe as the dual worlds of old country and new.
Photo credit: Andrew Reed of CSUSM Merryl Goldberg and Chris Wood at STEAM Art Kit distribution Saturday at CSUSM where over 400 kits where distributed. Merryl by herself – credit Christine Vaughn, CSUSM Merryl in her office (not sure, credit CSUSM photographer)