Eric Goldberg, originally from the Chicago area, is an accomplished percussionist who not only performs, but also inspires others beyond the concert hall. He first appeared on From the Top with Host Christopher O’Riley (Show #206) in Dallas, Texas. His most recent appearance on Show #271 in New Albany, Ohio, coincided with his receipt of the From the Top Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, a $10,000 scholarship given to extraordinary young musicians with financial need.
The outreach project associated with the Award led Eric on a journey of persistence and determination. Over five months, Eric reached out to many schools and summer programs to see if he could present a workshop for young children in the Chicago area. However, due to scheduling and communication difficulties, no possibilities presented themselves. Finding the right venue and time to do this project was proving very challenging, but Eric didn’t give up. Finally, after months of trying, Eric and his duo partner Shuya found a great place to do this workshop. Read about it in Eric’s own words:
On August 5, 2014, my duo partner and From the Top alum Shuya Gong and I gave a presentation and performance for a group of pre-K students in an art class at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. We created a series of interactive activities and games to teach the kids about tempo, dynamics, pitch, and playing with others. The goal of our project was to teach young kids about the basics of music, inspire them to take on an instrument, and let music become a large part of their lives.
We had originally planned to present for fourth or fifth grade students, but this location (which served younger kids), was the first to demonstrate interest in hosting us, and we were eager to take them up on it.
Believe it or not – preparing a presentation for toddlers is much more stressful than preparing one for a group of trained musicians! We had to be extremely enthusiastic to keep the kids engaged. We had to constantly be listening, thinking on our toes, and shaping the presentation based on how receptive and responsive the kids were. We also had to be cognizant of the way we spoke and the language we used, so that the kids would always be able to understand us. It was a challenge, but certainly one of the most fun and exciting musical experiences I have had.
My biggest fear was that the kids would not be excited or want to participate, but it was the exact opposite! When we asked kids to jump up on their feet or wave their hands in the air or shout, they were very eager to do it, and seemed like they were having a ton of fun.
We were surprised at how much some of them already knew about music. When we talked about pitches, Shuya sang a high note and then a low note, and asked the kids what they heard. One shouted, “That’s an octave!”
They asked a lot of questions of us too – some were very good and relevant, and others were completely silly. One kid raised his hand and said, “Bats have large teeth!” Shuya and I had to keep from bursting out laughing. Kids really do say the darndest things.
The group seemed to particularly love our snare drums. It was hilarious to watch their reactions. When I demonstrated an open-closed-open roll (a drum roll that goes from very slow to super fast and then back down to slow), the kids jumped in their chairs, yelled, and covered their ears. Thankfully, it seemed that they were not actually disturbed; they were just goofing around and having fun. They also had the opportunity to try out the various percussion instruments after the presentation.
After all we went through to be able to do this, I went into this experience being quite skeptical and not knowing what to expect. I did not anticipate it being as rewarding as it was.
Seeing how excited these kids were reminded Shuya and I of when we first discovered music. Although our time with these kids was brief, we hope that it could go far enough to inspire them to learn an instrument, and let music become as important and beautiful to them as it is now to us.
In my eyes, being an arts leader is using your skills and passion to reach new audiences, to teach, to inspire, and to play a role in keeping the arts alive and well. My experience with this presentation and other From the Top events has kept me thinking about ways that I can continue doing this.
Now a student at the Manhattan School of Music, Eric hopes to continue finding ways to share his music and stay involved with the community.
“Experiences like this keep me optimistic and excited for whatever I will do.” he says. “No matter where I end up, as long as music is a part of my life and I can use it to help make a difference in another person, I will be more than satisfied.”
We applaud Eric for his determination to accomplish his goal and for his ideas about arts leadership. His drive to make this project happen is as inspiring as it is impressive. In today’s world, Eric’s success story is a powerful example of what “taking it beyond the concert hall” really means.
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