CSM Southern Maryland Regional Piano Competition Welcomes Dr. Sheldon Goldberg as Guest Performer

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Free Concert, April 17 at CSM’s Prince Frederick Campus

            A pivotal moment in one’s life is one in which many, many years later it is remembered with striking clarity. You smell it, you feel it, you taste it and relive it–as if it were yesterday. That is the case when Dr. Sheldon Goldberg, director of the Center for Breast Care at Calvert Memorial Hospital and this year’s guest artist at the Southern Maryland Regional Piano Competition, describes the moment he went from being a traditional high school piano student, bored and ready to explore a new creative outlet, to an on-fire musician eager to enter the hipcat jazz piano scene.

            The neighborhood piano teacher Goldberg had studied with since third grade could see that his interest in piano was waning. “I don’t think you should let him stop,” Goldberg recalls his teacher telling his parents. During his first meeting with new instructor Eddie Dimond, a pianist who frequented the original Bayou in Georgetown accompanying Dizzie Gillespie and Pearl Bailey, Goldberg was asked to play something. When Dimond then played the same piece jazzier with chords and runs Goldberg said he was spellbound. “Right then, I knew I wanted to play like that. He turned me around.”

            Goldberg hopes he can equally inspire the high school pianists competing in the Southern Maryland Regional Piano Competition April 16-17, when he meets with them at the College of Southern Maryland’s Prince Frederick Campus.

The competition, in its third year and presented by CSM and ArtLinks, is a high-school-level juried competition to promote piano performance, and reward and encourage young pianists within Southern Maryland.

Eleven pianists representing the three counties will compete on Saturday, April 16 on the handcrafted Bösendorfer Grand Piano, which is the centerpiece of the college’s Ward Virts Concert Series. The piano was gifted to the community by the Ward Virts Piano Project Group as a tribute to the late Ward Virts, a talented concert trained pianist from the region and who died in 1993.

The winners, in addition to receiving cash awards, will perform in concert on the Bösendorfer for the closing performance, on Sunday, April 17 along with Goldberg. 

            Goldberg’s earliest memory of playing piano was on a wooden cut-out with piano keys when he was 8 years old. He began taking lessons and practiced on a neighbor’s piano until his parents bought a small upright console piano. He played from the traditional exercise books and performed in recitals for five or six years until his epiphany.

In his high school years during the mid-1960s, Goldberg and his friends formed a band with Goldberg on a portable organ acquired by his father. They played at bar mitzvahs and fraternity parties. At Walt Whitman High School Goldberg played in a 16-piece jazz band. He had gravitated from Chopin to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. At this point in his musical development he was more interested in the social status that came with playing in a rock band, than honing technique, he said. “Many artists go through phases,” he said of his move from classical to rock, pop and jazz.

            In his college years at Georgetown University, he was the pianist for the “Mask and Bauble,” a group of students who created original musicals. “I had to put the book away,” he said of having to improvise to create harmonization from a lead sheet with a few chords at the top of the page. Then came blocking 15 to 20 songs for choreography for each show. “I would play a few chords over and over until the dancers had the steps worked out.” Over the years he progressed to writing full orchestral scores, which he described as “great fun.” 

            During his nine years at Georgetown, when Goldberg wasn’t composing, practicing or performing, he was earning his degrees in mathematics and medicine.

            Goldberg lived at home and said that most semesters he was taking 15 to16 credits, studying between classes and having his evenings free. “I wanted to be a pianist—not as a job and not for a living,” he said. “The truth is that most people can’t be professional musicians but that doesn’t mean that music can’t be a big part of your life,” Goldberg said. “There is so much that music can do for your life.”

            Goldberg’s love of music has become a family affair. “My children have been involved in music and they have benefited from the gratification of having a piece of music and seeing it through until they mastered it.” His fundraising performances have often included his wife Dr. Ramona Crowley, a soprano soloist and principal of Huntingtown Elementary, who joined him at a gala for the Center for Breast Care, as well as at CSM Foundation’s Celebration of the Arts and at the Calvert Artists Showcase which funded local charities.

            “Music adds so much to the life of my wife and me and to our children.” For young musicians who may be struggling to find the time and motivation to continue playing, Goldberg says, “Don’t give up on music when life gets hectic and takes you in many different directions. Maintain a connection with music along the way.” 

            Goldberg and the Southern Maryland Regional Piano Competition winners will perform for the public beginning at 3 p.m., Sunday, April 17, at CSM’s Prince Frederick Campus, 115 J. W. Williams Road, Prince Frederick. The concert is free. For information, visit www.csmd.edu/SoMdPianoCompetition.

For information on being a part of the competition as a sponsor or partner, contact Joann Kushner, 410-257-2627 or joannkushner@hotmail.com.


Media Contact: Dorothy Hill, Media Relations Coordinator, 301-934-7745, dmhill@csmd.edu