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Bernard Z. Goldberg (1923-2017)

Wendy Webb Kumer | January 2018

    At nearly 95 years old Bernard Goldberg was still influencing flutists all over the United States. His generous nature and passion for teaching fueled his lifelong commitment to helping others become mature musicians. From his personal study with Georges Barrere (student of Henri Altes) at Juilliard and Marcel Moyse at the Marlboro Festival, Mr. Goldberg’s roots ran deep. He spent 47 years as principal flute with the Pittsburgh Symphony and 70 years teaching, conducting, and coaching. 
    At the age of 92, he was still managing and teaching a weeklong summer masterclass in West Virginia, offering Alexander Technique, virtuosity classes, Moyse study, and lots of listening to old vinyl recordings of flutists and opera divas. He hired a professional accompanist and coached everyone each day (some classes went well into the night). His tireless efforts and devotion were evident in his teaching methods and heartfelt reminiscences. His Moyse stories, the recounting of incidences with famous conductors, and his favorite symphonic moments, held everyone in thrall. Many of the young flutists had no idea who these long-gone artists were, but all were captivated by Goldberg’s zeal and emotions about the music they created. 
    Goldberg began his study of the flute in St. Louis with John Kiburz, a pupil of Georges Barrere, (who studied with Paul Taffanel) and Laurent Torno. He made his debut with the St. Louis Symphony at age 16. He then became a scholarship student at Juilliard (with Barrere) learning the French style that would become a huge influence in American flute playing. 
    While studying at Juilliard,  Goldberg was chosen by Eric Leinsdorf to join the Cleveland Orchestra, and he became their principal flutist two years later. In 1947 he won the Pittsburgh Symphony principal position under Fritz Reiner. With Pittsburgh, he played under many illustrious conductors including Stokowski, Ormandy, Steinberg, Previn, Maazel and many more. 
    Each summer Goldberg would further his studies in France with Lucien Lavaillote (a student of Gaubert and Moyse) and then in St. Amour and Vermont with Marcel Moyse himself. He continued his work with Moyse from 1955 until Moyse’s passing in 1984. In 1982 Moyse announced that Bernard Goldberg was, “without a doubt, my successor.” 
    In addition to his position with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra,  Goldberg served as principal flutist with the Pablo Casals Festival in Puerto Rico, the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center, and played all three Mozart Concerti at Avery Fisher Hall. He played recitals all over the world, most notably at Carnegie Hall and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. 
    Goldberg fondly recalled a conversation with Jean-Pierre Rampal. “If you want to have an audience, you have to love the audience and you have to give with your full heart.” He would add to this, “It is not possible to have a successful career or life if you hold back. When I teach a class, I do not know any of the students, but I will do my best to give them everything I have. I am always interested in the students who are willing to try and who want to learn how to make music.” 
    In addition to his flute faculty positions at Carnegie Mellon University, Duquesne University, The University of Pittsburgh, and Brooklyn College (where he commuted every week from Pittsburgh, well into his 80s!), Bernard Goldberg had a passion for conducting. He was the assistant director of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony, founder and conductor of the Three Rivers Young People’s Orchestra, director of the Duquesne University Opera Workshop and Orchestra, and after his PSO retirement, music director and conductor of the McKeesport Symphony. He served as the flute coach for the Asian Youth Orchestra 
    During his lifetime, Goldberg world premiered many famous works including music by Frank Martin, Virgil Thompson, Lennox Berkley, John Williams, Leonard Bernstein, Joseph Schwantner, Lucas Foss, and many more. He loved playing chamber music and recorded with his Musica Viva trio and the Audubon Quartet. His PSO recordings are on the Columbia, Command, and Marlborough labels. 
    When Goldberg came to Pittsburgh, he had a vision and a desire to unite the local flutists of all ages and levels. He worked with several professionals, teachers, and amateurs to resurrect the Pittsburgh Flute Club which had its humble beginnings in 1922. He remained a stalwart leader of the club for the rest of his life, even scheduling a masterclass in the spring of 2017. For many decades the club met monthly at Duquesne University. Each meeting began with informal flute chamber music (a music trunk was open for all), then a brief meeting followed by a monthly recital. What a commitment. His tireless dedication to gathering flutists led him to assist in the formation of the National Flute Association, becoming the NFA president in its second year, 1974. 

    His students play and teach all over the world. We are a lively bunch and owe much if not all of our musical standards and ideals to Mr. Goldberg. He was a stickler for the phrase, the color, the line, the pitch, and respecting the composer’s wishes (often sacrificing our own egos on that altar). A formal memorial event is being planned for Saturday, January 27, 2018 on what would have been his 95th birthday. This will be held at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, where he lived and worked for 47 years. Lorna McGhee will play and honored invited guests will speak. This event is open to all. For more information, write to Wendy Kumer,