Rob Goldberg ’79
(left) plays lead guitar and writes songs for The Voltaires,
which plays folksy, alternative pop.
man Rob Goldberg ’79 produces award-winning documentaries,
plays in a band, and coaches kids basketball
Bucking the idea that guitarists are bad-boy bachelors, Rob Goldberg
’79, a member of a band called The Voltaires, is an accomplished
writer and executive producer of documentaries as well as a husband
and father in suburban Chatham, N.J.
When Goldberg talks about his work, the conversation jumps from
ancient Egypt to the crawl spaces of a contemporary home to areas
ravaged by war. As a sought-after filmmaker, Goldberg takes on multiple
projects simultaneously. His upcoming documentaries include The
Pharaoh's Curse, about the magic and science inside the tombs
of ancient Egypt, airing in May on National Geographic; The
Undetectables, a series about microorganisms inside houses,
airing on Tuesdays starting in March on Discovery; and One Day
at War, a BBC-TLC collaboration that sent crews around the
world on March 22, 2004 to look at dozens of international conflicts.
It aired in November on TLC.
“Making documentaries is always a team thing,” Goldberg
says. But his work was recognized with an Emmy nomination in 1996
for National Geographic’s Beauty and the Beasts about
wildlife, and he won the Best Writer prize at the Jackson Hole Film
Festival in 2001 for Discovery’s The Burning Sands,
a series about deserts.
He recently broke new ground by working on the creation of a DVD
that accompanied the recent release of a new version of the popular
video game Halo. It was the first time a video game had
been introduced with a companion documentary showing how it was
How does Goldberg create a documentary? “The best documentaries
are, in some way, shape or form, mystery stories,” he replies.
“When you get down to it, all of life is a mystery story.
We are constantly asking ourselves, ‘How did this happen?’
Goldberg’s career has had its own share of unexpected twists.
After graduating with a degree in English, he was awarded a Fulbright
and studied in Paris. Returning to the United States, he worked
as The Wall Street Journal’s television and media
critic from 1987 to 1996, interviewing notable personalities like
Jean-Luc Godard and Pete Townsend. In 1989 he co-authored Anchors:
Brokaw, Jennings, Rather and the Evening News with his father,
Gerald Jay Goldberg. “It was a tremendously significant year,”
Goldberg explains. “The Berlin Wall fell. It was the year
of Tiananmen Square and the big earthquake on the West Coast.”
A master of multitasking, Goldberg manages to make time for two
constants: his family and his music. “Just like everybody
else, I’m a soccer dad and I coach basketball. I can be as
suburban as anyone!” he adds with a laugh.
Music has been a constant in his life — picking up the guitar
when he was 8 years old, playing with friends at college, and later
appearing in clubs around New York. “It’s tremendously
important to me,” he says. In 2000 he joined with three other
fathers to form The Voltaires, which plays folksy, alternative pop.
Goldberg plays lead guitar and writes songs, some of which can be
heard on the band’s CD all about her (available at
Does he prefer music making to documentaries? “Even a bad
day of playing guitar is a really good day,” he replies. His
son, 11-year-old James Brendan, is following in his father’s
footsteps, although he plays the saxophone. Goldberg reflects on
his son’s pursuit: “He has successfully not practiced
five instruments. I’m sure every parent can relate to that!”
By Kate Mattingly ’93
Kate Mattingly ’93 writes about dance and culture.