The best of PAW

Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight

January 26, 2005

Rob Goldberg ’79

Rob Goldberg ’79 (left) plays lead guitar and writes songs for The Voltaires, which plays folksy, alternative pop.

Renaissance 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 created.

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.