Playing music is like breathing. That’s how longtime Teachers College friend William Goldstein explains his life’s work as an award-winning composer and pianist, a journey that included TC as a stop along the way nearly 70 years ago.
Before becoming a global phenomenon best known for his live compositions and film scores, Goldstein — now 80 — traveled from his New Jersey childhood home to TC, a journey of over 90 minutes, in 1951. There, he would meet Raymond Burrows, Professor of Music Education, who agreed to hear the 9-year-old boy — whose experiences with the piano were limited to the eight weeks he spent playing each summer at the Jersey Shore resort his parents owned.
Goldstein returned to campus in 2016 as part of a documentary about his life.
Goldstein would be a musical talent, Burrows explained, despite the fact that it would be impossible for him to attend weekly lessons at the College or Julliard. The barriers wouldn’t hinder him, and his growth was as inevitable as “trying to stop the river heading towards the sea,” explained Burrows — a TC alum several times over and a legend in his own right.
Burrow’s prophecy arguably came true a long time ago, and more than half a century later, Goldstein still carries the experience all over the world.
“Our lives are as influenced by the choices or the roads we do not take as much as the paths that we do take,” says Goldstein, newly returned from a performance and master-classes in Estonia and Latvia. “I like to think we're all enrolled in the same great university of life, but we're not all in the same course, and we're not all in the same year of matriculation.”
Sometimes, Goldstein contemplates how, if realized, Burrows’ advice to enroll him in a more formal musical education may have altered the course of his life. But his rich career — full of film and TV credits, Emmy and Grammy nominations teaching opportunities, and a new hit EP, Remembering Mariupol — leaves little room for regret.
“Everything I have in my life, I feel I've been given — and everything I don't have, I think, has been kept from me till I'm ready to have it,” says Goldstein, who is mostly based in Los Angeles.
Intertwined with his professional achievements is Goldstein’s desire to help foster the talent of others. After the success of the Fame television series that Goldstein composed, he and colleagues worked to establish the California State Summer School for the Arts, an intensive program of which Goldstein continues to serve as a founding director. Goldstein’s teaching has since included an annual master class for budding pianists and composers and traveling the country to teach.
One can’t help but see similarities between Goldstein’s dedication to fostering passion for music among the next generation and the same commitment from Burrows. Though separated by time and fate, the two men perhaps share what binds all great purveyors of music: a passion for the art, and a steadfast drive to ensure that it continues beyond themselves and their peers.
“I realized how much I enjoyed sharing what I can, and I still do,” Goldstein says. “I have a great time lifting up people.”