Robert Greenberg
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Robert Greenberg, Ph.D

Fee Range1: $ 4000 - $7000

Steinway Artist, Music Historian


Arts/Culture/MusicCreativityMusical Program




Robert Greenberg, Ph.D

Robert GreenbergSteinway Artist, Music Historian

Robert Greenberg was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1954, and has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1978.  Greenberg received a BA in music, magna cum laude, from Princeton University in 1976.  His principal teachers at Princeton were Edward Cone, Daniel Werts, and Carlton Gamer in composition, Claudio Spies and Paul Lansky in analysis, and Jerry Kuderna in piano.  In 1984, Greenberg received a Ph.D. in music composition, With Distinction, from the University of California, Berkeley, where his principal teachers were Andrew Imbrie and Olly Wilson in composition and Richard Felciano in analysis.

Greenberg has composed over fifty works for a wide variety of instrumental and vocal ensembles.  Performances of his works have taken place in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, England, Ireland, Greece, Italy and The Netherlands, where his Child’s Play for String Quartet was performed at the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam.

Greenberg has received numerous honors, including three Nicola de Lorenzo Composition Prizes and commissions from the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress, the Alexander String Quartet, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the Strata Ensemble, San Francisco Performances, Trio 180, and the XTET ensemble.  Greenberg is a board member and an artistic director of COMPOSERS, INC., a composers’ collective/production organization based in San Francisco.  His music is published by Sheet Music Plus, Fallen Leaf Press and CPP/Belwin, and has been recorded on the Innova label.

Greenberg has performed, taught and lectured extensively across North America and Europe.  He is currently music historian-in-residence with San Francisco Performances, where he has lectured and performed since 1994. He has served on the faculties of the University of California at Berkeley, California State University East Bay, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he chaired the Department of Music History and Literature from 1989-2001 and served as the Director of the Adult Extension Division from 1991-1996.

Greenberg has lectured for some of the most prestigious musical and arts organizations in the United States, including the San Francisco Symphony (where for ten years he was host and lecturer for the Symphony’s nationally acclaimed “Discovery Series”), The Chautauqua Institute (where he was the Everett Scholar-in-Residence during the 2006 season), the Ravinia Festival, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Van Cliburn Foundation, the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Villa Montalvo, Music @ Menlo, the University of British Columbia (where he was the Dal Grauer Lecturer in September of 2006), and Philadelphia’s College of Physicians (where he has been the Behrend Lecturer since 2017).  He is a “regular” on the programs of One Day University and is currently lecturer and on-stage host for both the Phoenix Symphony and the Phoenix Symphony Chamber Program.

Dr. Greenberg is a sought-after lecturer for business schools and business.  For ten years he was on the faculty member of the Advanced Management Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.  He speaks regularly for the University of California Berkeley/Goldman School of Public Policy, the Agdar Leadership Conference, and has worked as well with UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, and Harvard Business School Publishing.

In addition, Greenberg has spoken for such diverse businesses and organizations as S.C. Johnson, Canadian Pacific, Deutsches Bank, Kaiser-Permanente, the Strategos Institute, Quintiles Transnational, the Young Presidents’ Organization, the World Presidents’ Organization, and the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco.

Dr. Greenberg has been profiled in The Wall Street JournalInc. magazine, the Times of London, the Los Angeles TimesThe Christian Science Monitor, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, the University of California alumni magazine, Princeton Alumni Weekly, and Diablo magazine.

For fifteen years Greenberg was the resident composer and music historian to National Public Radio’s “Weekend All Things Considered” with Daniel Zwerdling and “Weekend Edition, Sunday” with Liane Hansen.

In May 1993, Greenberg recorded a forty-eight lecture course entitled “How to Listen to and Understand Great Music” for The Great Courses (formerly The Teaching Company) of Chantilly, Virginia.  (This course was named in the January, 1996 edition of Inc. Magazine as one of “The Nine Leadership Classics You’ve Never Read”.) Originally associated with the Smithsonian Institute, The Great Courses is the preeminent producer of college level courses-on-media in the United States.  Twenty-nine additional courses have been recorded since, totaling over 650 lectures, including The 30 Greatest Orchestral WorksHow to Listen to and Understand Great Music, 3rd EditionConcert MasterworksBach and the High Baroque; The Symphonies of BeethovenHow to Listen to and Understand Opera; the Great Masters series; The Operas of MozartThe Life and Operas of VerdiThe SymphonyThe Chamber Music of MozartBeethoven’s Piano SonatasThe ConcertoUnderstanding the Fundamentals of Music; The String Quartets of Beethoven; The Music of Richard Wagner; 30 Greatest Orchestral Works; 23 Greatest Solo Piano Works; Music as a Mirror of History;  and The Great Music of the Twentieth Century, totaling over 650 lectures.  The courses are available on both CD and DVD formats, as downloads and in book form.

Dr. Greenberg’s book, How to Listen to Great Music, was published by Plume, a division of Penguin Books, in April of 2011.

In November of 2014, Greenberg’s show, “Scandalous Overtures”, debuted on Ora.TV.  Founded by Larry King and media magnate Carlos Slim, Ora.TV bills itself as “TV with Big Personality” and features, among others, shows hosted by Larry King, Jesse Ventura, and William Shatner.

Robert Greenberg is a Steinway Artist.




How to Listen To and Understand Music: Music as a Mirror

Nothing exists out of context, and that includes music, which can only truly be understood within the context of its time.   This presentation examines Western music as a mirror of the social, political, spiritual and economic realities of its time.  As such, the ongoing changes in musical style evident in Western music during the last millennia are a function of large-scale societal change and are not due to any particular composer’s “creative muse”.

Starting with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and the intellectual and spiritual climate of the High Baroque (ca. 1720), this program will observe the changes wrought by Enlightenment society on the music of the Classical Era (ca. 1780) as manifested in the work of Wolfgang Gottlieb (a.k.a. Amadeus) Mozart.  Finally, “Music as a Mirror” will observe the impact of the Age of Revolution and Napoleon through a lens provided by the radical and experimental music of Ludwig (“my friends call me Louis”) van Beethoven (ca. 18010).

Other topics to be explored include the nature and our conception of “the composer”, Beethoven’s gastro-intestinal problems (not pretty, but relevant), architecture and landscape design in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the applicability of the concept of “music as a mirror” to American popular music of the 1950s and 1960s.   


Conduct Becoming – the Orchestra as a Model of Leadership, Teamwork and Accountability

“Conduct Becoming” is a multi-media, interactive program that explores the amazing (sometimes laughably so!) parallels between an orchestra and any large corporation, institution, or government agency.

The presentation focuses on the complex personal interactions it takes to create an orchestral performance.  The talk examines the various musical roles played by musicians and their analogs in the world of business: the composer (founder), the score (the business plan or constitution), the conductor (CEO), the principal players (executive management team) and the section players (workforce).  By observing the role-playing and stratification within an orchestra (and by learning the rudiments of conducting along the way), participants gain extraordinary insight into the sort of leadership, trust, accountability and teamwork necessary to create a successful performance in any institutional environment.

Among the composers viewed (on video) in both performance and rehearsal are Leonard Bernstein, Georg Solti, Otto Klemperer, Fritz Reiner, Herbert von Karajan, and George Szell.


Ludwig van Beethoven: Innovation with Attitude!

Ludwig van Beethoven remains the single most disruptive composer in the history of European-based music. His extraordinary music continues to inspire us, and his ideas regarding originality and artistic responsibility remain a cornerstone for the modern artist. Beethoven was also a man of his revolutionary times; having witnessed the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era he harnessed his inner demons and those of his age into a music the likes of which no one had heard before. Central to Beethoven’s compositional vision was his idea that music is – above all – a mode of self-expression.  In his me-first vision of music composition, he became the first truly modern composer.This program will explore Beethoven’s life and times, personality and attitudes in some detail, as we seek to understand the man behind the glower.


Will the Real Mozart Please Stand Up?

It is very possible that Johann Christian Wolfgang Gottlieb Mozart (1756-1791) was the greatest genius ever born to our species.  The most famous child prodigy in history, he developed into an adult prodigy as well, composing music of such technical perfection and ethereal beauty that it seemed not to have come from pen of a mere mortal.  To explain his seeming inexplicable talent, myths have accumulated that have obscured Mozart the man and, in doing so, have distanced us from his music.  This session debunks those myths, introduces Mozart as a real person living in the real world, and examines his music in light of the musical conventions of his time.


American Music as a Mirror: Blues, Jazz and Rock & Roll

An extraordinary offshoot of the otherwise horrific institution of slavery was the synthesis of African and European music in the melting pot of North America.  This synthesis created a dazzling array of utterly unique musical genres – America’s great cultural gift to the world – and includes among them the Spiritual, Blues, Ragtime, Jazz, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Starting with West African music, this presentation observes the development and evolution of the African-American Spiritual, Blues and the emergence of Ragtime.  Paying special attention to the “birth” of Jazz in the amazing multi-racial, multi-ethnic city of New Orleans, this presentation focuses on the role of the New Orleans native Louis Armstrong in the evolution and popularization of jazz in the 1920s.  From there, “Blues, Jazz and Rock & Roll” traces the development of “Swing” in the 1930s, “Bebop” in the 1940s; and post-WWII youth culture and the advent of Rock & Roll in the 1950s, itself a harbinger of the Civil Rights and Youth movements of the 1960s.


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