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A Solo in the Forecast

Meteorologist Mike Goldberg knows which way the wind blows.



Whatever the similarities, it's a rare person who can achieve lifetime goals in both.

Mike Goldberg, full-time chief meteorologist at WTVR-CBS 6, has also found time to continue a lifelong career as a classical clarinet virtuoso, lead a local youth orchestra, found a chamber ensemble and organize benefit performances to raise money for local humane societies. It's all in a day's work: predicting the future, playing great music of the past, teaching budding musicians and saving puppies.

Goldberg's office is in the refrigerated cavern of Channel 6's broadcast studio, amidst a wall of monitors to the right of the green wall and to the left of the anchor desk. Weather forecasting is both science and art, teasing tomorrow's skies out of a tangle of data: temperatures, dew points and pressure gradients. Predictions are not just pulled from the wire; if they're wrong, he's wrong.

Just like a note. "After I finish at the station, I go home and practice," Goldberg says. "Like all musicians, I'm a natural night owl, and I usually don't have to be at the station until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Unless there is a meeting, or severe weather, then I'm here for the duration."

It's an unlikely pursuit for a Manhattan-born prodigy, born to parents who met while they were performing on Broadway. Goldberg was playing piano when he was 4 years old and asked for his first clarinet when he was only 9. His interest in climate was also precocious; he became a weather-watching hobbyist and wrote a weekly column for his suburban New Jersey newspaper while still in high school. His ultimate direction seemed set when he won a full scholarship to the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. In a way, it was.

"Channel 10, the local CBS affiliate, was right across the street from Eastman," Goldberg recalls. The young musician talked his way into a weather apprenticeship, persuading reluctant college officials to give him just enough credit to qualify for the station's intern program. "I stayed there for three-and-a-half years," he says. "That has to be an internship record."

In graduate school at Rutgers, Goldberg taught music but studied weather and climatology. He left after two semesters to take a broadcasting job back in Rochester. His life there was a whirlwind of work — weekends on TV and his own morning drive-time radio show — continued study for a meteorology degree and classical clarinet performances. He rose steadily through the ranks at the station, eventually becoming chief meteorologist. In 1998, at 30 years old, he was offered his "dream job" at WTVR.

Coming to Richmond meant severing more than a decade of musical connections. The virtuoso who had played Carnegie Hall twice and performed in the Broadway orchestra of the Steven Sondheim hit "Into the Woods" became the newest personality at the South's oldest station.

It was a heavy responsibility; weather is critical to local television news competition. WTVR was coming from behind. The station invested in cutting-edge technology and graphics. "But it's not the pretty pictures that count," Goldberg says, "but the clarity of the story you tell with them."

In addition to helping build ratings, Goldberg established new musical connections. He founded the ongoing chamber music ensemble Crescendo for an SPCA benefit in 2004. ("If it's for animals," he confides, "people will play for free.") He also serves as musical director of the CBS 6 Wind Symphony, a group drawn from the area's top young players. In the coming months he's performing in various settings; local audiences may soon be as accustomed to seeing him onstage as they are on the TV screen.

There are bigger metropolitan markets, Goldberg realizes, but perhaps none would let him balance his passion for winds and woodwinds. Besides, he says, he loves the station and the people. He says Richmond's not a steppingstone, it's home. S

Crescendo: Mike Goldberg & Friends, featuring Charles Hulin (piano), Timothy Judd (violin) and Erin R. Freeman (soprano), performs Sunday, June 11, at 4 p.m. at Bon Air Presbyterian Church, 9201 W. Huguenot Road. At 7 p.m., Goldberg will be playing with The Commonwealth Winds at VCU's Singleton Center for the Performing Arts, 922 Park Ave. Both shows are free.

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