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Mark Goldberg, 49; Manager of Gershwin Archives Headed Trusts

June 04, 2005|Mary Rourke | Times Staff Writer

Mark Trent Goldberg, who managed the archive of Broadway composers George and Ira Gershwin and was executive director of the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trusts, a major supporter of the music division of the Library of Congress, has died. He was 49.

Goldberg died May 18 in his office in San Francisco after suffering a heart attack, said Michael Strunsky, trustee of the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trusts.

"Mark brought an intense personal interest and dedication to the brothers Gershwin," Strunsky told The Times on Thursday.

Goldberg created the Gershwin archive, a vast collection that Strunsky described as "10,000 square feet of file drawers and shelves." It includes music manuscripts as well as photographs, royalty statements and various other items.

Part of the archive has already been given to the Library of Congress. The larger share is housed in the San Francisco offices where Goldberg worked and will go to the library in 2033.

Along with the archive, Goldberg helped to manage some business aspects of the Gershwin trusts, which funded the Gershwin Room, a permanent exhibit space in the Library of Congress.

"Mark was an invaluable person in the Gershwin world," said Robert Kimball, artistic advisor to the Gershwin trusts and the author of several books about the brothers.

Goldberg knew the complete background and history of every Gershwin stage production through the decades, and often worked with authors, producers and educators who called on him as a reliable source. "Mark was unfailingly helpful and he treated everyone beautifully," Kimball said.

Together the Gershwins -- Ira, the lyricist, and George, the composer -- wrote some of the most enduring music ever heard on Broadway. "Porgy and Bess," which opened in 1935, set new standards for musical theater, with songs that included "Summertime" and "It Ain't Necessarily So."

Dozens of other Gershwin show tunes -- "They Can't Take That Away From Me" and "Embraceable You" among them -- have become standards for singer-pianists.

Goldberg got involved in the Gershwin legacy almost by coincidence. Born in San Jose, he was a drama student at UCLA and an aspiring actor in the early 1980s when he met Michael Feinstein, a singer and pianist known for his renditions of Gershwin songs.

Feinstein was helping Ira Gershwin with his archive, and he introduced Goldberg to Gershwin and his wife in 1983. By then Goldberg had appeared in several Los Angeles stage productions. "Mark was wonderfully gifted as a song-and-dance man," said Miles Kreuger, president of the Institute of the American Musical. "He could have had a great future in the theater."

After Ira Gershwin died in 1983, Leonore Gershwin asked Goldberg to work with her full time. "He saw it as a wonderful opportunity," Kreuger recalled of Goldberg's decision to give up acting for the Gershwin job.

Several times during his years with the trusts and archive, Goldberg took on pet projects. Most recently he restored the scattered materials for "The Ziegfeld Follies of 1936," a revue with lyrics by Ira Gershwin and music by Vernon Duke that was performed in New York City in 1999.

"Mark went from being someone who loved musicals to someone who knew everything about the career of Ira Gershwin and those who worked with him," Kreuger said.

Goldberg is survived by his parents, Mary and Gene Goldberg of San Jose; and two sisters, Keri James and Taryn Stiers, who also live in California.

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