A couple of years ago, Robert Danziger decided to focus his wide-ranging imagination on one task.
So, now he is rewriting Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto full-time.
If that seems improbable to you, you probably haven’t met Danziger, or perused his resumé. He landed a job at the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, despite not having an undergraduate degree. He founded a sustainable energy company while still in his 20s. He has been issued 10 patents, includ- ing one for a “Walking Chair,” which he uses to help overcome his own mobility issues.
And he played kalimba, an African instrument also known as a thumb piano, on a Supertramp album.
The Carmel resident received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Cal State Monterey Bay in September 2011, in recognition of his accomplishments as a musician, inventor and sustainable energy pioneer. Danziger will share stories and lessons from his varied career when he serves as the keynote speaker for Cal State Monterey Bay’s com- mencement on May 18.
“I’m not a classical musician; I am coming at it basically from a jazz point of view,” Danziger said of his work on the Bach concerto. “Who knows if it will ever have an audience? I am just trying to do the very, very best thing I can with it, and not really trying to define it.”
That philosophy has been apparent throughout Danziger’s career as he has faced and surmounted challenges just because they seemed worth doing.
His work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory gave him a front-row look at one of the space age’s most ambitious projects, the Voyager exploration into deep space.
Danziger wrote “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Energy Independence,” which recounts stories from his careers in energy and music. He composed several sound sculptures, which have been part of exhibitions at the Monterey Museum of Art and the National Steinbeck Center.
As for his message to graduates, Danziger said, “We have students here who are challenged to compete with people from Yale and Harvard and MIT, just as I had to. And if you have the honor, the integrity and the fire in the belly, you can make it. You can be as insightful and successful as anyone from any of those schools.
“They have earned the opportunity to look inside themselves and be everything they possibly can be and make their mark.”
– James Tinney