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Professor Packs a Punch

By Eric Breier

Any number of accomplishments might come to mind when one thinks of Merryl Goldberg.

Acclaimed saxophonist. Leader in arts education. Wang Family Excellence Award recipient.

One achievement that probably doesn’t come immediately to mind?

Skilled boxer.

A longtime professor of music at Cal State San Marcos, Goldberg used to tour around the world as a saxophonist. She is a well-known leader in arts education through programs like ART=OPPORTUNITY, which focuses on providing a meaningful education by improving literacy through the arts. She received the 2018 Wang Award, a prestigious California State University system-wide honor, for her exemplary contributions and achievements.

But it’s a good bet that accomplished boxer is not among the traits most people associate with Goldberg.

“Who would think this 5-foot-1, somewhat middle aged person would get into boxing?” Goldberg said. “But I absolutely love it.”

Goldberg’s introduction to boxing began on a dare. There was a boxing gym between a Sprouts grocery store and a dog groomer. Every time she walked by, she thought to herself, “Oh my God, I think I’d really like to hit something.”

Goldberg never ventured inside until dared to by a friend to try it. She had her hands wrapped, started a class and immediately discovered the similarities between boxing and music.

“The first thing I noticed was it was all rhythm,” she said. “Everything had a rhythm to it. It just immediately appealed to me because it was so music like.”

While Goldberg has plenty of friends who do meditation and yoga, few are into the “Sweet Science.” But as Goldberg quickly learned, boxing has its own community, opening the door to her befriending many people she may not have otherwise met.

Goldberg is typically at the boxing gym four days a week and wouldn’t mind adding a fifth day. She takes classes three days a week and twice a week has individual training sessions, which includes weight training and mitt work.

The mitt work is her favorite part of the workout.

“When you hit a bag you can make a nice sound,” she said. “But when you’re hitting mitts it’s almost like the crack of a bat at a baseball game, which I think is the best part of going to a baseball game. That sound is so wonderful. If you hit correctly, you get that nice, crisp sound. It just feels so good.”

Goldberg spars on occasion, but only with a trainer. She often is asked if she would like to compete. While intrigued by the possibility, Goldberg has decided it’s not for her for two reasons. First, she has been told that she has “heavy hands,” meaning she hits hard and could potentially do some damage to an opponent.

“I would feel awful if I hurt somebody,” she said.

The other reason?

“I don’t want to get hurt,” she said. “I think I’m pretty good and I’ve learned defensive moves, but I think it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to show up to class with a broken nose or a black eye.”

Media Contact

Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist | Office: 760-750-7314