Eli Newberger: Music Maker, Medicine Man
After returning to Boston from their stint in the Peace Corps (with their infant daughter), "it was natural to apply to grad school at Harvard," Carolyn recalls. She earned a doctorate in Human Development, and trained in clinical psychology at the Judge Baker Children's Center and Children's Hospital, which are affiliated with Harvard Medical School. After completing her graduate training, she continued at Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital in clinical and academic roles doing research, teaching, and clinical practice, "Finding things as I went along that were fascinating and exciting, tapping into things that I really cared about. But as an undergrad, I hadn't a clue."
From left: Eli Newberger, Carolyn Newberger
At 18 years of age, Carolyn lay down her pencil and brush for two human generations. She returned to art in 2003, after reluctantly accepting a friend's invitation to attend a week-long painting seminar.
"When I first squeezed pigments from their tubes onto my plastic palette, tears came to my eyes," she recalled. "Then, when I dipped my wet brush into paint and swirled forms on the white paper, I felt relief, as if I were finally coming home."
It was like a revelation, a eureka moment: "This is what I am supposed to do." The conversion was quick and sure. Now, she may awaken mid-sleep, thinking about art, about things that might be amiss in a painting. "Being an artist was in me, but I had to re-discover it. It's like I started a new life," she says.
Carolyn's studio in their suburban Boston home is a monument to the variety of her views. Still lifes, nude portraits, beautiful flowers, profiles of native peoples from their trips to Africa. And, one favorite, inspired by Eli's musicality: their granddaughter trying to play his sousaphone, looking quite serious but dwarfed by the instrument, which surrounds the young, would-be musician.
Although she abandoned art for most of her adult life, she never put down the flute for very long, even though spending many of the interim years going to grad school and then raising a daughter. After that came her demanding career as a child psychologist, juggling this with doing grant proposals, research, and teaching around the world. She's even been on Oprah.
A Book-music Link
Writing a full-length book was challenging, sometimes competing with his regular night gig at the famed Sticky Wicket Pub in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, where the Black Eagles held sway every Thursday. And, while it is only Eli's name on the book cover, he is quick to acknowledge Carolyn's contributions. Although Eli has never shrunk from difficult conceptual tasks, this was an order of magnitude more ambitious than a thesis or scholarly paper. Some of the research papers on which they jointly worked became foundation for some of the thinking in The Men They Will Become, such as "The Social Ecology of Malnutrition in Childhood," knitting broad cultural themes to malnutrition.
What was the motivation for the book? "I wanted to re-think the notion of boys' character," said Eli. He had to do lots of research and interviews, and he wanted the book to be written for a lay audience of parents and teachers. "Carolyn played a vital role in the book. She takes a resourceful, daring approach to child psychology and cognitive development," he said. A chapter in the book, The Roots of Character, makes use of her theory.
The book doesn't have much jargon, it is written for people who are trying to understand boys and their development, and the main tasks of forming fine character in boys, through the first two decades of life. He summarized the principal messages from his book in a paper he presented at the White House Conference on Helping America's Children, in 2005, entitled "Strengthening the Characters of Boys: What We Know and Can Do." A video of the presentation, with an illustrative story and music from his jazz idol, Louis Armstrong, is on Eli's website, www.elinewberger.com
The book took about two-and-a-half years, from signing the contract to submitting the manuscript in early 1999. Coincidentally, at that same time he got a call from the pianist Butch Thompson about a return gig to a place in Rockport, Maine. Eli got the idea of doing an album of pieces on the same theme as the book: male development.
The tracks they recorded betray (or at least chronicle) a variety of human frailties, such as: "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie"; "If I Let You Get Away With It Once (You'll Do It All the Time)"; "Ain't Much Good in the Best of Men These Days"; "There'll Be Some Changes Made"; "Miss Otis Regrets (She's Unable to Lunch Today)," and the like.
A fascinating concept, the CD can also be appreciated at its most basic level of entertaining music, with Newberger, Thompson, and vocals by banjoist Jimmy Mazzy, with whom Newberger still performs on occasion. He updates his performance schedule, CDs, and other news at www.elinewberger.com.