'Sweetest of all sounds'

Dr. David Goldenberg delivered a lecture titled “Of Thee I Sing: The Evolution and Health Benefits of Song” Friday at the Newman Alumni Center. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami


By Julia D. Berg

Dr. David Goldenberg delivered a lecture titled “Of Thee I Sing: The Evolution and Health Benefits of Song” Friday at the Newman Alumni Center. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami


'Sweetest of all sounds'

By Julia D. Berg
The father of a theatre arts student who died in an airboat accident presented a lecture to students on the benefits of singing.

Dr. David Goldenberg began his lecture “Of Thee I Sing: The Evolution and Health Benefits of Song” by quoting philosopher Jean de la Bruyere: “The sweetest of all sounds is that of the voice of the woman we love.” 

Tears of tenderness welled up in his eyes as he looked at his wife Renee and daughter Dana seated in the front row of a sunlit-filled conference room at the Newman Alumni Center at the University of Miami. 

All 125 students and faculty who were gathered in the room knew, however, that he was also referring to another family member he adores: oldest daughter Ellie Goldenberg, a University of Miami theatre arts major whose life was tragically cut short the day after her May 2017 graduation when the family was involved in an airboat accident in the Everglades. Ellie was trapped under the boat and drowned. 

A beat of silence, then the doctor proceeded with his lecture, dedicated to Ellie. 

“Why do we sing?” said Goldenberg, a professor of otolaryngology at Penn State and head and neck surgeon at Penn State Health. “Singing binds people together, it is a subconscious need to be in rhythm with those around us. Singing expresses what words and thoughts alone cannot. We sing in joy and sorrow.” 

His words rang true with the aspiring young actors in the room. While many are new to the department, they came in solidarity to honor one of their own. “We feel, we love, we cry, we’re theatre people,” said NDavid Williams of the Department of Theatre Arts, who encouraged students to embrace their feelings before the lecture began. 

Goldenberg went on to explain the physical voice mechanism, and how “singing releases endorphins, the feel-good channels. And lowers levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.” He discussed research that indicates that singing induces circulatory changes through rhythmic breathing which lowers blood pressure; helps COPD sufferers by teaching them how to breathe more deeply; encourages non-verbal autism patients to vocalize more; reduces snoring in sleep apnea patients; and strengthens the immune system by increasing Immunoglobulin A. Other studies show that singing also benefits patients with dementia whose cognitive function is decaying. “Singing gives them a sense of well-being, a closeness to caregivers, and helps with memory,” he explained. 

Goldenbergs with scholarship recipients
The Goldenbergs with recipients of the Ellie Goldenberg Memorial Scholarship. Photo: Julia D. Berg/University of Miami

The family then presented the Ellie Goldenberg Memorial Scholarship to two “theater arts rising stars,” Nick McCarthy and Devin Cherry, who are currently starring in the Ring Theatre's production of "The School of Lies." Both seniors, the actors “embody talent, dedication, work ethic, and also strive to build and lift up relationships, like Ellie did,” said her sister, Dana Goldenberg. 

“For those who shared the stage with her, loved her, admired her, I know you share our grief,” she continued. “Ellie was a beautiful human, and a beautiful soul. We spoke four times a day, and she always had nice things to say about her fellow students such as ‘I’m really proud of his progress,’ or ‘she’s really improving.’ Remember to encourage your friends,” said Dana Goldenberg. 

“Ellie was one of the best people I was privileged to know. Her heart was the biggest in the room,” McCarthy reflected. “She was always there to congratulate you after the show. Or, there when you fell—and brushed you off and helped you get back in the game. I’m so honored with this scholarship, because someone saw a glint of Ellie’s spirit in me.” 

Cherry said she was a freshman when she met Ellie, by then a senior, and worked with her on the production, Of Thee I Sing

“She took me under her wing. Her encouraging words gave me so much confidence. We had goofy times in the dressing room, and I will always remember her advice to ‘Live in the moment, you’ll never get the same one again. Stop worrying about your future.’ Her words inspire me to work harder. I carry her in my heart now and forever,” she said. 

Since the accident, Ellie’s parents have worked hard to try to help prevent other boat tragedies in the State of Florida. They were able to get a new “Ellie’s Law” signed into law in March 2018, which beginning in July 2019 will require air boat drivers to receive new training, including CPR training. 

To make a donation in honor of Ellie Goldenberg, B.F.A. ’17, please visit advancement.miami.edu.