Having a father who’s a scientist and a mother who was an interior designer for many notable Hollywood clients, it’s no wonder that Jason Greenberg, Art Department Assistant, has a perfect combination of artistic talent and top-notch organizational and planning skills. And even though as a kid he dreamed of being a jet fighter pilot thanks to watching Robotech and science fiction films, his interests fortuitously turned toward music.
“Once I started playing guitar and had been in a few bands I really wanted to do music, and in high school I wanted to be a rock star,” he says. “Although that never became a career for me, I did just recently put out an album of my original music in December 2022 for my band Arcane Lullaby. The album is called Arcane Lullaby Innermost Seer. I wrote all the music and lyrics, played the guitar, bass, keyboards, and did a lot of the recording, editing and producing of the album (with help from others as well). That was a very challenging and fulfilling project but it was a huge investment in time and money that I am sure I will never recoup the costs of, so that is a passion, not a living. I enjoy having a ‘day job’ here at UCSC and have loved working in the Art Department. In my free time I can play music and make art.”
Before he was born, Jason’s parents were photographers working at Environmental Communications in Venice, California, traveling around the United States to shoot images for educational slide sets that were then sold to schools. Soon after, they moved to London so that his father could earn his Ph.D. in biology at University College London, and Jason was born while they were there. Four years later the family returned to Los Angeles where Jason eventually attended Alexander Hamilton High School, a music magnet school, and studied art and music, including taking lessons in piano, clarinet, oil painting, printmaking and drawing.
“My parents had many artist friends. I grew up in LA in the 1980s and I would get taken out to art openings on a regular basis from an early age,” he says. “I started drawing when I was a toddler and between the ages of 10 and 23, I always had a sketch pad on me wherever I went. I started playing guitar on my 12th birthday in December 1988 and studied with several great teachers for several years. I had my first band in the 7th grade and have been in bands on and off ever since.”
And when his parents became interested in Zen Buddhism, Jason also decided to look more deeply into the practice. “My dad’s side of the family is Jewish and my mom’s side of the family is Catholic, but both my parents got into Zen Buddhism. I ended up becoming a Buddhist in the Tibetan traditions after college and have been practicing daily since 2001 and studying regularly. Although my parents divorced when I was in elementary school, they were amicable and so I got to live with both of them going back and forth. While my father continued his career as a scientist, my mother put herself through school to become an interior designer and was self-employed for the majority of her life as a successful independent professional with many famous clients in Hollywood including actors, musicians, artists, writers, directors and producers.”
When it came time to decide on where to attend college, Jason chose UC Santa Cruz with the hope of majoring in art. However, like many parents whose children want to pursue an artistic career, Jason’s father insisted that he study something “more serious” which turned out to be environmental studies. Jason also enrolled in a variety of electives but had always wished that he had majored in music, seeing how much fun his friends in the Music Department were having.
After he graduated from UCSC, he missed the beauty of the campus and decided to return, getting a job working in the Academic Senate for a couple of years before landing in the Art Department. “The environment here is truly special with the combination of redwood forests, sprawling meadows, unique architecture, and views of the ocean,” he says. “I have lived in Santa Cruz and worked at UCSC longer than anywhere else so it feels like home to me. The people here are inspiring as well – students, faculty, staff, and visitors – and the UCSC principles of community help to make it a safe and harmonious place to be. But what has really made it a pleasure to work in the Art Department the most has been having an amazing supervisor who leads with integrity and really cares about the department, students, staff and faculty. Hannah Pederson, the manager of the Art Department, has been the best supervisor I have ever had which makes it a pleasure to work here. Being treated with respect, trust, honesty, and clear communication makes all the difference in the world.”
Besides music and art, Jason loves being a dad to his 18-year-old son and spending time with his girlfriend, Keslie. He also continues to create music with his band, paints abstracts, and is still engaged in Buddhist studies.
“Life has its ups and downs but there are so many amazing and wonderful things in this seemingly crazy world that are worth enjoying,” he observes. “We are all in this life together, so the more we can help each other and refrain from harm, the better. We all are prone to mistakes and there are plenty of opportunities to learn and grow. Working at UCSC we can help students find their joy and meaning in life and pursue their dreams while also supporting the other staff and faculty here as well….UCSC is a unique and wonderful place.”