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Rob Bamberger’s interest in vintage jazz and swing began in 1963 at an elementary school book fair in Shaker Heights, Ohio, where he picked over the remainders on the record table after the crowd had dispersed. There, he found a two-record set from RCA Victor of broadcast performances by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. That fateful acquisition, which cost him a dime, launched a consuming and scholarly interest in American music of the '20s, '30s, and '40s. It also became the cornerstone of a record collection which overwhelms his basement, his laundry room, and threatens to creep up the stairs of the Arlington home he shares with his wife, Chris.
Rob came to WAMU 88.5 as a volunteer in 1978, when he presented the first of several features on jazz performers during the show’s morning news show, Morning Line. WAMU 88.5 has become an important part of his life, for, as he puts it, "there are virtually no places left on radio where someone like me is given three hours weekly to program music free of focus-group driven playlists, and to present it as I hope works best for listeners and artists who might otherwise be totally forgotten."
Weekly, Rob posts program notes alerting listeners where they can acquire most of the music featured on Hot Jazz Saturday Night: "It's important to me for people to know that they can have this same music on their own shelves at home."
Formerly an energy policy specialist with the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service, Rob was occasionally recruited by the Library’s Recorded Sound and Music divisions to assist with the acquisition of some major jazz record collections, as well as the collection of jazz photographs taken by William Gottlieb. Rob was also detailed to the National Recording Preservation Board to be the lead author of a Congressionally-mandated study on recorded sound preservation. Published in 2010, the study was the basis for development of a National Plan for Recorded Sound Preservation released in 2013. After leaving the Library in 2010, Rob earned a master’s degree in social work and continues to pursue this new career.
Like some of his colleagues, Rob has written the notes for more than two dozen CDs on a wide range of themes and performers, including the Boswell Sisters, World War II love songs, Duke Ellington, Ina Ray Hutton, and the Ozzie Nelson Orchestra. He's given talks on an equally varied selection of topics before audiences at the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the Cosmos, Maryland and University Clubs. Subjects have included the history of repertory jazz, jazz in Paris between the wars, and the meeting of jazz and third stream in the music of Hoagy Carmichael and Bix Beiderbecke.