Randall Goosby: the rising star violinist on his hopes of bringing music to a wider audience


Between entries, curtsies, dramatic pauses, and other silent rituals of the concert stage, Randall Goosby reflects on what truly connects him to his audience. “I look at the audience I’ve been in front of and try to think of things that I have in common with them other than our interest in classical music,” he says. “There are probably few or none at all. And I wish there was a little more real community around this music and more knowledge that this music is really made by and for everyone. ‘

Goosby not only expresses his point of view as a Juilliard School-trained violinist who studied with Itzhak Perlman, performed at Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall, and plays on a loaned Guarneri del Gesù ‘Sennhauser’ from 1735. He is also the 24-year-old son of an African-American father and Korean mother, who enjoys video games, cross-training, the NBA, sushi, and hip-hop. He believes there is an audience that shares such passions that have escaped traditional concert halls. “As much as I like playing in large venues with large orchestras, I also want to put the same level of commitment into the performance and the interaction,” he says. It means “to be with members of communities who are not currently really part of this classical music community”.

Goosby regularly does outreach in urban classrooms, hospitals and community centers, his way of identifying himself is seen in the way he donned a T-shirt with former NBA star Dwyane Wade. . Amid the social justice protests that followed George Floyd’s murder, Goosby helped organize a series of online chats with prominent black musicians to discuss inequalities on the ground.

Randall Goosby’s first recording

With his first recording recently released on Decca Classics, Goosby says he seeks to “amplify the dark voices and the voices of those who have not had the chance to have their music heard and enjoyed in their lifetime.” Title Roots, the album features composers such as William Grant Still, Florence Award and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, as well as those inspired by African-American culture, including George gershwin and Antonin Dvořák.

Read our review of Randall Goosby’s roots here.

“When I was younger, I was very aware that I didn’t really want to be the black violinist who plays music by black composers,” Goosby says. “I am in love with Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, like so many other violinists and musicians. But especially in the last couple of years I have come to realize that there is a lot of other music that we don’t know which is also great.

The album features the first commercial recordings of three works by Florence Award, a pioneer whose music fell into disuse after her death in 1953. Goosby plays her Fantasies Nos 1 & 2 for violin and piano, with Worship, a miniature presented in an arrangement for violin and piano. Saved treasures have easy appeal, mixing European forms with the melodic timbre of African American Spirituals. More personal in meaning is Still’s 1943 Suite for Violin and Piano, nicknamed Mother and Child. “My mother played an important role in my childhood and in my development as a person, but also as a musician,” Goosby explains. “We didn’t really know what we were getting into when I first started playing the violin, but the piece always recalls the good times, the bad times, the head butt, the tears after a hard lesson and all the travel. “

Where does Randall Goosby come from?

Goosby’s parents met in Japan, where his Korean mother, Jiji, grew up and where his American father, Ralph, taught English in a postgraduate program. The couple moved to the United States and got married, before settling in Jacksonville, Florida to raise a family.

Growing up with a solid musical education in Japan, Jiji Kim-Goosby wanted his three children to have similar opportunities and each started on an instrument. Randall started playing the violin at the age of seven after deciding the piano was unsuitable. “In the first two years that I had a violin in my hands, I don’t think I put it down,” he recalls.

The young violinist progressed rapidly while studying with a teacher at Daytona Beach, making his orchestral debut with the Jacksonville Symphony at age nine. Two years later, he began to travel to New York once a month to take lessons with Philippe Quint. “My mom would sit there all the time, taking notes and recording on the camcorder,” Goosby says of the sessions. “I would go back to the hotel, practice a bit and come back on Sunday for another three hour class. And then we would fly home.

Jiji made sure his teenage son spent three hours a day playing the violin, sometimes close by with a kitchen timer or bribing him with sushi, his favorite dish. Soon other doors opened. Quint recommended him to the Perlman Music Program, a summer camp in Shelter Island, NY, run by the famous violinist and his wife, Toby Perlman. Goosby went on to study with Itzhak Perlman at the Juilliard Pre-College, a weekend program, before moving to New York and attending the conservatory full-time, earning both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees (he is currently pursuing a artist’s diploma at school). “A lot of what I remember getting from Mr. Perlman is that you have to be moved by this music in order to be able to move your audience,” Goosby explains. “It’s not that it was a new concept for me. But it wasn’t always a goal and he really changed that. His other teachers included Catherine Cho, Donald Weilerstein, and Laurie Smukler.

There were difficult times. During Goosby’s junior year, he was forced to cut back on his game for a semester as he recovered from tendonitis in his left shoulder. He admits that his video games also caused a certain lack of concentration. But he had already demonstrated a capacity for mental endurance and introspection, having won first prize at age 13 in the junior division of the Sphinx Competition, a competition for black and Latino string players held in Detroit. In 2018, he placed first at the Young Concert Artists auditions, a competition that features a management contract and recitals in New York and Washington, DC.

On his new recording, Goosby channels some of Perlman’s honeyed tone and rhapsodic phrasing into a set of transcriptions from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. “He’s a huge fan of this open-hearted, kinda cheesy music,” Goosby says with a chuckle. “That’s probably at least a small part of where I get my affinity for it.”


Another mentor is violinist Sanford Allen, the first black member of the New York Philharmonic, whom Goosby got to know through the Sphinx Organization. Goosby’s new album features Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s Blue shapes, a solo piece premiered by Allen in 1972. During a Zoom call, Allen advised Goosby to play it with the “throat” sound of a former blues singer. “He’s been a role model in a very different way than a lot of other violinists, simply because of the way his life and career have unfolded,” Goosby said.

Goosby praises Allen’s accomplishments, while acknowledging that progress is still needed. Allen joined the Philharmonic in 1962, but resigned in 1977, telling the New York Times that he “had had enough of being a symbol”. In the online music talk show, Basic location, Goosby himself recalled encountering race-insensitive comments from his fellow students. “I have been the butt of affirmative action jokes,” he said, alluding to remarks that his accomplishments were somehow not the product of hard work but of hard work. hidden favoritism. “This is something I think about constantly, not only in institutions, but in the field in general. He is particularly troubled by the symbolism, such as when an orchestra invites a black musician to perform at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day concert, but never as part of a traditional subscription program.

Yet he is largely optimistic. “Over the past year, there has been a real and substantial change in the focus of presenters,” he says. “Obviously, they try to keep the interests and tastes of their audience in mind. But they also ensure that their audiences have a chance to broaden their horizons and that their tastes are more inclusive as well.

Goosby’s upcoming concert schedule includes concertos by Mozart, Bruch and Knight of St. George, the latter with driver Gustav Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic: a large repertoire is clearly a priority. Less visibly, his manager tells me how Goosby speaks regularly to boards of directors and with major donors, understanding that in order to change classical music, you have to reach people at all levels.

Goosby attributes some of his outlook, including maintaining a community spirit, to his Japanese and Korean heritage. “One of the most important life lessons and mantras I have received from my mother is that if you put one hundred percent of your heart, mind, and effort into something that you love to do, it is going to pay for itself., ‘he said. “What you put comes back to you at some point down the road.”

Read everything Randall Goosby reviews here.

Randall Goosby’s new “Roots” recording is now available on Decca Classics.

Read our Randall Goosby’s “Roots” review here.

Top photo credit: Kaupo Kikkas


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