Arts and Entertainment

Randall Goosby: A Man on a Musical Mission

An interview with violinist Randall Goosby, an up-and-coming musician aiming to diversify audiences of classical music.

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Whenever someone mentions a classical music concert, our minds go straight to stuffy rich people in suits talking about hour-long symphonies or cracking viola jokes. Unfortunately, this preconceived notion limits the classical music world to the elites. To escape these restraints, musicians have been working to diversify their repertoires and audiences. This is exactly what young violinist Randall Goosby strives to achieve.

Born in San Diego, California, Goosby started his career early at the age of nine with his solo debut alongside the Jacksonville Symphony. In his youth, he was part of the non-profit Sphinx Organization, a platform for young Black and Latinx musicians to perform works by underrepresented composers. This experience planted the seed for his musical mission to diversify classical music audiences. By age 15, he was studying with Itzhak Perlman and Catherine Cho at the prestigious Juilliard School, proving his devotion to the field. He even flew between Memphis and New York for three-hour lessons every week. “It was a pretty intense time,” Goosby said in an interview with The Spectator, “but I started to build such an incredible community in New York.” Since then, the New York-based soloist has performed with prominent orchestras in Los Angeles, Cleveland, and London—on track to rise to the top of the classical music world.

When asked about how he creates his interpretations of music pieces, Goosby said, “I think that, in a lot of ways, the music that you grow up with sort of subconsciously influences the way that you eventually want to hear things for yourself.” His exposure to vocal music in his youth led him to explore the relationship between the human voice and the instrument. “When you have a tune stuck in your head, without you knowing it, you’re doing all these little things with phrasing and nuance with colors.” He joked, “it might not sound so pretty, but you’re imagining things for yourself.”

Goosby’s expressive and lyrical violin playing echoes his philosophy that playing an instrument brings out the inner singer in all musicians. Goosby cites the environment he grew up in as the largest influence on his understanding of classical music today, and emphasizes that incorporating one’s background into their music not only distinguishes but also enhances their artistry. Each musician can bring very different interpretations to pieces that have been performed for hundreds of years.

Goosby’s musical mission is to broaden the scope of what classical music represents, diversifying both the composers behind the music he plays and the audiences who tune in. His 2021 debut album, “Roots,” celebrates underrepresented composers, such as Florence Price and William Grant Still, and the impact they had on classical music as a whole. He dedicates much of his time to spreading the joy of classical music through nonprofit organizations. These projects include “Concerts in Motion” (a series of concerts in senior homes), “Project: Music Heals Us” (a series of virtual performances during the pandemic), and “Opportunity Music Project” (a program that offers instruments and lessons to youth in underserved communities). While showcasing a diverse range of composers is a good start at broadening the scope of classical music, there is still more work to be done. Goosby said, “We need to be highlighting composers from different backgrounds, but on the other hand, I’d love to see the audience for classical music grow in diversity.”

When Goosby first set out to do outreach concerts at elementary schools, he didn’t know what to expect, so he was pleasantly surprised to see jaws on the floor. “I would look out and I would notice that the kids were really excited,” he explained. “They had never seen a classical violin performance before…It’s not like this inherently niche or not cool thing.” He believes that the best way to inspire a passion for classical music is by “just giving kids a chance to see it, hear it, and experience it.”

The timeless nature of classical music makes it all the more important for it to evolve with the world we live in. Without active efforts to advance representation and offer more widespread opportunities, the world of classical music stagnates. Randall Goosby is a leading example of what classical music should strive to be. “Growing the amount of young people and the amount of young communities where classical music is an option or a choice could really serve to benefit the greater good for the next generation,” Goosby said. “Everyone has something very special to offer to the world. It’s really important that we all take the time and the opportunity to see, learn about, and explore these gifts together.”