At 24, rising star violinist Randall Goosby has two passions, his family and his music, though sometimes making a distinction between the two isn’t easy.
What also wasn’t easy was finding time for an interview. Mr. Goosby spoke to the Reporter this past week soon after he performed at Shelter Island’s Perlman Music Program Chamber Music Workshop on June 27, two days after Decca released his first album, “Roots.” He was spending some time with his family, he said, before launching into a busy summer schedule. On the album is a track called “Shelter Island,” a lyrical, haunting tribute to the Island that, once heard, will stay with you.
Born in San Diego in 1996, Mr. Goosby and his family moved to Philadelphia, then Jacksonville, Fla. before settling in what he considers his hometown of Memphis, Tenn. The oldest of three children, his parents saw to it that they all took piano lessons from an early age, in spite of the fact that Mr. Goosby had already been “captivated” by the violin. His parents eventually gave in and he began seriously studying his beloved instrument, even though at first he admits it may have “sounded like a dying cat.”
By 13, he became the youngest winner of the prestigious Sphinx Competition, sponsored by the Detroit-based national organization with a mission statement that says it’s “dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.” In 2011, Mr. Goosby was brought to Shelter Island for the first time by his mentor, Itzhak Perlman, to study for six weeks at the Perlman Music Program (PMP).
Mr. Goosby said he “fell in love with the Island on arrival” since it looked to him like a “gorgeous little slice of paradise.” His first experience at the camp became, in fact, life-changing. “It wasn’t just playing the music, learning my instrument,” he said, “but what happens when you’re with other people who are equally passionate about music — the creative collaboration, the exchanging of ideas was a turning point for me.”
A decade later, in “Roots,” Mr. Goosby pays homage to composers and musicians who have influenced him, including Florence Price, Gershwin and Dvorak (whose “Sonatina,” contains strong Native-American influences), but confirms that passion and collaboration continue to be at the heart of his music. That guiding principle is illustrated by his personal and professional relationship with Xavier Dubois Foley, the bassist on the album.
The two met when they were teenagers competing at the Sphinx Competition and met again at PMP on the Island for those seminal six weeks. Mr. Goosby had been “dumbfounded” by Foley’s skill on the bass. “Until I heard him I never considered the bass to be a rhapsodic, virtuoso instrument,” he said.
Years later, he would commission Mr. Foley to compose the piece that would come to be called “Shelter Island,” and to perform it with him on the album, a perfect example of the kind of creative collaboration that excites and inspires him.
Mr. Goosby spent at least half of the interview talking about his family. He spoke of his parents, each talented in their own right, who have been dedicated to keeping their children as “normal kids,” on a creative but even keel. He spoke of his sister, Gina, 22, who is currently turning her love of language and literature in “an entrepreneurial direction,” while Miles, 20, a gifted cellist, is studying at the Manhattan School of Music.
Recently Mr. Goosby has developed another, unexpected passion: golf. He’s always loved and participated in sports, including basketball and football, but made fun of his mother when she took up golf to compensate for her newly empty nest. She challenged her son to try the game and the die was cast.
He pointed out how any sport, but especially golf, overlaps with music. “In both cases it has to do with the pursuit of mastery over the instrument, golf club or violin, and it’s a life-long journey,” he said.
While he was here this summer, he played at Shelter Island Country Club’s nine holes at Goat Hill for the views and relaxation, but admits that his “mouth watered” when he saw Gardiner’s Bay Country Club from a distance.
“I just didn’t know anybody who was a member,” he said, and was told not to worry, someone would be ready to step up and invite him.