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Violinist Randall Goosby: ‘It’s incredibly humbling for me to share these Black composers’ music’

3 June 2021, 15:37 | Updated: 4 June 2021, 12:26

By Rosie Pentreath

The rising star violinist speaks to Classic FM about his debut album, ‘Roots’, and what it means to be a Black artist championing works by diverse voices today.

“There really is no limit to the number of voices, and the number of stories and cultures, that can be part of the classical music canon,” violinist Randall Goosby tells Classic FM.

Speaking about his debut album, Roots, out this month on Decca Classics, the American violinist describes it as “humbling” to have the chance to champion diverse voices on his first-ever release.

Goosby adds that he hopes to challenge the traditionally Euro-centric classical music canon.

“It’s not nearly as diverse, inclusive and welcoming as it could be,” he says (watch above). “That was part of my mission with this album, and going forward with the rest of my work: to make it known that classical music really is for everyone and by everyone, and that everyone can find something in this incredible art form that they can relate to.”

Read more: Meet violinist Randall Goosby, the Perlman protégé set to inspire a generation

Roots is a collection of pieces composed or arranged for violin and piano, and double bass, recorded with pianist Zhu Wang and double bassist Xavier Dubois Foley, written by Black composers and inspired by Black American culture.

The album is a tribute to pioneering musicians who paved the way for Goosby and his generation of young artists, which also looks to the future with a specially commissioned work by New Jersey-based composer Xavier Dubois Foley.

“I felt it was a great opportunity to express my thanks and pay homage to just a few artists of colour who in my mind really paved the way for me to do what I do,” the violinist explains. “I also want to pave the way for other young musicians of colour to feel free and empowered to pursue a life and career in classical music without fear.”

He reflects on the experiences of Black composers featured on the album, including American symphonists William Grant Still, Florence Price, and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson.

“They had to navigate the classical music field as Black artists in a time when racism, segregation, discrimination and all of these things were nothing short of commonplace and, in many places, especially in the southern part of the United States, were welcomed,” Goosby says.

“Seeing and hearing how they were able to overcome those obstacles in such a powerful way, channelling their artistry, their voices and their experiences in some really gorgeous music… was a fantastic opportunity.”

Read more: The inspirational life of composer Florence Price – and why her story still matters today

Violinist Randall Goosby
Violinist Randall Goosby. Picture: Getty

Goosby reflects on the events of the past year dominated by the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, inseparable from the context of the album.

“We have had a very difficult year, but looking forward I think that the more empathy and understanding we can find for each other’s experiences and how we treat each other, really, is going to make all the difference going forward.”

He continues: “Not just in terms of classical music and making it a more successful art form and more inviting for everyone, but also in terms of a general sense of community – in the US and around the world.

“I think everybody needs a bit more connection these days, and I hope this album gives you a sense of that.”

Amen to that.

Roots is out on Decca Classics on Friday 25 June. Click here to pre-order now.