People in the News

Caroline Goulding: New Artist of the Month

December 3, 2009 | By Donald Rosenberg
CLEVELAND – Listening to violinist Caroline Goulding’s new solo disc on Telarc, you might think she was an artist with extensive seasoning. In several crucial ways, she is. She’s performed concertos with major orchestras, appeared on national radio and television shows and collaborated with some of the world’s most esteemed artists. Last night, Goulding’s new disc was nominated for a Grammy award in the Best Instrumental Soloist Performance Category.

It’s almost hard to reconcile all that accomplishment, sensitivity and expressive musicality with the fact that the diminutive violinist is all of 17. Last month, she was the youngest of four first-prize winners in the 2009 Young Concert Artists International Auditions. "It means I’m beginning a new chapter in my life," she says of her proud accomplishment. "Christopher O’Riley, a YCA alum, recommended that I audition. I feel very honored to be a second-generation winner."

Goulding’s confidence, humility and girlish enthusiasm – not to mention her violin chops – have served her especially well in the four years since she began to emerge as a sensationally gifted musician. O’Riley, the pianist who hosts NPR’s popular “From the Top” program, first recognized her talent in 2006, when he invited the 13-year-old to team with banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck. “Caroline is not only a completely amazing and beautiful player on the violin, but she also has great leadership qualities,” O’Riley told me soon thereafter. “And she’s totally friendly.”

I first began to notice her in Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra concerts at Severance Hall. Sitting at the front of the first-violin section, she was usually one of the first players onstage, preparing herself musically, psychologically. Others noticed, too. She was 13 when she performed Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Cleveland Women’s Orchestra at Severance Hall. The same week, also at Severance, she made her debut with the hall’s titanic resident, the Cleveland Orchestra, playing the first movement of Lalo’s “Symphonie Espagnole.”

Goulding described that experience on her blog: “As the bow hairs whisked the string on the first note, I felt an immediate burst of energy, and knew right then that this performance was going to be an artistic stepping stone in my life. Maybe the ambiance was just right, or the vibes I sensed from the orchestra members at that instant were in sync with mine. Whatever it was, it made me a dutiful believer and appreciator of the power of music.”

Growing up in a suburb of Detroit, Goulding first took up violin at age three-and-a-half; she began studies with Julia Kurtyka at age seven and became a student of Paul Kantor at the University of Michigan when she was ten. When Kantor was whisked away by the Cleveland Institute of Music in 2004, Goulding moved to Cleveland Heights with her parents, who quit their jobs as special-education teachers to allow their daughter to follow her own teacher.

Kantor reports that he had to be convinced when Goulding first entered his studio. “Violin dealers get calls all the time about an instrument in the attic that’s a Stradivarius. Violin teachers get calls from parents that their child is a prodigy like Jascha Heifetz,” he said in 2006. “The first time I met Caroline, I thought she was really cute.” But he quickly learned she was more than that. “There was something quite magical about the sound she produced.”

As can be heard on her new CD of American works, Kreisler miniatures and Cape Breton fiddling pieces, Goulding blends tonal radiance and shapely phrasing with sheer virtuosic panache. It doesn’t hurt that the instrument in her hands is the “ex Lobkovicz” Amati, dating from 1617. She received the violin on extended loan from the Stradivari Society of Chicago when she was 13. “I played my recital program for them. I came home with a violin. It was surreal.”

What is also surreal to the high-spirited 17-year-old, a first-year student at the Cleveland Institute of Music, is being on the cover of the December issue of Strings. “Playing this piece is one of the most rewarding and exciting performing experiences,” she writes in her article about the Korngold Violin Concerto. “The lyrical phrase throughout the first and second movements compel me to become absorbed in the very core of my sound….” She goes on to explain how she first heard the piece because she forgot to turn off her iPod after listening to Gil Shaham and the London Symphony perform the Barber Violin Concerto. “After a brief pause, a new work began that was entirely unfamiliar…I was swept away….I became compelled to listen to the entire piece.” Upon finding out what it was, she ordered the music and learned it, last summer.

Like many of today’s young artists, Goulding’s musical tastes are fairly broad -- there’s more than Barber and Korngold on her iPod. Joining Glenn Gould are the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Norah Jones and Miles Davis. “I like soothing music,” she says. As to the future, Juilliard awaits. With whom will she study? “That’s a good question. It’s up in the air right now. But I’m definitely headed to New York.”



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