photographs by Larry Kuzniewski
Working in his Bartlett home, 15-year-old Randall Goosby looks serious, thoughtful. He’s practicing a new violin concerto, a piece that requires all of his concentration. In days, he’ll play the piece of music before the world’s top violinist, Itzhak Perlman.
Suddenly, the phone rings. Randall grins up at his mother, Jiji Goosby; real life often intrudes during practice. Nonetheless, he continues playing the first movement of Henri Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No. 2 while she tends to the phone call. While the acoustics in the family room aren’t ideal, the hours of practice have helped prepare him for performances at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.
Randall discovered violin at age 7 after finding piano wasn’t a fit. He learned via the Suzuki method and progressed rapidly. At age 9, he made his orchestral debut with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. After the Goosby family moved to Memphis, Randall won both the Memphis Youth Symphony’s Concerto Competition and Germantown Symphony’s Young Artist Concerto Competition.
Then other doors opened. At 13, he became the Junior Division winner of the 13th Annual Sphinx Competition in Detroit. Soon after, the New York Philharmonic invited him to appear at the prestigious Young People’s Concert series at Lincoln Center. Then there were two performances in the Sphinx Virtuosi at Carnegie Hall.
“The acoustics in Carnegie Hall are the best in the world. Just hearing your instrument’s sound come back to you is great,” he says with a grin.
Tucking his violin in a case, Randall says the recent concerto reminded him “of faces, things I did, places I went, and things I heard at Perlman Music Camp. Coming back to the real world is a step down,” he admits.
Randall is one of a handful of students who call Perlman teacher. Under his tutelage, Randall is pursuing his dream of becoming a professional violin soloist.
Each weekend, the teen travels to Perlman’s New York City home for his lessons. After impressing the maestro at his summer camp, Randall was invited to become a year-round student. “Mr. Perlman is fantastic,” he says. “He has so many experiences, not all of them related to playing, and uses so many analogies that help explain what he is trying to get across. We have worked on a lot of technical stuff, and now I’m looking forward to playing show pieces, the flashy stuff with crazy shifts and slides.”
He even stays with the family while in Manhattan, and joins them for their Shabbat dinners. In addition, Randall takes part in The Juilliard School’s pre-college program, receiving instruction from Catherine Cho, another acclaimed soloist. “I’m trying to figure out a way to graduate [high school] early so that I can get started at Juilliard and have more frequent lessons.”
Along with having extraordinary instruction, he plays an extraordinary violin. As the youngest current recipient of The Stradivari Society of Chicago, Randall is enjoying the loan of a 1590 Giovanni Paolo Maggini violin. “It’s a dream,” says Randall. “Older instruments are so sensitive. The sound is really rich and projects so well. Before I played on this, I had a $200 violin off E-Bay.”
Parents Jiji and Ralph do all they can to help their son pursue his dream. For several years, Randall has commuted to New York City at least once each month for lessons. His mother took notes and videotaped his sessions. He also practices four or five hours a night. Their son is undoubtedly gifted, notes Jiji, but she gives most of the credit to his passion and work ethic. “Talent is only 1 percent of success,” she says.
The couple’s other children are musical as well. Eleven-year-old Miles plays cello, and 13-year-old Gina plays flute.
This month, Randall performs with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra in the Classic Accents Series at Wiener Theatre on the campus of The Hutchison School. He will play spring and summer in Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. The performance takes place Friday, February 17th, at 7:30 p.m. "I know what I want to do for the rest of my life,” he says. “I’m lucky.”