Music

Chad Goodman started with the trumpet then the road led to conducting

Written By Sebastián Spreng
October 6, 2023 at 11:19 AM

Conductor Chad Goodman was a conducting fellow at New World Symphony. Now he’s artistic director of Miami’s Illuminarts and conductor of the Elgin (Illinois) Symphony Orchestra  (Photo courtesy of Jiyang Chen/Illuminarts)

It is “the” question that every new music graduate asks himself, the same one Chad Goodman raised in his book “You Earned a Music Degree. Now What?” the distressing abyss that opens above all recently graduated is especially pressing in every artistic discipline. In his case, both luck and perseverance have gone hand in hand. Entering a dialogue with the young conductor confirms his enthusiasm and contagious energy, removing all doubt that Goodman, in addition to honoring the meaning of his surname, embodies the optimistic message of the new generation.

As the world of music is also no stranger to the changes that happen without pause, we are witnessing the replacement of orchestral leaders who inevitably give way to young maestros.  Goodman competes with his peers in a race where the one who doesn’t risk doesn’t win.

Born in Baltimore in 1989, Goodman says “the music came through jazz. I wanted to play the trumpet like my father and grandfather. They gave me their instrument, and so it all began.”

At 13, he joined the Maryland Youth Symphony Orchestra, where, he says, Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” changed his life.

“The wonderful summer camps in Interlochen connected me to the world.” At Eastman, he followed his trumpet training ending in San Francisco, where Martin Seggelke, the director of the San Francisco Wind Ensemble, encouraged Goodman to look into orchestral conducting.

“He saw a capacity that I didn’t imagine.  He was right.” He founded the Elevate Ensemble, where he says he also had to learn the business side — how to do fundraising while establishing a composer’s program. “I see it as an essential mission of a conductor to stimulate and disseminate the composers of his own time . . . I ended up commissioning fifteen new works. Besides, being in the Bay Area was an ideal conjunction.”

Chad Goodman’s greatest ambition and dream is to become a conductor of a ‘great American orchestra,’ like his mentor Michael Tilson Thomas. (Photo courtesy of New World Symphony/IlluminArts)

That vertiginous roller coaster, in which he took every chance, paid off first as a cover and then as Assistant Conductor at the San Francisco Symphony, where he learned his trade alongside big names until the end of this first term. It was then he moved to Miami Beach as a Conducting Fellow at the New World Symphony.

Neither the threat of hurricanes nor the pandemic allowed Goodman to make the most of his time at the America Orchestral Academy.

“Only the privilege of sharing subscription concerts with star conductors brings an unparalleled experience, listening to their criticisms and enriching comments. Just being at rehearsals is invaluable. All of that, plus the formal training, is a possibility that only happens in the NWS. Imagine having the chance to conduct fourteen concerts in one season, a dream. To me, those four years seem more than eight in experience,” says Goodman. “At NWS, it was like arriving by bus and… getting on a jet airplane.”

At the end of his years with NWS in 2022, two big surprises awaited him. First, the prestigious Elgin Symphony Orchestra named him its fifth conductor in its seven decades of existence. The second was related to the Miami artistic environment as the artistic direction of Illuminarts, the fascinating Miami musical alternative created by mezzo-soprano Amanda Crider, now celebrating its tenth anniversary.

“I feel I have the best of two worlds — on the one hand, an orchestra that is a hotbed of talents and constantly visited by celebrities, taking advantage of its proximity to Chicago, and on the other, to continue in Miami in an organization that aims at various artistic disciplines based mainly on the musical side.”

The first program of IlluminArts’ 10th anniversary season will be at Vizcaya. “A place with a unique atmosphere,” he says, adding that last year, Illuminarts successfully performed Britten’s “The Turn of The Screw.”

On Saturday, Oct. 28, the musicians will perform “Songs of the Night” featuring baritone Jesse Blumberg. Goodman calls it “a compendium of gems” that includes Tchaikovsky’s “Souvenir de Florence,” songs by Samuel Barber and Gerald Finzi plus the magical “Fanfare for St. Edmundsbury” by Benjamin Britten.

“Imagine that on a full moon night. It is the ideal setting with a program in every sense related to its founder James Deering.”

That show is already sold out.

There are upcoming plans to work with galleries and museums including Oolite Arts. Goodman says the second concert will be at Miami’s LnS Gallery with a recital by Crider and baritone Keith Phares set for Friday, Nov. 17. Details will soon be announced, he says.

“Amanda started this incredible organization that deserves full recognition,” says Goodman.

About audiences’ response, Goodman says, “The secret is in how music is presented.” (Photo courtesy of Jiyang Chen/Illuminarts)

About the audience’s response, Goodman says, “The secret is in how music is presented.” And advice from Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT). “Much of his legacy is to have inspired so many communities, to have instilled in them their passion and commitment to music. He has transferred that responsibility to us. I immensely value his teaching and advice: ‘You are in the right place; keep working, study, and get ready because what is coming is intense. In the meantime, be patient and find your balance.’ Therefore, it is essential to maximize the time lived with music regardless of age; every hour spent with music counts.”

Goodman cites Ravel as his favorite composer, followed by Stravinsky and Sibelius. On a pedestal is Beethoven, to whom he feels “an inexplicable visceral connection.” Among his conductors, MTT has a preferential place much before the SFO and NWS “his connection and work with American music is extraordinary. I learned a lot also from Manfred Honeck and Susanna Mälkki. I admire those who, having reached the top, are still curious, researching, and studying, for instance, Herbert Blomstedt, who at age 96 continues to lead with the same passion of youth. And if I should choose from the past, definitely: Gustav Mahler. Closer, Carlos Kleiber  . . .I’m afraid that all conductors will say the same.”

If his greatest ambition and dream is “to become the conductor of a great American orchestra, like my mentor Michael Tilson Thomas,” yet Goodman is aware of the opportunity and challenge that constitutes a city like Miami, “which grows at an unstoppable pace but given its size it already needs more classical music, a great professional orchestra, more opera and much more, but… that’s what we are for.” It is, therefore, worth noting that an NWS alumnus now nurtures the community where he received his remarkable training.

When Goodman wrote his guidebook for graduates, perhaps, he didn’t realize that he would be the first beneficiary in applying his advice. The results are in sight, and that boy fascinated with Dvorak’s New World Symphony and who, paradoxically, graduated from the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, is today and, as Forbes magazine stated, “an entrepreneur who brings innovation to classical music.”

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com.

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