Standing atop a wide stage in London with a full orchestra to her back and a large, well-groomed audience to her front, 19-year-old violinist Caroline Goulding drew her bow and dropped into an 18th century violin solo, a piece of music so complex and so rigid that it requires nothing less than virtuosic talent. She nailed it, flawlessly and with grace, finishing the piece and then taking a curtsey. The delirious audience erupted as she strode off stage.
Later that day, she boarded a plane and flew home to Boston, where early the next morning, she grabbed a nap before heading off to train at the prestigious New England Conservatory. As she walked home from class through the frigid Northeast air, she spoke with Boise Weekly about the life of a young virtuoso.
"Right before you walk on stage, you get a feeling that's like going uphill on a rollercoaster," said Goulding. "And then when you walk on stage, that's basically like the descent--that's where you start falling. So you have all this tension built up beforehand ... Then once onstage, it's really special. The nerves go away and it becomes kind of like a spiritual experience, and you don't really think."
The first time Goulding picked up a violin, she was just 3 years old. By age 13, she was picking up prestigious awards at renowned competitions. Now at 19, she already has performed with some of the most esteemed orchestras in the world, collaborated with some of the most prominent classical musicians, and made numerous appearances on national radio and television shows all under her tiny belt. This weekend, Goulding is scheduled to appear alongside Boise Philharmonic and its conductor Robert Franz at the Morrison Center.
"She and I first worked together about five years ago, and we did the same concerto that we'll be doing for this performance--Mozart's 'Violin Concerto No. 4,'" said Franz. "This is one of the most difficult Mozart concertos and a real tour de force for the violin."
Despite the difficulty of the piece, Franz has no doubt about Goulding's ability to deliver a precise performance.
"She has unbelievable poise about her," said Franz. "Caroline has this real sense of music-making that is incredibly subtle and well beyond her years. She's an old soul and has a real connection to the sound and the music. She's definitely not a violinist that just plays music; she's a great musician who happens to be a violinist."
Goulding was able to reach this level of musicianship and meet her list of accomplishments simply by following her talent and working hard at what she loves most.
"When I was really little, all I knew is that playing violin was just something that I loved doing," said Goulding. "I guess you could say I was aware that it wasn't a major struggle for me. I mean, of course, there were challenges, but I knew that I excelled at it enough to be able to do what I wanted to do. So, yeah, I guess it was fairly natural. There was never really one point where my parents woke up one day or I woke up one day and said, 'Oh my goodness, she's a virtuoso.' That just wasn't the case."
The ability to effortlessly flit about the fingerboard with accuracy while rapidly drawing the bow against the strings is one thing. Maintaining composure doing it in front of an audience with high expectations while still in your teens is another.
"At the point that you're on the stage, it should be automatic ...You shouldn't be thinking about what notes you're supposed to be playing, you should be thinking about the music and really enjoying the experience as you're playing."
Even though Goulding is a professional classical musician who can tackle some of the most difficult pieces ever composed, she's also a young woman trying to enjoy her youth just like any other 19-year-old.
"My friends and I love watching movies. We also like watching reruns of Seinfeld, and I've also been getting into Curb Your Enthusiasm lately--that show is so hilarious," explained Goulding. "We go to movies a lot and I really like art, so whenever I travel, I like to go to museums if I have time, and I like reading and food. I love food, oh my goodness, food is love for me."
As a young person, Goulding is usually in the minority at classical music events. Younger people typically don't enjoy a Brahms string quartet like they do a Lil' Wayne song. So part of Goulding's ambition is to appeal to the younger audience and divert them from the club and into the concert hall.
"Whenever I see young people in the audience, I'm very excited," said Goulding. "To make that happen, you have to perform in a way that's accessible to young audiences. It's all about adaptability and being able to share with other people and bring it to their attention in a way that they can relate to."
Another hurdle for Goulding is the transition from child star to mature professional. Goulding always wants to play, but at some point, the novelty will wear off and the only thing left will be her talent--luckily for her, she has that in spades.
"I'm still trying to figure that one out. I'll tell you when I get there," said Goulding with a laugh. "I'm in that transition right now, and I'm just thankful that I'm able to continue performing. I'm happy people have invited me back and want to continue to hear how I'm doing and how I'm developing, because right now, I'm still very much developing. I don't see myself as a child musician anymore--I'm maturing personally, and I hope I'm maturing musically. I think it's a lifelong process."[ Video is no longer available. ]