A Lifelong Love

A Lifelong Love

Nineteen-year-old violin virtuoso Caroline Goulding shares the spotlight with the Pasadena Symphony

By Carl Kozlowski 01/10/2013

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While millions of 19-year-old American women prepare to party, go on dates or hit the town with friends this Saturday, Caroline Goulding will be getting ready to take the stage of Pasadena’s historic Ambassador Auditorium, where she’ll be doing something she has loved since she was 3: playing classical music on her violin.
 
This time, Goulding will be performing with the Pasadena Symphony, bringing Sibelius’ “Violin Concerto” to life during an evening that will also feature the ensemble playing Brahms’ “First Symphony” and Composer-in-Residence Peter Boyer’s new work, “Apollo.” 
 
The entire show will be stylishly guided by Conductor Tito Munoz, who last conducted the symphony in 2011 and inspired the Los Angeles Times to declare that he “struck fire” and “was imparting character into each phrase, getting dialogues going between instrumental groups” at that show. 
 
The symphony’s press release notes that Sibelius’ “Violin Concerto” “contrasts the dark, dreamy and reflective with an air of passionate urgency, gypsy dance and boundless virtuosity.” Speaking by phone from her home in Boston, where she still lives with her parents and siblings, Goulding sounded resoundingly upbeat. Hers was hardly the moody, overly serious persona that one might expect from such a young yet matured artist. 
 
“I could go on forever about why I love music and playing it,” says Goulding. “It’s when I’m onstage as a musician or performer, for me personally it’s a beautiful communal experience. It’s kind of a spiritual experience as well, experiencing the music along with the audience. I’m also presenting it to them, which is a very interesting difference between going to a live concert and listening to a recording. The beauty of a live performance is to gain this kind of communal experience.”
 
Although Goulding’s two older brothers played trumpet and saxophone when they were kids and haven’t become professional performers themselves, she credits their youthful interest in music with inspiring her own. She would grab their horns and fool around with them, leading her brothers to tell their mom to get her an instrument of her own. 
 
“They all thought it was cute, but I don’t know why I chose a violin,” she recalls. “Maybe I saw it in a cartoon and liked it. But I’m glad I did, and I really always enjoyed it from a young age. Of course, when I started I didn’t play it more than 15 minutes a day, but I soon realized that the only way to get better was to practice at it.” 
 
Goulding, whose youthful charm and bubbly personality shined through even on a cross-country phone call, managed to keep a balance in her life, rather than having it consumed by the instrument, because “I always believe firmly in quality over quantity, even with practice time,” she said.
 
“What is a normal life [for someone her age]?” Goulding asks with a laugh. “That’s what I ask. I’m a big foodie, I love good food, so often my pastimes are food. I’m a coffee snob, and I’ve become rather persnickety living in Boston these last couple of years. We go to great places to eat and I have a favorite café I go to every day for great coffee, right up my alley. I’ve also been watching a couple of TV shows while on my break, and am now hooked on ‘Downton Abbey’ and ‘Breaking Bad.’ I also love ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ and ‘House.’ I want to learn more about art and go to museums, too.”
 
While her performance Saturday marks her Pasadena debut, Goulding has managed to travel far and wide to cities that include Cleveland, Toronto and Dallas since turning professional a couple of years ago. She also already has her first Grammy nomination, having earned the honor when she was just 17, and has been profiled in magazines ranging from the upscale music journal Gramophone down through Cosmo Girl in addition to already winning the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant.  
 
Goulding currently attends the New England Conservatory of Music, near Boston, and studies under noted violinist Donald Wallerstein. Yet her performance schedule is picking up, with this month requiring her to travel all four weekends to shows, and she shows no signs of slowing down.
 
“I really enjoy traveling, because I love seeing new places and meeting new people, but my favorite part is to make music with different musicians all over the country and the world,” says Goulding. “I absolutely want to play for as long as I can, because it’s not a career; it’s my life and lifestyle.” 

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