Writer / Lynda Hedberg Thies
English speakers borrowed the Italian noun virtuoso in the 1600s. It comes in turn from the Italian adjective virtuoso, which means both “virtuous” and “skilled.” Steve Goodman is all that and more.
The classically trained violinist has spent the better part of four decades honing his art, performing and touring extensively throughout Europe. Goodman’s resume is quite long and impressive. An adopted Hoosier for the past 20 years, Goodman moved here for work and whether he intended to stay or not, it was an unexpected career opportunity that will inspire the next generation of young Hoosier musicians.
Born in south central Los Angeles, Goodman began taking his first violin lessons at the age of six along with his two brothers. His talent was undeniable and he eventually earned an invitation that would make him the youngest member of the Los Angeles Junior Philharmonic Orchestra and allow him to further his training at the Interlochen International Arts Academy at the University of Michigan. And yet for all that formal training with orchestral and jazz music, the naturally quiet unassuming violinist was inspired by a wide range of musical genres that would open many doors throughout his career.
After completing his studies at Interlochen, Goodman returned to Los Angeles and toured with a couple of bands, one was a punk rock band, called Fingers and Breath.
“I had a purple Mohawk and zebra pants,” he says with a chuckle.
He also started an Avant-garde jazz band called Van Gogh’s Ear and was actively working in the L.A. music scene for years. Goodman’s training did not define him, his love for all types of music did and it lead to an incredible career that this virtuoso violinist will tell you he is still learning, growing and excited about the future.
At some point, Goodman crossed paths with Dale Hoskins, a famous guitarist in L.A. that he hired to perform in one of his bands. Hoskins toured with another band called Flame Dream, which was the opening band for Genesis, the popular 1970’s band that started out as a folk band with famous vocalists, Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel before turning to pop music by the end of the decade.
Hoskins was friends with members of the Italian-French folk group called, Al Pesto, the most famous band in Europe, and introduced Goodman. The chance meeting led to an invitation to join the group in Switzerland.
With four hundred dollars in his pocket, he booked a one-way flight to Switzerland and just two days after arriving, he went on tour. Al Pesto played for the President of the country, opened the Lucerne Train Station and was the premiere band in Europe. They even played at the Rose Bowl. The group was on television, radio and the news at least once a week.
“The most surreal moment for me was when I returned from a trip to L.A., I was riding in a taxi, our new album was out, the taxi passed an apartment with the window open and our music was playing,” Goodman says.
Shortly after that, Goodman recorded his first jazz CD. He performed in Santa Barbara and Long Beach, California, Los Angeles, New York, Berlin and Italy at jazz festivals and concerts. He later founded an Avant-garde group called PaGO LiBre. With members from both sides of the Atlantic, the group did not perform together very often but recorded an album with an Italian Jazz label Splasc(h).
Goodman left shortly thereafter to return to L.A. where he was contracted by Warner Brothers to do a Frank Sinatra two-part mini-series. Goodman experienced it all, press conferences, tours, television appearances, his music playing on the radio, news stories about his performances, music awards and more.
His international travels opened the world of folk music, he wrote musical, theatrical, electric violin to play music from Led Zeppelin, classic orchestral music or the music you will hear with the Dukes of Django, gypsy jazz. Goodman’s vast taste in music was influenced by more than just the Bach and Mozart, claiming Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath as important influences.
Eventually, his work led him to Indianapolis two decades ago. He’s since played shows around Indy and Broad Ripple, including at the Petite Chou Bistro & Champagne Bar.
Ten years into living and working in Indianapolis, he received two seemingly random phone calls in one day from Perry Meridian and Cathedral High School both wanting him to apply for the job openings running their school orchestras. Without hesitating, he vividly remembers saying to both, “Thanks but I don’t really want the job.” He said, he thought to himself, “I have been a freelance concert violinist my whole life, I don’t want to teach.”
But then Goodman recalled a conversation decades earlier with one of his former teacher’s recommendations that at some point he needed to teach.
So, he applied for the jobs and became the Director of the Orchestra and Jazz Ensembles at Cathedral High School. Three weeks after starting in the position, he recalled leaving the school after a particularly positive rehearsal with both the orchestra and the jazz group.
“I had a moment of divine providence when I realized my teacher was right the whole time, and I realized I am home,” Goodman says.
Goodman’s passion for teaching expanded to more work with youth as the Vice President and Artistic Director of the Symphonic Youth Orchestra. And that is the way his career has gone, doors opening at just the right time.
Goodman also works at three other area junior highs and high schools in addition to Cathedral. He most recently became the newest staff member of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra (MCO) as a private instructor.
The at-risk youth music program is offered through the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Goodman’s passion for working with young people is evident.
“If anyone would like to donate instruments or financially support this music program for at-risk youth, please visit the website it is a great and worthwhile program,” he says.
Visit indianapolissymphony.org/education/myo for more information.