“My parents weren’t interested in classical music until I came into the picture,” Randall Goosby says on a Zoom call from New York, a pair of designer specs lending his GQ-ready charisma the studious air of a junior delegate to the U.N. His father, who is Black, had played trombone in his middle-school band. His Korean mother, raised in Japan, had taught herself English by singing pop songs and R&B in college. Yet she decided early on that a child needed an opportunity to express himself. “I’m going to force you to play music,” she told her seven-year-old, “but you can choose your instrument.” After a false start on the piano, Goosby switched to violin and was hooked, though dreams of stardom in football or basketball lingered for a long time.
At 24, the young virtuoso is heading into a breakout summer. Next week, Decca releases his debut album, Roots, which concentrates on Black American composers, male and female. Rounding out the program is a sonatina by Antonín Dvořák, written in New York City under the spell of American Indian melodies and the songs of enslaved Africans, plus concert arrangements of songs from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Throughout, Goosby combines technical assurance with an expressive freedom that lets the music speak as well as sing; in the Gershwin, the action of bow on string all but voices the words.