Label news: Decca signs ‘diversity champion’ violinist

Label news: Decca signs ‘diversity champion’ violinist


norman lebrecht

October 14, 2020

The US violinist Randall Goosby, 24, will perform works by William Grant Still and Florence Price on his Decca debut album next spring.

Dominic Fyfe, Label Director of Decca Classics, says, ‘Randall and I first met back in February 2019 and I have followed his development closely. It’s rare to find such a supremely eloquent player and an equally articulate advocate for the value of classical music. In his playing Randall looks back to a golden age of violin greats, as befits a student of Itzhak Perlman, and in his advocacy for music education, outreach and diversity he is a forward-looking ambassador for the future of our industry.’

The press release headlines him as a ‘champion of diversity in classical music’.


  • wtf says:

    Why do you have to call him a diversity champion? He is just a great violinist that happens to record Black composers….

    • Brian says:

      “The press release headlines him as a ‘champion of diversity in classical music’.” This is on Decca.

    • Rudiger says:

      “Diversity” is a big trigger. Likely going to get the trolls going soon.

      • John G. says:

        The “diversity” label might annoy or “tigger” some because its over use has become tediously banal and brain dead.

    • V. Lind says:

      You will see that the post refers to the term being used in the press release from Decca. Not what I read: a careful reading suggests that the term seems to me to originate with the person who posted a story on it:

      I hesitate to call Sharon Kelly a music journalist; she is more of a blogger, it seems.

    • Neowiser says:

      “He is just a great violinist that happens to record Black composers….“
      So in other words, he’s a diversity champion.

      • Why... says:

        No. He champions great American composers….The fact that they are black shouldn’t be a thing. Are people that champion Jewish American composers “diversity champions”?

        • zeno north says:

          But it IS a big thing. Black American “classical” composers have been grossly neglected until fairly recent years. It’s about time one of the big-name labels started releasing some of this music rather than it all appearing on independent (frequently artist-financed) labels.
          Goosby’s pretty darn good as well!

    • Lea Thornton says:

      Merit means NOTHING anymore; that’s why.

      I mistakenly thought black people were strong enough on their own to succeed without handouts from whites like the 90% white Decca executives. Apparently the “Executive Vice President, Chief People and Inclusion Officer” concocted this young man’s shameful dog-whistle.

      Frankly he’s nothing but a racist himself for only recording those within the confines of his own race. He just has no guidance and education to rely upon in order to grow up like a man.

      It’s too bad nobody cares about any other group of peoples beyond only “Black” today. Jews have been forgotten about too as far as who’s more oppressed by category. It’s quite revealing as to how many of these people must constantly use their color as a mere crutch and make themselves a victim to be worthy of marketing. Poor guy.

      • John Borstlap says:

        “Frankly he’s nothing but a racist himself for only recording those within the confines of his own race.”

        That is the irony of the BLM movement: in its justified reaction against discrimination, it turns racist as well.

        To draw-up a list about which minorities are the most suppressed, as if it were a competition, is crazy. And how much is a minority? What about the albinos in Central Africa, or the vegetarians in the megacities, or one-legged Chinese mathematicians? Is one person a minority?

        • E Tisdale says:

          “That is the irony of the BLM movement: in its ‘justified reaction’ against discrimination, it turns racist as well.” JB

          Your acceptance and championing of violence is troubling yet unsurprising by your normal ramblings. All the sweeter will Trump’s victory be for his second term. I hope you can still afford your safe space after being unemployed in your leftist utopia since you can’t afford to move in your condition.

      • jaypee says:

        Poor woman…

      • V. Lind says:

        Well, I can think of a few people who might disagree with your pathetic assessment of Itzhak Perlman and Juilliard. Who might even think this young man has had guidance and education aplenty. The people who lend out Guarneris seem to think he’s worth the loan.

        And here is a sampling of what he plays, off YT:

        Take your pick.

        It would seem to me that this talented and musically-experienced young man is in a good position to choose to record what he wants. As a rising African-American classical artist, he is well placed to promote work by African-American musicians. The range of his knowledge to date suggests that he can do so with musical discernment.

        Which is more than I can say for your racist and factually ignorant ravings. Not content with slagging off a young man because he is black, you fabricate a backstory that completely ignore his education, guidance and experience. You may be entitled to your own opinion, though I wonder, when it is so clearly based on prejudice, but you are not entitled to make up your own facts.

        People are constantly complaining about one artist after another recording the same-old same-old — well, here is one recording under-known works.

      • Bone says:


      • Adrienne says:

        I wouldn’t go as far as that, not even close, but I understand the frustration.

        I do agree with your second paragraph. I find many of these gestures patronising at best. An increasing number of these bien pensants seem to think that, if they see a black person on the concert platform, they can take comfort from the impression that the problems confronting black neighbourhoods are being addressed. They are not. A violinist is not even on the radar of the young men whose lives are being cut short – they don’t even listen to white pop music.

        Having said that, you need to remember that Mr Goosby is still very young. I see no reason why he should not have a very successful career ahead of him.

      • Bruce says:

        “Frankly he’s nothing but a racist himself for only recording those within the confines of his own race.”

        LOL. Very much like “Your intolerance of intolerance makes you intolerant! I win!”

      • Bruce says:

        “Frankly he’s nothing but a racist himself for only recording those within the confines of his own race.”

        Also, did you notice that in his video he’s playing Gershwin? Arranged by Heifetz?

    • William Safford says:

      Why do you have a problem with the concept of “diversity champion?”

      Why do you think that he “happens” to record Black composers?

  • yujafan says:

    Interesting, looking forward to hearing a young violinist give some under-performed composers some exposure.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    I look forward to hearing this. The Louis Kaufman recordings of William Grant Still’s music will always have a certain authenticity because of his personal contacts and friendship with the composer, and Kaufman was a ferociously talented violinist, but splendidly played as the Kaufman recordings are, those recordings are now over half a century old. There are other ways to play them I am sure.

  • M McAlpine says:

    So playing a work by a Jewish-American is ‘diversity’ ? ‘It ain’t necessarily so?’ But putting aside the idiotic and degrading publicity, I’m sure we wish the young man well for a brilliant career based on merit.

    • Evan C says:

      No. Most Jews are overwhelmingly white which gets them tossed in the “White” bin with all other obviously white ethnicities. Color overrides all else.

  • Jack says:

    Since George Floyd’s death, Sirius XM Symphony Hall has been playing Florence Price almost every day. Still and Dawson have been getting some airplay too.

    What I find odd is that Adolphus Hailstork remains on the shelf, even though he’s arguably the best known living African American composer.

    • Amazed says:

      It’s staggering that anyone is playing Florence Price. The woman worked hard and undoubtedly led a hard life, but she was an average church organist, not more. The music is completely mediocre, and there would be zero interest – as there rightly was, not even a year ago – were it not for the woke “BLM” brigade.

      • Graeme Hall says:

        Thank God it’s not just me who thinks this. Completely mediocre, highly derivative. As you say, a hard life and credit to her for achieving what she did, but pretending the music is anything special doesn’t do her any favours.

    • Patricia says:

      Floyd has nothing to do with it. Please let it go.

    • William Safford says:

      I must confess that I’d never heard of Hailstork. Having just listened to one of his works on YouTube, I’m about to order the sheet music for it.

  • John Borstlap says:

    The ‘value of classical music’ is NOT ‘diversity’. It is an art form entirely accessible to anybody with the attention and interest, needed to understand it and to enjoy its riches. But it is entirely colour blind and not related to any ethnicity.

    • Ellingtonia says:

      My god, I have just had to book a psychotherapy session as I find myself for the first time agreeing with Mr Borstlap.

      • Graeme Hall says:

        It happens to me from time to time, but it is very disconcerting when it does!

      • John Borstlap says:

        I know of a freudian psychiatrist in NY (the one who had treated Woody Allan in the eighties) who makes a living of desperate people consulting him because they have discovered they did agree with some opinion of mine. Another one in London had to triple his practice in Harley Street because of the number of patients bursting from his waiting room – which shows how disruptive understanding can be. Interestingly, psychotherapists in Germany only occasionally get anglo-saxon tourists knocking on their door who had by accident read a comment of mine on SD. As we know, in general, Germans have more understanding.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      John B, that is how it SHOULD be but is that how it IS? There are decision-makers, there are persons who act as filters before any music gets to us — symphony or opera company management; presenting organizations and their various “series'” admissions directors at music schools; A&R types at the record companies and the list goes on. If a person of racist (even if unconscious of it) tendencies has one of those posts, then things or people or pieces will be filtered, even if seemingly benignly. How can we say what pieces we have not heard, what performers were not engaged, what talents were not advanced or encouraged? We know what we know and we know those that have been played, engaged, encouraged. We like to think we make the decisions but we do not, not all of them.

      I do like this quote (by Hale Smith, a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music), found in the old Desto LP collection “Natalie Hinderas Plays Music of Black Composers.”

      “Place our music not on all-black programs. We can do that for ourselves, for the benefit of our own people. Place our work on programs with Beethoven, Mozart, Schoenberg, Copland and the current avant-gardists. We don’t even have to be called black. When we stand for our bows, that fact will become clear when it should: AFTER the work has made its own impact.”

      • John Borstlap says:

        Agreed with all of that, of course. I only wanted to make a distinction between the art form and how people who make the decisions treat other people, which is something different. If music becomes an instrument for social warfare, it is politicized, and we know from history how damaging that is. Racism sits in the mind of people and not in the music.

    • William Safford says:

      Huh? I think that many composers, if they were alive, would disagree with your opinion that classical music is not related to any “ethnicity.”

      The nationalism of the 19th and 20th centuries, whether progressive, neutral, or homicidal, bears the marks of ethnic thinking.

      For a progressive example, think of “Finlandia.” This is one example; many others are extant, many far less benign.

      This is not limited to the 19th and 20th centuries.

      As for color blind, I cannot speak for other countries, but in the U.S., classical music was most emphatically not color blind.

      Think of when Dvorak was in the U.S. He wanted to help Americans create an indigenous classical art form, based on “Negro” and “Indian” melodies. Dvorak was sincere, and he is deserved a lot of credit for his efforts. Alas, this wish was undermined by the racist and white supremacist forces in the U.S., both overt and covert.

      In the United States, many musicians’ unions are hyphenated, such as “AFM 60-471.” Why? Because most musicians’ unions were segregated, until the national forced the white locals to merge with the Black locals starting in the 1960s. The hyphenations are of the white and Black unions, respectively.

      I agree that classical music *should be* “an art form entirely accessible to anybody with the attention and interest, needed to understand it and to enjoy its riches.” This is a worthy goal. Let’s work towards it, but with eyes opened to reality and the facts behind a history that is anything but.

      • John Borstlap says:

        “The nationalism of the 19th and 20th centuries, whether progressive, neutral, or homicidal, bears the marks of ethnic thinking.”

        There is a difference between nationalism as an inspiration for a more national art, and ethnic thinking. A nation is not an ethnicity and where the two are mixed, we get the idiocy of German Jews who are forbidden to be German and thus have to be killed. A nation is something abstract, and an ethnicity is something concrete. Of course there are many people who don’t think so, but that does not mean that it isn’t true.

  • Charles Clark-Maxwell says:

    ==headlines him as a ‘champion of diversity in classical music’.

    No, the champions are the people who book him !

  • papageno says:

    As a member of the minority I, for one, would like to see more recordings /performances of neglected works by famous Western classical composers. (Bizet’s Ivan IV, Haydn’s violin/keyboard double concerto, Cherubini’s Requiem, etc. etc.)

    • John Borstlap says:

      Most of the time, programmers are only interested in the commercial side of concert life and prefer going for the safe which requires the least of work. For unknown works, form whatever period, there are aesthetic judgements to be made, more thinking about the programming, and extra work for the marketing and promotion department. One needs capable and intelligent programmers to make unusual programs work, and they are quite rare in music life. Read Norman’s books to find-out how that is possible.