Pianist Stewart Goodyear has a big day tomorrow. As part of the Recital Series, the classical music brainchild of the nonprofit AT&T Performing Arts Center, Goodyear will play ten hours of Beethoven sonatas in what is being dubbed “The Sonatathon.” But before this feat of artistic endurance, the Center coordinated a visit to Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, where he and Katie Womack, the classical music critic for D Magazine, led a discussion among music students. Here are the Center’s favorite tidbits from the day.
The best advice given to Goodyear as a young musicians was: “On stage, be a god. Off stage, be a mortal.”
As far as his advice for young artists, Goodyear had three bits of wisdom to impart.
- Study the business as well as your art.
- Never stop creating or thinking out of the box.
- Do something that really speaks to you and not because it’s a job.
Goodyear chooses to play all the sonatas in one day to provide a different lens on Beethoven. He says, “It’s so interesting when audience members tell me they’ve never heard that side of Beethoven: the humorous side or the very vulnerable side. There are a lot of sides that hardly get showcased when programming Beethoven. That’s one of the reasons I always wanted to do it in one suite; you get so many layers of humanity in the Sonatathon.”
When not practicing his Sonatas, Goodyear is jamming out to Kendrick Lamar.
The first piano sonata that Goodyear composed was inspired by the music he heard at his high school prom. In the first movement, he uses music you can jump up and dance to, while the second features a ballad and the third is “the craziest,” mirroring where his prom was held: Times Square in New York City.
Goodyear uses the Rolling Stones and James Brown to pump him up. In between performance breaks, Goodyear plays James Brown (who he calls Vitamin JB) or watches live shows of The Rolling Stones, particularly the concert at Hyde Park in 1969 where Jagger goes “absolutely crazy.”
Stewart Goodyear knows how to have a good time with his music. The students from Booker T. asked Goodyear for some fun pop favorites, and he treated them with music from the original Super Mario Brothers (levels one and two), Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the Star Wars theme song, just to name a few.
When composing, Goodyear is a big fan of Calypso. Goodyear, who is half Trinidadian, became enamored with the Calypso music native to his heritage. In fact, he utilizes Calypso “quite a lot” whenever he composes.
Stewart Goodyear’s favorite work is Suite No. 2, a composition for two pianos by Sergei Rachmaninoff.
Given the choice to learn with any piano teacher, Goodyear picks jazz pianist Art Tatum. Goodyear tells the students that Tatum has “fingers like rockets.”
Throughout the discussion, Goodyear took the time to play for students in an extemporaneous but still amazing display of his talent. Moderator Katie Womack ended the day with some solid advice to the Booker T. students about the Sonatathon. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. You don’t want to miss this.”