Prof Talk: Nanette Goldman, Classics

Goldman+has+performed+violin+in+a+variety+of+styles%2C+from+playing+Tchaikovsky+with+the+Bolshoi+Ballet+to+backing+Led+Zeppelin.+She%E2%80%99s+combining+her+musical+and+academic+expertise+to+teach+a+First+Year+Course+this+fall++about+opera+and+classical+themes.+Describing+the+class%2C+Goldman+said%2C+%E2%80%9CI%E2%80%99m+very+lucky%2C+because+I+love+Macalester+and+I+love+teaching+and+thinking+about+languages%2C+and+I+just+can%E2%80%99t+imagine+giving+up+either+one.%E2%80%9D

Goldman has performed violin in a variety of styles, from playing Tchaikovsky with the Bolshoi Ballet to backing Led Zeppelin. She’s combining her musical and academic expertise to teach a First Year Course this fall about opera and classical themes. Describing the class, Goldman said, “I’m very lucky, because I love Macalester and I love teaching and thinking about languages, and I just can’t imagine giving up either one.”

How did you get started with music?

Well, when I was a very young girl my mother said, “You should play an instrument.” I said, “Okay, sure Mom.” So when I was eight I started taking violin lessons. I just kept taking lessons all throughout high school, and was in orchestra in high school, and continued in college and graduate school and then became professional.

Goldman has performed violin in a variety of styles, from playing Tchaikovsky with the Bolshoi Ballet to backing Led Zeppelin. She’s combining her musical and academic expertise to teach a First Year Course this fall  about opera and classical themes. Describing the class, Goldman said, “I’m very lucky, because I love Macalester and I love teaching and thinking about languages, and I just can’t imagine giving up either one.”
Goldman has performed violin in a variety of styles, from playing Tchaikovsky with the Bolshoi Ballet to backing Led Zeppelin. She’s combining her musical and academic expertise to teach a First Year Course this fall about opera and classical themes. Describing the class, Goldman said, “I’m very lucky, because I love Macalester and I love teaching and thinking about languages, and I just can’t imagine giving up either one.”

How have you balanced your academic studies and your musical studies? How have they played off each other?

That’s a really good question. I think the best answer is that each one gives me a break from the other, and then I’m more refreshed to go back to working on scholarship, and then I’m ready to go practice and go play. It’s different parts of the brain, and it’s different parts of concentration. It keeps everything alive and vital.

Can you tell me about some standout musical experiences you’ve had?

Sure, I can, I thought you might ask. I’ve had a couple classical experiences that were really great that I don’t think will ever be topped. One of those was playing Tchaikovsky ballets with the Bolshoi Ballet from Russia, which was just really incredible. And then, on the popular side, playing with Led Zeppelin was a total blast. There have been a lot of great artists that I’ve worked with. Julie Andrews was really wonderful.

All of those must have such great stories behind them. Can you tell me about each of those experiences, and more if they come to mind?

Sure. Doing the Bolshoi Ballet and doing the traditional Russian Tchaikovsky music with Russian artists was just, you know, there’s nothing like it. Americans don’t do Russian ballet and Russian music the way Russians do. It was really difficult, really difficult. It was just an extreme experience of concentrating but giving that incredible voice of Russian music from the source. That was really great, I could have done that for the rest of my life.

When was this?

Oh, it must have been 10 years ago. And you know, playing with Led Zeppelin is just a blast. There you are in the Xcel Center, and everyone is screaming because they are such icons. That was really fun, to be up there doing a rock concert.

Which albums were you working with them on?

It was a tour, so they were doing all their stuff. “Kashmir” was a really fun one to do because it has a really prominent violin part, and we were doing their hits from their hey day.

What were these experiences like backstage?

Typical rock icons are kind of aloof, but Robert Plant was the hang-with-the-band type. When we did the Bolshoi we didn’t really see the stage or interact much with the dancers, but the music director was very lovely. He was really happy with the orchestra. I think he wouldn’t have been lovely if he hadn’t been happy with the orchestra, because he was very demanding.

You mentioned Julie Andrews?

She’s just the most gracious person in the world. It comes across in her stage presence; she is really that way, it’s not an act. And she’s very talented. Of course, she cant sing anymore but so this was quite a while ago before she stopped singing. It was really fun to see how true talents are the most gracious people in general. The ones who I think are kind of borderline talented or have a shtick, are often not as gracious.

Can you give me a few examples, or are those under lock and key?

I’ll do one, just because he’s dead: Ray Charles. I don’t think he was borderline talented—I think he was very talented—but his life was hard and he was just a jerk. So you know there are people out there who are like that.

It must be so interesting to be on both sides of the musical world, to be on the performing side, and to be in the audience. Has this changed how you listen to music?

Generally I don’t like to listen to music because I’d rather be playing it. I almost never go to concerts because it makes me itchy to get up there and perform. I would say I’m not a listener. I mean obviously I have to listen to music, because I had to listen to myself, but I almost never go to concerts. A lot of the time that’s because I don’t have time because I’m playing already, or it’s because it’s not relaxing.

Because you’re listening to it with a technical ear.

Right. It’s like “hmm, oh what are they doing there?” Mainly I wish I was up there doing that.

Have you had any experiences that combine music with what you’re teaching here in the Classics department, or are those worlds more separate?

Well they’re pretty separate, but since you asked, [this coming fall] I am teaching a First Year Course on opera and classical themes. It’s going to be really the first time that I’ve been at Macalester where I’ve been able to combine both of my loves, so I’m really excited about that. Hopefully, the students will have fun too. I’m really lucky that I can do both, it’s a great life that I have. I’m very lucky, because I love Macalester and I love teaching and thinking about languages, and I just can’t imagine giving up either one.