In 2020, at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, Juilliard-trained violinist Randall Goosby was developing the idea for his debut album. The resulting LP, Roots, is a celebration of the music of Black composers such as William Grant Still, Florence Price, and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, as well as those inspired by African American culture, including Gershwin and Dvořák, much of whose work is steeped in the musical language of spirituals. “To have the chance to dive into this music was a pretty healing process,” Goosby tells Apple Music. “I thought about the difficulties and the challenges that some of the composers on this album must have faced in the 1940s and ’50s and even farther back. And I couldn’t imagine the sorts of hurdles that they had to overcome.” The classical music world is at last waking up to a side of its heritage that has for too long gone unexplored, and Roots is pointing the way forward. There are no less than three world-premiere recordings of pieces by Florence Price alone. The first African American woman whose music was performed by a major symphony orchestra, she created works that blend spirituals and traditional classical form to mesmerizing effect. We also hear William Grant Still, a man right at the forefront of the Harlem Renaissance of the early 20th century, and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, whose boundary-crossing took him from arranging for Harry Belafonte to working with Igor Stravinsky, the influential Russian composer. And kicking off this wonderful album in equally irrepressible fashion is a brilliant duo for violin and cello by celebrated double bass player Xavier Dubois Foley, taking in jazz, bluegrass, hip-hop, Bach, and more. “I wanted to celebrate these composers’ lives and experiences, and obviously their music,” says Goosby. “But I also wanted to pay homage to them because, for me, they are the ones who have paved the way for me and other young artists of color to feel free and empowered to pursue a career, or a life in general, in classical music. This is just one small drop in the bucket, but a bucket that is slowly but surely filling up with different experiences, perspectives, and traditions. Hopefully, we can all come to appreciate and love each other a little bit more over time.” Here, Goosby guides us through each work on his thrilling debut. Shelter Island “I felt it was important to include a present-day voice in the album. Xavier [Dubois Foley] and I have been friends for over a decade. We first met at the Sphinx Competition that is geared towards promoting and celebrating diversity in classical music. Not long after, we hung out at the Perlman Music Program, which takes place on Shelter Island, hence the name of the piece. There are influences and inspirations coming from all different directions in this piece—it’s really exciting, and a great piece to start the album with.” Blue/s Forms “Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson is a composer that a lot of people don’t know much about, because he didn’t box himself into being a ‘classical’ composer. He did a bit of everything, from ballet scores to music for film and television. [Classical violinist] Sanford Allen was a close friend of his, and I had the honor of working with Mr. Allen over Zoom on some of this piece. It was amazing getting to know a little bit of his perspective on it and realizing just how important the rhythm of this music is. The blues is one of those early jumping-off points for what we now know as American music. I think there’s certainly evidence across the genres that so much popular music is the result of a trickle-down effect that began with Black music in the forms of spirituals, and eventually blues and jazz.” Porgy and Bess “Though he wasn’t Black, Gershwin is often tacked onto any conversations about Black American music, because he was so directly influenced and inspired by Black music with his opera Porgy and Bess. After completing the opera and seeing it performed, Gershwin and his brother Ira insisted it be performed by Black singers, by the people who it was written about and for. That level of respect and admiration for the music, for the culture, is very powerful. The transcriber of these pieces was the great violinist Jascha Heifetz, who was one of my great idols and inspirations as a young violinist.” Suite for Violin and Piano “This piece’s nickname is ‘Mother and Child,’ which is the name of the middle movement. I relate to that quite strongly, because of the role my mother has played in my life and development. She’s pretty much been by my side, either taking notes or videoing a lesson, for the past 20 years. All of the movements are musical depictions of a work of art by an artist that was part of the Harlem Renaissance—the artistic awakening of Black culture back in the 1920s. So, as well as the personal significance for me of that middle movement, this suite is also as a real reflection of the time and place in which [this work’s composer] William Grant Still was working and living.” Adoration “‘Adoration’ is a really special piece for me. It’s incredible music that, I think, anyone with a heart would find gorgeous. There are no frills, nothing extra—just beautiful music. Price originally wrote this piece for the organ, and it’s naturally vocal in a way that I really enjoy. This is music that makes you feel good.” Fantasie No. 1 in G Minor “The ‘G Minor Fantasie’ opens with this incredibly dramatic, virtuosic sort of recitative, with the piano adding in little comments with chords. The opening is like, ‘Hey, look at me. Here I am. This is what I can do.’ And all of a sudden, we go into this rhythmic, dance-like middle section. Then, at the flick of a switch, we’re back into this spiritual folk song, with a very vocal sort of texture. The pianist on the album, Zhu Wang, and I had a lot of fun jumping back and forth in that way.” Fantasie No. 2 in F-Sharp Minor “In the ‘Second Fantasie,’ Price references a specific song, a spiritual that her grandmother passed down to her called ‘I’m Working on My Building.’ I think the freedom and the personal expression of this melody is what makes it so special. There’s a sense here, too, of the late-Romantic orchestral style and tradition—I think of Richard Strauss or Tchaikovsky in places. And then, we’re instantly in this almost cute, sort of bouncy place with its interplay between violin and piano. It’s such a varied work.” Deep River (Arr. Maud Powell for Violin and Piano) “‘Deep River’ is probably one of the most widely arranged spirituals, and Coleridge-Taylor arranged it for the piano. This violin-and-piano arrangement, however, was done by a prolific violinist from the early 1900s, Maud Powell, who became known for her admiration and support of African American female composers. She put together a whole collection of transcriptions and arrangements by Black composers, people who she knew during her time that haven’t necessarily made it into the history books.” Violin Sonatina in G Major, Op. 100, B. 120 “There’s a lot of spirit in this piece. It’s not Dvořák’s most intricate or complicated music—he wrote it to be played by his own children, one of whom was a violinist, the other a pianist. So, I think it has a lot of that childlike, youthful energy. In the 1890s, Dvořák was director of New York’s National Conservatory of Music of America, which was the only institution of its kind that was admitting Black and female students. Dvořák had a unique opportunity to be immersed in music of Black traditions as well as Native American folk melodies, which you can hear laced throughout the piece, specifically in the second movement.”

Select a country or region

Africa, Middle East, and India

Asia Pacific


Latin America and the Caribbean

The United States and Canada