Meet the Musician: Principal Violist Ally Goodman

Photography by Danielle Cho

Where are you from and are there any other musicians in your family?

I’m originally from Massachusetts, and I’m the only musician in my family. My parents were definitely worried about my career path when I decided to go to music school!

Where did you go to school and receive your training?

I went to Northwestern University for my undergraduate degree and Rice University for my master’s degree. After school, I spent one year as a fellow at the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, FL, under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas.

What is your position in the orchestra and when did you join?

I joined as principal viola in 2014.

Photography by Danielle Cho

What was it like moving to DC?

I’m lucky because my parents moved to Alexandria, VA, a few years before I joined the orchestra, so I was already familiar with the DC area (and I love it!)

You just sat on a few audition committees. What can you tell us about that experience?

I was on the recent assistant principal horn, assistant principal cello, and assistant principal viola audition committees. One thing I really like about our audition process is that we keep the screen up through the final round (in other words, the audition is “blind” until all three audition rounds are over and we’ve chosen a winning candidate via committee vote).

I waited a long time to sit on the other side of that screen and not have to endure the stress and anxiety of performing, but after my experience, I’ve come to realize that being on an audition committee involves another type of stress. It’s a huge responsibility, and it’s important to give each candidate a fair chance. This means giving the same attention to each candidate; even though you’re listening to the same short musical excerpts over and over for many hours. It can be really exhausting. However, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about the instrument you’re listening to, and you understand what your colleagues on the committee find to be most musically important by the end of the process (and it really differs person to person!). All of our auditions were successful, meaning we hired, so we are lucky to have some great new players joining us next season!

What has been your most memorable experience at KCOHO?

It has to be the Ring Cycle. What an incredible and exciting experience. It will remain the highlight of my career for years to come. It was a bit stressful because I had never played any of the Ring operas and had to learn them quickly, but it was so worth it. I sincerely hope we put it on again soon before I forget the notes!!

                                  Viola Section for The Ring

What other musical activities outside of the opera house do you take part in?

When I’m not playing opera and ballet, I enjoy playing chamber music with different groups around DC – IBIS, National Chamber Players, and Chiarina Chamber Players, to name a few. And Millennium Stage concerts at the Kennedy Center with my KCOHO colleagues are always fun! I also enjoy teaching, and over the summer I travel to Jackson, Wyoming, for the Grand Teton Music Festival, and to upstate New York for the Caroga Lake Music Festival.

What are some of your hobbies outside of music?

I love taking classes at the Washington Ballet. The classes have the same faculty that teach their pre-professional students, so it’s a very authentic experience (plus there’s a live piano accompanist in class, which I think is a nice touch!). I also like to explore DC by bicycle with my husband Derek, a violinist in the Army band. We try to check out food, museums, concerts, etc whenever we have the time. My new goal for this spring is to improve my gardening skills!

              Ally and her husband Derek ;                                     Photography by ksant