Renowned Pianist Stewart Goodyear ’96 Visits Instrumental Ensemble


Courtesy of Flickr.

Stewart Goodyear is a professional pianist and composer. He plays with and is commissioned by orchestras across the globe. Stewart attended Friends Select via a dual-professional program with Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. He graduated from Friends Select in ‘96 and recently returned virtually to visit the Instrumental Ensemble. 

Click here to explore some of Stewart’s compositions and performances. 


Some responses were altered for brevity and clarity.

Question: On social media, you have a new project called Uncovered. Can you tell us about that?

This is a project by the Catalyst Quartet, a string quartet based in New York. They invited me to do a recording of a composer by the name of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. That was one release that came out earlier in the year. I have a new one called Phoenix which has two pieces of mine, some Debussy, and more. That came out just a few weeks ago. I’ve been in the recording studio for lots of projects.

Do you have one performance that you consider your most personally impactful or memorable and why?

I’m going to make the story very very short. I started with Beethoven for this medley because my music life began with Beethoven and I’d heard all of his sonatas in one day. There are 32 sonatas and it takes maybe around 11 hours to listen to them all. It was like a box of chocolates. With one LP, with one vinyl, I just couldn’t stop at one. I went through all of the sonatas and it took up a whole day. That was an important day for me because it’s when I decided to be a pianist, a musician, and when I decided to play those works. So one of the most impactful performances for me was actually performing all of the sonatas in one day. That happened almost 10 years ago in Toronto, the concert lasted from 10 am to 11 pm. 

What’s the craziest thing that’s happened at a concert?

I’ll give you a G-rated story. There was one concert where I was doing a 60-minute Beethoven work, and it was one of those variations where everything was a dotted half note. You know how dotted half notes have three quarter notes within a dotted half note? I swear there was a guy who was coughing in every quarter note. I was timing my cords so as not to interrupt the flow. Then I heard, ‘Oh my God! Oh God!’ The poor guy had to be carried out on a stretcher. The show had to go on, and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I still continued to perform, I hope that was ok. 

How does travel and being in different places affect your compositions?

I love to travel and I feel inspired by every city and every different place I go to. I love walking around and checking out the vibes of a city or the vibes of a town. I get a lot of inspiration that way. I always have manuscript paper with me so I’m either writing on the plane or in the hotel room. Traveling helps a lot.

How do you separate your business self from your personal self?

Now I’m self-managed, so I manage my own career, so in the morning I’m going through different emails. I have three calendars so I’m always on top of it, making sure that all the concerts are in order and traveling is in order and all that kind of stuff. Then practicing starts. There are a lot of busy days, it is a big balance.

How do you balance building your music career with still finding joy in music-making?

I really love performing for different audiences. I think that’s what makes playing pieces that I’ve played maybe 20 times, 5 times, it’s always a new experience for me and it’s always an organic experience making music. You’re playing for different people. The vibe that you’re given dictates the performance that I give. It’s always an adventure.

What’s your favorite type of music to play and listen to?

When I’m chilling out, I hardly listen to music. I love the quiet. But if I have a fireplace nearby, I love listening to Miles Davis. I never like boxing myself with one particular type of music, though. I find inspiration in every kind of music.

How did you get started composing and what are some of your other influences while composing?

I come from a half Trinidadian half British background. My first experience flying was going from Toronto to Trinidad to visit my cousins. So over the summer, I was always listening to a lot of Calypso music. A lot of what I write, there’s a lot of Trinidadian influence. The other part of my background is British. Every time I’m writing, both of those backgrounds come out. I’m also very much inspired by music that’s happening on TikTok from hip-hop to pop to everything. Especially if I’m outside, and I’m hearing a radio pass by, I think ‘oh, that’s interesting. That’s what they’re listening to,’ always wanting to pay attention to all the surroundings. 

What is your composing process and how has that changed throughout your career?

I’m a dinosaur when it comes to technology in general. I don’t compose on the computer, I am a real pencil and paper kind of guy. I’m always writing, I have a lot of ideas from just being hands-on. After the piece is written, if I’m writing the orchestral parts or I’m writing a score, then I would print from the computer, but that’s when all the inspiration is already there on the written page. I started composing when I was around 8 years old. Since then, it’s always been paper and pencil in my backpack, or when I’m traveling. This process has never stopped. Though styles change, it’s always the same practice. 

Did you play other instruments growing up? What about the piano spoke to you? Do you play other instruments now?

Not now. I used to play the violin, I wanted to be a violinist actually. I had this one concerto that I would listen to over and over and over and it would drive my parents crazy. I wanted to learn this particular concerto, so that’s why I learned the violin. I stopped as a teenager, and piano just became more a part of my life and I was doing a lot of concertizing on the piano. That was my main instrument. I don’t regret playing the violin at all. I love composing for that instrument as well as other instruments. I used to play the recorder when I was a kid, and I also used to sing. I love writing for choir. It’s been an interesting bunch of chapters. 

You are now your own artistic management company. You are an entrepreneur artist now. Could you tell us what led you to make that choice? What’s different for you if you have corporate representation vs. managing yourself? Could you tell us what those two methods are like and what led you to make that change?

When I was under management, I felt like I was being dictated what to play, where to play, and for how much money. When I was my own management, I dictated the price and really paid attention to recording projects that I cared about. I built up relationships and followed my own schedule. There is more artistic and personal freedom in the ladder. I had to be diligent with writing people back, keeping in touch, and building personal relationships. Another thing that I learned when it came to the business part of it came to personal relationships and enjoying the journey and having that mindset influence who you are working with and what happens the next year, how to follow up, how to develop those new set of skills. I’m loving the journey so far.

I’ll tell you how my season started this year. It started on September 1st. Every three days, I was somewhere else. I was in Boston, Nashville, San Francisco, Winnipeg, Toronto, Vancouver, and now, this is the longest I’ve been in one place. I will be in Toronto for a month. After this project, I go to Winston, Salem to do my own transcription of The Nutcracker. 


I want to pivot to some Friends Select specific questions. Your journey to FSS began by being accepted at the Curtis Institute of Music. Can you tell us how old you were and how that happened for you?

I was 15 when I attended Friends Select School and Curtis. Just to give you an idea of how old I am, when I was a sophomore in high school, Snoop Dogg was the soundtrack. I was enrolled in both Curtis and Friends Select. I did the dual-professional program for three years. After my high school days, I went right to Curtis and did my theory programs, music history, composition, and three very busy years. I loved the two environments, Friends Select School and Curtis. I loved Curtis, but at Curtis, I felt like I was going in a time-warp. All you heard was a bunch of 19th, 18th century works. When I came to Friends Select School, first of all, everyone I met was awesome. Great people, still very dear friends of mine. There was actually a classmate in Nashville, she lives there now and we caught up over brunch. A bunch of us still keep in touch. I graduated in 1996. 

Who was your favorite teacher? We were all wondering if you had Ralph as a math teacher.

I will not tell you who my favorite teacher was. I will take the 5th Amendment on that. There were some great teachers, and I really enjoyed all my classes. I’ll just say that. 

What was your favorite class?

I loved history, I enjoyed math. There was a Victorian literature class. I really loved the teacher. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. I was the only guy in the class, and they were always asking me, ‘As a guy, what is your point of view on literature?’ I knew very quickly how important reading the vibe in an environment was. That was a good learning experience.

How did you balance your Friends Select college-prep schedule with your rigorous piano schedule?

I don’t recommend this to anybody, but lots of coffee. I was also composing a lot. I was having maybe four hours of sleep and then catching up over the weekends. It was a balancing act but I don’t regret any single moment. I had a good summer of sleeping after that. 

How much time did you spend practicing piano while at Friends Select?

Three hours every day. And then two hours for composition. Then homework. Then classes. Some time o’clock, I went to bed.