Teen Quits Classical Piano to Take Up the Fiddle

  • Violinist Eliza Goodell, center, performs in Japan with, from left, Sebastiaan West, Romy Munkres, Sebastian James and Alexander Allison. (Courtesy Eliza Goodell)

Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, November 30, 2017

Just before fiddler Eliza Goodell embarked on a musical goodwill tour to Japan in mid-November, roots musician Patrick Ross asked the Newbury, Vt., teenager to open for his new dance band Atlas Key’s concert at Alumni Hall in Haverhill on Saturday.

And even though she’d be playing a Strauss waltz on her French horn at Hartford High School earlier in the day, during this Saturday’s auditions for the New England Music Festival, Goodell couldn’t bring herself to say no.

“The fiddle is my social instrument,” Goodell said this week.

“I like the people aspect — the music, the dancing and the fun. It’s a little more laid-back than classical. The focus is a lot more on having fun than playing the music on the page.”

How fun, Goodell discovered while watching Ross, who lives and teaches in South Newbury, play the fiddle while she danced at the West Newbury variety show in 2014.

“I thought, ‘I want to do that,’ ” Goodell recalled.

Next thing she knew, Goodell was quitting classical piano and taking fiddle lessons from Ross.

Soon she was playing with some of his other students, including Orford resident Dylan Ricker, at the Hot Flannel bluegrass concerts that Ross stages regularly at Alumni Hall.

Then Goodell was invited to join the touring group Young Tradition Vermont, just in time for a trip to Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island in the spring.

Her performances prompted organizers to recruit her and four other members for the Japan trip to play at an arts festival and visit two high schools in the area. In addition to traditional Cape Breton and Scottish music and some tunes from Appalachia, the group played compositions by Vermont musicians Jeremiah McLane, of Sharon, and Keith Murphy, of Brattleboro.

“They don’t see a lot of foreigners in that part of Japan,” Goodell said. “At the high schools especially, you felt like you were a celebrity. They went kind of berserk. They were so interested in what we were doing, what life is like in America.”

For Goodell, life is busy, and not just this Saturday: The Oxbow High School senior dances ballet once a week, occasionally attends clog dances and, for a breather, goes horseback riding.

All this while applying to liberal arts colleges in the Midwest and the Northeast.

“I’ll most likely major in science, and do a minor in music,” she said. “I want to keep playing.”

Eliza Goodell opens for Atlas Key at Alumni Hall in Haverhill on Saturday night at 7. To reserve tickets ($20) and more information, visit courtstreetarts.org or call 603-989-5500.