Victor Goines: Leaving a Legacy of Jazz
He modestly allows that at Lincoln Center he is the Artistic Director of Jazz Studies in the B.A. program in Music. Later on, but only because the subject of getting youngsters to know about and appreciate jazz comes us, does he indicate that he is also Educational Consultant. But he needs no prompting to riff on the delights of administering and teaching in the relatively new program and conducting the Julliard Jazz orchestra. Or to sing the praises of his colleague and friend, Wynton Marsalis and of the entire Marsalis family-it was father Ellis Marsalis, the premier jazz pianist from whom Victor took private lessons when he was in his early 20s in New Orleans who invited him to play sax in his touring quartet for the U.S. Information Agency.
Of course, when you're a jazz pro there's no such thing as one instrument. Victor Goines, though mainly known as a superb sax man (predominantly tenor and alto), is also a master of the clarinet. It was, in fact, his first instrument, thanks to his clever mother (he compliments his father as well). He can't help but laugh when he recalls how as a young child, one of five in his family, he admired an older brother who played the trumpet but found himself kind of gravitating toward the drums. As it turned out, however, and in a special way, his first instrument picked him. He was severely asthmatic, the full deal, mechanical lung and all. His mother said no to the drums, and then no to the saxophone-"get something more affordable." Besides, when she herself had played the clarinet and viola, something wonderful began to happen-to Victor Goines and his asthma. He learned discipline, first finger control-it was not easy to cover those holes, this was no child's instrument-but he also learned discipline for his respiratory condition. He still has asthma, he notes, but as he likes to tell his own students, "Mother knows best."
He had other great influences in his life as he moved through school, musicians who took him under wing, but it was probably at St. Augustine High School in New Orleans where he met Carl Blouin, one of his most unusual mentors. Blouin not only taught saxophone, he taught math (and later became principal), and for five years, after he completed Loyola University in New Orleans with a B.A. in Music Education, Victor Goines taught math at his old high school. During his student high school years he also got to know Wynton and Bradford Marsalis and they all kind of grooved together, playing in bands. The Marsalis influence broadened. Ellis went to Virginia University in Richmond and invited Victor to become his graduate assistant as he studied for his Masters. It was a wonderful life but-he pauses-it was also time to leave. Not for nothing, he says, is New Orleans called "The Big Easy." It was easy for talented musicians to stay there and play there, so many did. But Victor moved away to challenge himself. As he recalls something he once was told: "winners never quit, quitters never win." Another mentor, sax great James Moody, also told him, there's no such thing as difficult or not difficult, it's only what's familiar or unfamiliar."
His studies, his teaching, his intuitive love of connecting young people to jazz have all converged in his position at Lincoln Center. He works at outreach and has invited school kids to visit, and he notes the numerous activities at Lincoln Center designed to bring school children to music, "to educate them in the components of all kinds of music" by way of concerts, workshops, and"-works by his students, and on April 28, will lead the concert "What's Your Story?" in tribute to the legendary pianist, composer and arranger, Mary Lou Williams.#