BEMIDJI - Matthew Goinz is back in town after spending the last year the University of Arizona in Tucson, where he is studying for a master's degree in music with an emphasis in choral conducting.
Goinz, a graduate of Bemidji State University, continues to garner accolades from audiences for his ability to bring forth the best in others. This past weekend, Goinz premiered as the musical director of the Opera Night at Ruttger's Birchmont Lodge.
"We received a lot of compliments this year. People were saying that it was the best singing they have heard in the past few years," said Goinz. "As a whole, last Saturday night's performance was the best one that I have ever been involved with as a singer. There have been good performances here and there but this one was the best overall."
Goinz has been working on his conducting skills this past year in Arizona. There are four rotation choirs and graduate students take charge of a group of singers for the semester. The fledgling conductors choose the musical literature, prepare it and then rehearse the choir every day. The group is like a high school choir but on a higher technical level.
"We student conductors prepare for our rehearsals every day by studying the music and preparing notes for the day's work," said Goinz. "Sometimes the planning does not work out quite right so one needs to know how to tweak on the fly, so to speak.
"I am learning how to be a better conductor; how to more efficiently run a rehearsal, more efficiently use my conducting gestures to elicit certain responses."
He likes to talk about how each conductor needs to learn to be efficient in their movements so as not to distract the singers. In Goinz case, he has learned that "less is more" because he practiced how to tone down his physicality because a lot of excess movement isn't necessarily a good thing.
"It's a lot harder to get your gestures down to a manageable size," said Goinz. "You don't want the singers to react to something that shouldn't be there like a misplaced emotion. In short, your facial emotions must match your hand gestures; you don't want to be sending conflicting messages."
Goinz said he feels that his acting credits give him an advantage over his graduate colleagues. He also admits to being a ham, a desire to perform that dates back to his early childhood whenever a camera was focused on him.
Goinz has used that ability to "ham it up" for the camera during his many BSU shows, from the drama "The Glass Menagerie" by Tennessee Williams to the master of ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub in Kander and Ebb's musical, "Cabaret." Two of the roles that Goinz likes to refer to as being his best work to date.
"It is a trick to get my hands to do what my face is saying because my face is generally right," Goinz said. "I have a very expressive face. With a group you just practice and practice and practice until you've worked out all the bugs. If you have a moment of inspiration, when your ensemble gives you something, you take that musical moment and give something back."
Goinz credits those in his academic career who supported him and helped shape his future endeavors when he returned to complete his studies at Bemidji State University.
"I was at Concordia and studied with Rene Clausen but came back here and worked with Dave Carlson, the registrar at BSU. He is now retired but we worked together to get a plan in place. Jon Blessing was another person at BSU who helped my transition. Of course, Fulton Gallagher has been there for me every step of the way. Looking back, I didn't really appreciate all that Bradley Logan was trying to teach me but I know now that he was right all along."
This Sunday, Goinz will join his college friend and pianist, Abe Hunter, in a benefit concert for the Headwaters School of Music and Art at Thompson Recital Hall of Bangsberg Performing Arts Complex. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Goinz and Hunter will play a concert of contemporary music of Copland, Ives, Bowles, Barber and Bolcom in "An Evening of American Song." Tickets at the door will be $5 each and proceeds will go toward the HSMA scholarships funds.
The next big event for Goinz will be as musical director for Loon Opera Company production of "Madama Butterfly" this June. The singers and orchestra will be lead under his baton. Goinz said his aspiration is to be an orchestra and choral director like famed conductor Robert Shaw.