Update: KinderKonzert will play as scheduled

Maestro Michael Goodwin's baton at rest

Auburn Symphony conductor, 65, dies in car crash
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal Features Editor
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The Auburn music community was left dumbfounded Wednesday as musicians and music lovers learned that Maestro Michael Goodwin had died in a car crash Tuesday evening.

“It’s a very devastating blow to the arts community and the orchestra, and definitely the people of Auburn,” said Richard Altenbach, concertmaster of the Auburn Symphony, which Goodwin had conducted since 1995.

Auburn is not the only community in mourning – Goodwin, 65, was also the conductor of the Veridian Symphony Orchestra in Yuba City. Audience members and musicians alike praised the maestro for his dedicated work in elevating the symphony here to the top tier of performance.

To see a video tribute to Goodwin, click here.

“This man had high standards, and they showed through, and the result was spectacular,” said Susan Rushton, who hosts “People of the Symphony” on Auburn Community Television. “He had a wonderful ear and he wanted to teach us things – to teach the musicians things and teach his audience. He wanted us to grow and he succeeded. I think we’ve lost a fabulous man.”

Goodwin, who lived in Oregon House, was born in London in 1946. His long music career began at the age of 6, when he began piano lessons followed by flute and cello. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in music at Leeds University and a master’s in music, with distinction, at California State University, Chico. He studied conducting at the Guildhall School of Music in London, the Mozartium Summer Academy and the London Opera Center, where he was also trained as an opera pianist and coach.

Goodwin’s career led him to Australia and Iran, where he conducted numerous orchestras, and eventually to California in 1981, where he worked to build the Apollo Orchestra and Chorus, which he continued to direct until his death.

A private service will be held Saturday for the maestro many remember as not only talented and professional, but also as a friendly man with a great sense of humor and an ever-ready smile.

Altenbach met Goodwin in November 2010, after performing in a chamber concert in Oregon House that Goodwin attended.

“Upon first meeting, I would say he seemed to me a very kind and gentle spirit – a sincere spirit,” Altenbach remembered. “The epitome of a gentleman.”

That and subsequent conversations led to Altenbach joining the Auburn Symphony, where he was continually impressed with Goodwin’s musicianship.

“He had a natural kind of patience and a very relaxing, disarming manner in his rehearsals and conducting,” Altenbach said. “I think that goes a long way. It really helped bring the best out of his orchestra.”

“By the way,” Altenbach said warmly, “the other thing people loved is he happened to have a very fortunate voice and accent. It came through very beautifully. Audiences just loved it. They appreciated what he said and did and was.”

That voice was the kickoff to the symphony performances, where Goodwin would take a few moments before each piece to explain its history and significance. His next performance was to be Saturday, Feb. 11, at the annual KinderKonzert. During those performances, the maestro introduced the selections and instruments in a program designed to inspire children to a lasting love of classical music, something Miccie McNee, of Auburn, said was close to Goodwin’s heart.

“He was about bringing classical music to everyone, of every age, from every walk of life,” said McNee, who serves on the committee of the Symphony goes to School program and helps with KinderKonzert. “He had kind of a universal spirit that way, and he embraced children with our programs.”

The Auburn Symphony board of directors announced Thursday morning that the KinderKonzert will be performed as scheduled at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, in the Placer High School auditorium, "as we believe Michael would have wanted."

In a previous statement, the board said, “The entire Auburn Symphony family is shocked and saddened by this devastating news. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Michael’s family and friends and all the musicians who have had the good fortune to work with him over the years. As we move forward, we will remember the one overriding principle that guided Michael’s work through his life: “The music must live on.”

Bill Kenney, president of the symphony board of directors, remembers Goodwin as a constant professional who attracted high-caliber musicians to perform as part of the symphony and as guest soloists. Many, he said, would forego paying jobs for the chance to play with the maestro they admired so much.

“I attended many rehearsals and just watching him coach people and educate them in terms of what the music was all about and how it should be played was really, really insightful and will obviously be missed. That will be a challenge in the future – to find a replacement that we won’t always compare Michael Goodwin against.”

Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at



 A life in music: Maestro Michael Goodwin remembered

Maestro Michael Goodwin, music director and conductor of the Auburn Symphony, was killed Tuesday in a car crash. In death he leaves a rich legacy of music and memories in the Auburn community.

Here are some of the highlights of a musical life well-lived:

Born in London in 1946, Michael Goodwin began piano lessons at 6. He also learned to play the flute and cello

• He earned degrees of bachelor of arts in music at Leeds University in England and master of arts in music – with distinction – at California State University, Chico

• While music was always his first love, he also had a passion for fine arts, English soccer and railways

• A master of languages, Goodwin was fluent in German, French and Italian, while also able to converse in Spanish and Russian

• At Chico State, his principal study was Renaissance and Baroque performance practice

• Goodwin studied conducting at the Guildhall School of Music, London, the Mozarteum Summer Academy and the London Opera Center

• During his musical career, Goodwin also conducted in Australia, Iran and Germany

• He was appointed artistic director and conductor of the Auburn Symphony in 1995, elevating it from a local community orchestra to a regional draw

• Under Goodwin’s baton, the Auburn Symphony played the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts and recorded there

• In Auburn, Goodwin – who was known to conduct a brilliant Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with no sheet music and charm crowds of children at the symphony’s annual KinderKonzert – was honored in 2006 as recipient at the Auburn State of the Community Dinner with an award for excellence in the arts.

~ Gus Thomson