In memoriam: Roger Goodman

Over the weekend, I learned that my first harpsichord teacher, Roger Goodman, died from AIDS-related renal failure. I studied with Roger in Chicago from 1991 till I left Chicago for Boston in 1995.

Roger was a controversial figure in his approach to spirituality and sexuality, and those two elements were strongly apparent in his marvelous music making. As a 19-year-old trying to find my place in the world and in the world of music, I came to Roger as a discouraged pianist, wary of the ego-driven repertoire of the 19th-century. Roger opened up a world of possibility in which I could make music a part of my whole person.

Roger often said that "a teacher is a self-destructing mechanism," meaning that a student would eventually need to move on. In spite of his advice, Roger was very upset when I left his studio in 1995, and we didn't communicate till about 2009. When we reconnected, I found a wizened older man with a depth of experience (much of it coming from his AIDS-related suffering) that, had he still been playing the harpsichord, would have made for profoundly transcendent music.

A New York Times review from 1982 begins, "The affection with which Roger Goodman played the harpsichord..." Roger's approach to the harpsichord might best be described as affectionate. Yes, it was spiritual, and it was sexual. (He sometimes quoted a colleague who had said that Roger played from the hips.) Above all, Roger's playing was affectionate. Indeed, Roger himself was affectionate: a lover of creation; a lover of men; a lover of music; a lover of the harpsichord. He was a wonderful mentor, an inspiring teacher, and, for me, the man who brought me to the harpsichord.

Thank you, Roger. Requiescat in pace.

Roger Goodman, M.Mus., M.Div. was born in New York City in 1946.  He was the son of Florence and Gerald Goodman.  Roger attended Oberlin College and Trinity College of Music in London for his undergraduate degree (B.Mus) and attended Northwestern University for his M.Mus.  He earned the M.Div., specializing in Queer Theology of the body, at Chicago Theological Seminary; and was trained in spiritual direction by a Benedictine abbot at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in the 1980’s.  Roger was active during the Civil Rights Movement and protests over the Vietnam War in the 1960’s. Yet he slowly grew away from these movements because of the heterosexism politic.  Mr. Goodman is also a Veteran of the Stonewall Rebellion, the watershed event for the contemporary LGBTQ movement in June, 1969.  After being an international concert harpsichordist, teacher, and recording artist, performing in such venues as Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center in NYC, Carnegie Recital Hall in NYC, the Wigmore Hall in London, the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, MN, and Orchestra Hall in Chicago as well as four appearances on the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series broadcast live over WFMT-Chicago.  He retired from music in 2010 after 40 years of devoted and dedicated work.  Upon his retirement, he began the completion of his published book Thoughts of a Tribal Elder: One Queerman’s Journey from the Ashes Risen. a book of essays on ‘Queer topics such as politics, spirituality, rituals, symbol, sexual; mysticism, mythology, the arts, coming out, the politics and spirituality of HIV/AIDS, and his own journey of recovery from addiction, as well as his poetry. Because of his addictions to drugs and sex he became HIV+ in the early 1980s and was diagnosed with AIDS in 1995 at which time he came near to death during a 10-day coma, but miraculously came back from death.  He often said that the reason he came back was because he had important transformational work to do with Queer people everywhere. Part of this transformation work was performing benefit concerts for various AIDS service organizations in Chicago: the AIDS Pastoral Care Network, The AIDS Alternative Health Project, Open Hands of Chicago, and Grocery Land Free Pantry. Thoughts of a Tribal Elder is a major part of that great work, as was his performing and teaching during which time he touched the lives of countless thousands of people.  From 1987 through 2010, Roger was in a thriving private practice as a Spiritual Director doing chaplaincy work in the death rooms in two hospitals in Chicago with his Queer brothers dying during the AIDS genocide in the 1980’s and 90’s.  Roger lived with a number of HIV-related illnesses, two of them being terminal. He lived in Chicago where he is survived by his beloved partner, Jerry Scholle; his much-loved brother, Len (Susan) of Santa Fe, NM; and his two nephews, Joshua and Eli and their families.  Roger will be greatly missed by countless thousands of people both Gay and straight whose lives he touched with a profound grace, especially his CMA family of recovering addicts: Matt K., Will B., Rudy M., Gregg G., John L., Todd B., Daniel R. and Christopher M.  His ashes are interred in the Cremation Garden within Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois. No flowers please, but donations to AIDS Foundation of Chicago,

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