Steven Gooden

Symphony Orchestra Assistant Conductor

Steven Gooden’s attraction to the clarinet was, admittedly, driven by non-musical ambitions. He selected the clarinet with no knowledge of what one looked or sounded like, but with the hopes of “sitting next to a particular cute girl who played clarinet.” While this love interest may not have blossomed, Mr. Gooden’s career as a clarinetist and musical artist certainly did.

As Assistant Conductor with Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras’s flagship ensemble, Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Gooden works closely with Music Director Allen Tinkham. He also conducts with Merit School of Music’s Tuition-Free Conservatory, Instrumental and Vocal Music, and Merit Music in Communities programs where Mr. Gooden serves as band director at Proviso Math and Science Academy in Forest Park.

An accomplished performer in his own right, Mr. Gooden has been featured on numerous Honors Recitals and concerto performances under the batons of Mallory Thompson, Pamela Holt, Michael Palmer and Kenneth Beard. An avid chamber performer in Chicago and around the country, he is also the former clarinetist and co-artistic director of the Second City Winds. Mr. Gooden has performed with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, Lakeshore Symphony Orchestra, Evanston Symphony Orchestra and is former principal clarinetist for the North Shore Concert Band. He has been recognized with honors in a number of competitions, and performed on the album American Manuscripts with the Georgia State University Wind Ensemble.

As a Black musician and motivational educator, Mr. Gooden is passionate about equity and inclusion in classical music. He is committed to never letting the perceptions of others influence the growth within himself, or his students. Mr. Gooden finds exceptional joy in empowering young people to push towards being their best selves inside and outside the ensemble.

A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Mr. Gooden earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education at Georgia State University and earned a Masters of Music, with honors, in Clarinet Performance and Literature from Northwestern University, where he studied with Steven Cohen. In his free time, Steven is a car enthusiast who enjoys racing motorcycles, learning new skills, and spending time with his wife, Jaclyn, and young daughter, Callie.

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