Hustling past a rack of ukuleles and a row of cymbals, Holland Goddard '25 restocks music books at Brick & Mortar Music in downtown Potsdam. As customers enter the store, walking past a beautifully exposed brick wall featuring a mix of acoustic and electric guitars, she greets them with a smile, answers questions, and restrings instruments at the beloved local music shop.
The SUNY Potsdam junior—who is pursuing a double major in music business and music performance at The Crane School of Music—is gaining valuable real-world experience this semester working for the community-centric music store, which is owned and operated by SUNY Potsdam alumni Jeremy '99 and Allison Carney '99.
“Selling customers their first instrument has been awesome. I think my first day here someone came in with a viola and wanted it restrung, and I was like, ‘Oh I’m the perfect person for that.’”music business major
Born and raised in the North Country, Goddard’s passion for music started in her childhood. When she was just nine years old, she picked up a fiddle for the first time and started taking lessons from local fiddle master Gretchen Koehler. “After a couple of years of playing, it was just something that came naturally to me,” Goddard said.
When she turned 14 years old, she heard about the Young Tradition Vermont program, a unique music initiative in Burlington, Vermont, that fosters musical growth and cultural exploration. One Saturday every month, she and her sister would head east, across Lake Champlain, to practice traditional music with other teens. The program culminated with a trip to Scotland, giving her the opportunity to play music and dance with middle and high school students in villages like Plockton, a remote community with less than 500 people in the Scottish Highlands.
“We learned some common tunes that they play in Scotland, and we got to visit a couple of local schools and play music with the local kids. It was a wonderful experience,” she said. “After that trip, I decided that I wanted to go into music. I was like, ‘I have to study violin. So, at that point, I started to get classical lessons and joined orchestras.”
As a student at St. Regis High School, she had the opportunity to play saxophone in the band, but without an orchestra, there wasn’t an option to play the violin with a large group. Luckily, with SUNY Potsdam less than 25 miles away, she didn’t have to wait long. She enrolled in Crane Youth Music, a summer camp for middle and high school students that the College has been running for the past 50 years.
“That was my first orchestra experience, being part of a large classical ensemble. It really prepared me for music school at Crane. I got to work with the faculty who are now currently my professors,” she said.
A proving ground for her violin skills, CYM gave her a glimpse into what it would be like to be a student at Crane. A couple of years later, as she was looking for a college to pursue her music career, she didn’t spend much time debating her decision. “As soon as I had gotten into Potsdam, it was Crane or bust for me,” Goddard said. “I’m able to commute to school, so that saves quite a bit of money.”
First enrolled in the music education program, she realized that the combination of music business and music performance was a better fit, and as a violinist and fiddler, she saw significant advantages to combining both.
“We have an awesome music business program at Crane. I wasn’t aware of that going into college, and it seemed like a no-brainer to switch over. The music business program offers marketable skills as I focus on a career as a musician,” she said.
For her performance degree, she has been working closely with Liesl Schoenberger Doty, an associate professor of violin at Crane. A cross-over musician (violin and fiddle) like herself, she had many conversations with Doty about balancing the two styles of play. “We worked it out that I would do a performance degree with an emphasis in fiddle music. Liesl is one of my favorite people at Crane. She’s a wonderful teacher and she’s always super supportive. I just had a lesson today and I always get really excited for my lessons. I also had a couple of lessons with her before making it into Crane, just to make sure that I was going to pass my audition,” Goddard said.
She has also continued to master her fiddling techniques while performing with the Irish Ensemble on campus, led by Dr. Shelly Tramposh, a professor of viola at Crane. “We do a bunch of Irish fiddling in that class, and that was totally my thing. I’ve been doing that for over 10 years. It was awesome to have offered at Crane,” she said.
Last summer, right after the Spring 2023 semester ended, Goddard boarded a plane for Ireland with the Crane Irish Ensemble to study at the University of Cork, and perform music at pubs around the country. “We attended some wonderful master classes with Irish fiddlers right in Cork. We also ended up in Limerick the last couple of days. We were playing in sessions every night. It was a lot of fun,” she said.
Now more advanced with her violin and fiddling techniques, Goddard is teaching private lessons to children in the area. She has also taken on a leadership role as a student ambassador in the Office of Admissions. As prospective students come to campus for tours, Goddard leads them around campus and talks about the benefits of a SUNY Potsdam education. “I was a shy kid in high school and that job has really helped me talk to people. I do a lot of Crane tours, so I show future students the facilities and answer their questions from a first-hand point of view,” she said.
One of her favorite stops on the tour is the Lougheed Center for Applied Learning, where prospective students can meet Ted, a beloved Pomeranian dog owned by one of the librarians. “He might be my favorite thing. He’s so cute. As a student ambassador, I get to point out Ted all the time and say, ‘This is why you should come to Potsdam,’” she said.
Now halfway through her undergraduate studies, she plans to remain in the North Country after receiving her degree in 2025, and continue to immerse herself in the arts community. “I’m looking at arts management positions in the music industry and arts industry like Brick & Mortar Music, SLC Arts, and other local organizations that relate closely to what I’m studying. I would also like to continue private teaching and performing as well,” she said. “I have really enjoyed my time at Potsdam. Being at The Crane School of Music has been awesome.”
Article and photos by Jason Hunter