As a little girl in Osaka, Japan, Midori listened to her mother's violin students practice and decided at the advanced age of 7 to try to play the violin too.
Her mother, Setsu Goto, was a respected violin teacher in Osaka. and as Midori has said, "I wanted to emulate my mother just like any other little girl."
Maestro Zubin Mehta first heard her play the violin at age 11, and invited her to be a guest soloist at the New York Philharmonic's New Year's Eve concert in 1982. She received a standing ovation and was inspired to begin a major musical career. Although her degrees are not in music - she attained a master's degree in psychology from New York University - she is the only violinist so famous as to be known only by her first name, Midori. It is difficult to determine which performance started the trajectory toward international fame, but it was evident that Midori from an early age had musical talents that would overshadow her academic pursuits in a matter of time.
A reviewer from the "Cleveland Plain Dealer" wrote: "Her evening was about nuance, subtle shading and listening with an inner ear.....playing with a wholeness that felt transcendental."
And it is this "playing with a wholeness" that brings together the academic and musical training to a point where they intersect in moments of joy for the player and the audience.
For Midori, however, it is the bringing of music to the people that prompts her to commitments in the areas of community involvement and teaching. She feels people should have the opportunity to hear a variety of great music no matter where they live or what their financial status. Midori and Friends, which began in 1992, provides music education, workshops and concerts for children who do not otherwise have a chance at involvement in the arts. The Music Sharing non-profit provides free educational music programs to children and young people throughout Japan focusing on hospitals and special schools for the physically and mentally disabled. In 2007, Midori became an official United Nations Messenger of Peace because of her community work which serves as an example of the worldwide goals of the U.N.
In 2003, Midori started the non-profit Partners in Performance, which brings high-profile chamber music performances to small community-based organizations. Midori went on to start the Orchestral Residencies Program to raise awareness of community-based orchestras and also to work with youth orchestras, coaching young musicians and appearing at benefits in efforts to raise arts participation by citizens.
Midori holds the Jascha Heifetz Chair as professor of violin at University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music and limits her engagements so that they do not interfere with her teaching schedule. She has been a member of the school for almost 10 years and chose the school because its faculty supports the efforts of student musicians. Midori forms two student ensembles each year, undergraduate and graduate, and then plays second violin with her students. She said in her faculty biography her teaching revolves around "three basic elements: health, honesty and dignity. These are the pillars of ethics by which my students are encouraged to pursue their studies. To try to achieve the first two is quite a challenge, and the third is to accept the issues with dignity."
Midori will perform with a former colleague who is a faculty member at the Juilliard School in New York City. Robert McDonald has been with Juilliard as a professor of piano and chamber music since 1999 and has traveled extensively nationally and internationally as a soloist and recital partner. For the past 21 summers, he directed the keyboard program at the Taos School of Music and Chamber Music Festival in New Mexico. McDonald won the Gold Medal at the Busoni International Piano competition in Italy along with other top prizes at the William Kapell International Competition and Washington International Competition. He recorded for Sony Classical and Vox labels with Midori and Isaac Stern and for the British label ASV with violist Helen Callus.
Bemidji is fortunate to have renowned musicians appear together on the stage at Bemidji High School. It proves Midori's commitment to bringing first class musical performances to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity. She will appear with McDonald in the final concert of this year's Bemidji Concert Series at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 8, at the Bemidji High School Auditorium.
Tickets are $5 for students through college, $20 for adults and $30 for reserved seating tickets and are available now at Lueken's Village Foods North, Tutto Bene the Bemidji State University Music Department on the second floor of Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex on the campus of BSU. If available, tickets will also be sold at the door the night of performance.