The violinist Midori is recognized not only for the evolution and scope of her 28-year career as one of the most dazzlingly gifted performers before the public, but increasingly for the prescient and innovative community engagement initiatives to which she devotes a substantial amount of her energies and resources worldwide on an ongoing basis. Named a Messenger of Peace by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2007, she has created a new model for young artists who seek to balance the joys and demands of a performing career at the highest level with a hands-on investment in the power of music to change lives.
Midori’s season will begin with performances at such festivals as Ravinia, Schleswig-Holstein, Caramoor and Edinburgh, and will continue with over 100 concerts in 19 countries throughout the year. She will make her fifth recital tour devoted entirely to new music, this one culminating in an engagement at Zankel Hall in New York City. Midori will appear with the BBC Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, and many other eminent orchestras in 2010-2011, and in collaborations with such conductors as Christoph Eschenbach, Sir Donald Runnicles, Kent Nagano, Alan Gilbert, and Edo deWaart. In addition to the new music tour, the season will feature four more recital tours and one chamber music tour – with cellist Antoine Lederlin, pianist Jonathan Biss, and violist Nobuko Imai.
Midori’s love of performing is balanced every year with substantial commitments to education and community engagement initiatives. Now in her 7th year as Jascha Heifetz Chair at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music and her 4th year as Chair of its Strings Department, Midori thrives amidst the challenges presented by her full-time career as educator and administrator at a major university. To these commitments she adds ongoing, hands-on involvement in the four community engagement organizations she has founded – Midori & Friends, Partners in Performance, Orchestra Residencies Program, and Music Sharing.
Midori’s involvement with community engagement began in earnest in 1992. Upon learning of severe cutbacks to arts education in New York City public schools, she conceived of an organization she called Midori & Friends. What started with just individual personal visits by Midori to schools in underserved neighborhoods of the city, has over the last 19 years grown into a multi-tiered 26-week course for school children, including instrument instruction, elementary music theory, choral singing and community concerts. Over 180,000 children have participated in Midori & Friends programs in every borough of New York City in the succeeding years (www.midoriandfriends.org).
With the belief that chamber music in small communities deserves support, Midori took the $50,000 she won as part of the Avery Fisher Prize in 2001 and established a new organization, Partners in Performance. The raison d’être of the organization is to stimulate and reinforce local interest in recitals and chamber music, especially in smaller communities without the advantages of large urban centers, which are automatically included in every major concert tour. To two winning applicant organizations annually, Partners in Performance awards a recital by Midori and, in the following season, a Young Artists Program recital by a rising star – both to be played, at substantially reduced rates, as part of the winning organization’s regular season. Proceeds from the concerts are used by the community to support its chamber music programs. Midori has encouraged other established artists to participate in Partners in Performance programs, and in the 2009-2010 season pianist Jonathan Biss joined the team. This season, Partners in Performance will sponsor concerts by Midori in Fort Kent, Maine, by Jonathan Biss in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and by a Young Artists Program violin/piano duo in Bemidji, Minnesota (www.pipmusic.org).
In 2004, Midori established her Orchestra Residencies Program, an initiative designed to support and encourage youth orchestras in the U.S. Each year two winning applicant youth orchestras are chosen by independent committee for week-long residencies by Midori, who collaborates in a wide range of activities with both the youth orchestras and their partner professional orchestras. Midori plays with each orchestra, participates in local fund-raising, political arts advocacy, masterclasses, chamber music workshops and team-building social events that serve to strengthen morale, establish new partnerships, and solidify the standing of the youth orchestra in the community. In previous years, Orchestra Residencies Programs have been conducted in Alaska, Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa, New Mexico, South Dakota, Vermont, North Carolina, Illinois, Alabama and Montana. In 2010-2011, Midori will bring Orchestra Residencies Programs to Chattanooga, Tennessee and Davenport, Iowa.
Music Sharing is an organization based in Tokyo whose goal is to augment the Japanese music curriculum by bringing Western classical music and traditional Japanese music of the highest caliber to young people throughout Japan. Midori and other visiting artists bring performances to children in schools, hospitals and institutions for the disabled. The children enjoy the music not only as listeners but also as participants. Music Sharing aims to raise cultural awareness, provide a well-rounded education, and inspire in children an appreciation for the life-changing power of live music. In 2006 Music Sharing expanded to include international programs (ICEP: International Community Engagement Program). Each year Midori and young musicians chosen by international audition engage in a two-part program, first spending two weeks in a host country in Asia bringing Western chamber music to young people and learning in turn about native musical traditions; the second a series of concerts and workshops in Japan later in the same season. The purpose of ICEP is to offer children, especially those in difficult circumstances, the opportunity to experience the beauty and joy of music and, equally, to offer the participating young visiting musicians an opportunity to widen their horizons and learn more about community engagement. In past seasons Midori has brought ICEP programs to Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Mongolia. The ICEP in December 2010 will be conducted in Laos.
Midori and violinist Vadim Repin have joined forces in a new initiative, the Midori/Repin Commissioning Project. Through the leading commissioning organization Meet the Composer, individual donors have commissioned four solo works, each four minutes in length, to be used by the violinists as encores and in personal appearances in a variety of contexts, including fundraising events, media promotion and community work. For the commissions Midori and Mr.Repin have chosen four composers whose work they admire – Lee Hyla, Rodion Shchedrin, Krzysztof Penderecki and Derek Bermel – and this season Midori will play their world premieres at a private fundraising event to benefit Meet the Composer in San Francisco.
Midori made her first recording at the age of 14 for Philips – she played music of Bach and Vivaldi with the St.Paul Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Pinchas Zukerman. All her other recordings are on Sony Masterworks, the most recent being an album joining sonatas of J.S.Bach (Unaccompanied No.2 in A minor, BWV 1003) and Bartók (No.1 in C-sharp minor, Sz.75); and a 2-CD compilation of catalogue material, The Essential Midori. In 2003 the then-designated Sony Classical released Midori’s recording of the Bruch G minor and Mendelssohn E minor concertos, recorded live with the Berlin Philharmonic under the direction of Mariss Jansons. This recording won Germany’s coveted Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, as did her recording of French recital repertoire. The first Super Audio CD issued by Sony Classical featured Midori’s recording of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, K.320d, with violist Nobuko Imai, as well as the reconstructed Concerto in D Major for Violin and Piano (K.315f) with Christoph Eschenbach as both pianist and conductor of the NDR Symphony Orchestra. Other concerto recordings include a disk pairing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No.1, both recorded live with Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic; the Dvorák Violin Concerto with Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic, also recorded live; the two Bartók Violin Concertos with the Berlin Philharmonic under Mr. Mehta; and the Sibelius Violin Concerto with Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, with Mr. Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic. Among Midori’s other Sony Classical CDs is a Grammy-nominated recording of the Paganini Caprices for Solo Violin. Midori’s recital recordings include the Elgar and Franck sonatas, an album of French sonatas, and Encore!, a collection of virtuoso showpieces. Sony’s live recording of Midori’s Carnegie Hall recital debut (October 1990), is also available on CD and DVD.
In 2004, Midori joined the ranks of published authors with the release in Germany of a memoir titled Einfach Midori (Simply Midori), for the publisher Henschel Verlag.
Midori was born in Osaka, Japan, in 1971 and began studying the violin with her mother, Setsu Goto, at a very early age. In 1982, when Zubin Mehta first heard her play, he was so impressed that he invited her to be a surprise guest soloist for the New York Philharmonic’s traditional New Year’s Eve concert, on which occasion she received a standing ovation and the impetus to begin a major career.
Midori lives in Los Angeles. In 2000, she received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Gender Studies at the Gallatin School of New York University, graduating magna cum laude, and in 2005 received her Master’s degree in Psychology. Away from school and the concert hall, Midori enjoys reading, writing and attending the theater.
Her violin is the 1734 Guarnerius del Gesu ”ex-Huberman”, which is on lifetime loan to her from the Hayashibara Foundation. She uses four bows – two by Dominique Peccatte, one by François Peccatte, and one by Paul Siefried.