In the 2012-2013 season, violinist Midori will celebrate the 30th anniversary of her performing career. She made her debut at age 11 as a surprise guest soloist with the New York Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta in 1982. In the intervening years, she has made good use of her time. Today Midori is recognized as an extraordinary performer, a devoted and gifted educator, and an innovative community engagement activist. In recognition of the breadth and quality of her work in these three entirely separate fields, in 2012 she was given the prestigious Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum in Davos, was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and was awarded an honorary doctorate in music by Yale University. In 2007, she was named a Messenger of Peace by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In essence, over the years 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 30th anniversary season began with a presentation of the complete violin solo sonatas and partitas of J.S. Bach in major performing venues and cities throughout the world. She undertakes four recital tours (U.S., Europe) with pianist Özgür Aydin. Among her concerto appearances are collaborations with the Munich Philharmonic and conductor Zubin Mehta, the Atlanta Symphony and Robert Spano, the Vienna Symphony under Eliahu Inbal, the Baltimore Symphony and Gilbert Varga, and the Vancouver Symphony under Bramwell Tovey. She performs and records the Hindemith Violin Concerto with the NDR Symphony and conductor Christoph Eschenbach, and records a recital program with Mr. Aydin. In January 2013, Midori and the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the direction of Pablo Heras-Casado played the world premiere of a new violin concerto by Hungarian composer Peter Eötvös, co-commissioned for Midori by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Leipzig Gewandhaus and the BBC Proms. Midori will play the concerto with Kent Nagano and the Leipzig Gewandhaus in April 2013.
Named Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of Southern California in 2012, Midori continues work with her students at USC's Thornton School, where she is also Jascha Heifetz Chair and Chair of the Strings Department. To these commitments she adds a guest professorship at Japan's Soai University, and substantial periods of time devoted to the four community engagement programs she has founded in the U.S. and Japan: Midori & Friends, Partners in Performance, Orchestra Residencies Program, and Music Sharing.
Midori's involvement with community engagement began in 1992. Then just 21 years of age, she started an organization to bring music to underserved neighborhoods in the U.S. and Japan. What started with just individual personal appearances by Midori has over the last 20 years evolved into a New York City-based program, which now boasts a multi-tiered 26-week course for school children, including instrument instruction, elementary music theory, choral singing and community concerts in diverse musical genres. Over 200,000 children have participated in Midori & Friends programs in every borough of the city in the succeeding years.
With the belief that classical music in small communities deserves support, Midori took the money 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 classical music, especially in smaller communities without the advantages of large urban centers, which are automatically included in every major concert tour. To the winning applicant organizations, Partners in Performance awards a recital donated by Midori – and often a Young Artists Program recital by a rising star – to be played as part of the winning organization's regular season. The winning organizations supply a modest fee to cover administrative costs, and all the proceeds from the concerts are used by the community to support its classical 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 Columbia, Kentucky and Fallon, Nevada.
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 over multiple days in a wide range of activities with both the youth orchestras and their partner professional orchestras. Midori performs with the youth 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, Montana, Virginia, Oregon and Tennessee. In 2012-2013, Midori brings programs to Little Rock, Arkansas and Reading, Pennsylvania. In 2010 Midori expanded the mission of the program to include collaborations with orchestras outside the U.S. The first of these initiatives, in the 2009-2010 season, took place in Costa Rica, and in subsequent years, others have been conducted in Bulgaria and Peru.
Music Sharing is an organization based in Tokyo whose goal is to bring Western classical music and traditional Japanese music of the highest caliber to young people throughout Japan and Asia. Midori and other visiting artists bring performances to children in schools, hospitals and institutions for the disabled. The children engage in the program not only as listeners but also as participants, and to that end since 2006 a specially dedicated instrument instruction program has been developed for the disabled. Music Sharing aims to raise cultural awareness, provide a well-rounded education, and inspire in all participants an appreciation for the life-changing power of live music. In 2006 Music Sharing also 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 turnabout 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. Music Sharing has brought ICEP programs to Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Mongolia and Laos. In the coming season ICEP programs will be conducted in Bangladesh and Japan.
Midori's enthusiasm for playing and supporting the music of our time has blossomed into a significant and ongoing commitment. Over the years she has commissioned works for a great variety of forces. Over all, the individuals Midori has sought out to create new repertoire for the violin represents an impressive array of some of the most talented composers of our time, including Lee Hyla, Rodion Shchedrin, Krzysztof Penderecki, Derek Bermel, Brett Dean, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Michael Hersch, Pierre Jalbert, and now Peter Eötvös. The next new work Midori will be premiering has been commissioned from Austrian composer Johannes Maria Staud.
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; her second recording, also for Philips, featured works by Paganini and Tchaikovsky with the London Symphony and conductor Leonard Slatkin. All her other recordings are on Sony Masterworks, the most recent being an album joining sonatas of J.S. Bach and Bartók; 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.
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. It was updated and reissued in German-speaking territories in 2011.
Midori was born in Osaka, Japan, in 1971 and began studying the violin with her mother, Setsu Goto, at a very early age. Zubin Mehta first heard Midori play in 1982, and it was he who invited her to make her now legendary debut at 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.
In 2000, Midori 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. In her spare time away from USC and the concert hall, Midori enjoys reading, writing and attending the theater.
Midori's violin is the 1734 Guarnerius del Gesù "ex-Huberman". She uses three bows – two by Dominique Peccatte, and one by Paul Siefried.