The violinist Midori has been a professional musician for nearly three decades. Starting with her debut with the New York Philharmonic at the age of 11, Midori has balanced a career as a professional musician with an array of outside interests.
The violinist Midori Goto has been a professional musician for nearly three decades.
Starting with her debut with the New York Philharmonic at the age of 11, Midori has balanced a career as a professional musician with an array of outside interests.
Midori has started several charity programs, such as Midori & Friends, Music Sharing and Partners in Performance, to bring music — and herself — to underserved populations and students around the world. That commitment to public service led to her being named a Messenger of Peace for the United Nations.
Amid all that, she maintains a busy, international touring schedule.
Earlier this week, she was in Bellingham, Wash., performing the Britten Concerto with the Whatcom Symphony. On Oct. 20, she performed the same piece with the Royal Danish Orchestra in Copenhagen before returning stateside.
Midori recently took time to answer a few questions about her continuing growth as a musician, her rehearsal regimen and her decision to pursue academic degrees outside music.
(The interview was conducted over email, and has been edited and condensed.)
Q: Over the summer, you wrote on your blog, www.gotomidori.com, that repeatedly performing a Beethoven piece in a concentrated time period led to a “growth spurt” in your duo partnership with accompanying pianist Ozgur Aydin. After so many performances, how do these pieces still have the capacity to surprise you?
A: There are always new elements to discover in a piece of music, no matter how many times I’ve performed it!
Whether I’ve only recently performed the piece or if I’m returning to it after a longer time away, the many experiences in my own life prompt me to naturally approach the work in a different way than I have before.
Of course, performing a piece with different ensembles and conductors and musicians means that there are endless variations in terms of interpretation and expression as well.
Q: How do you go about building a musical relationship with an accompanist?
A: Finding a musical partner can be quite a challenge, as it’s important that we both meld well with the other’s rehearsal and performance style.
There are also many other considerations, such as interpretive and repertoire choices and even scheduling concerns. Having the opportunity to work with a pianist for several years at a time helps us each to develop as musical partners and as solo musicians.
Q: What goes into programming a recital?
A: In any of the recital programs, we try to seek a balance of various elements, from style to personality. Normally, we decide on the centerpiece first, and the rest grows out from it.
What is important is how each of the pieces fit with each other as well as to offer contrasts, and this isn’t just about how the program seems on paper but rather much more on our ears — how it “sounds” as a coherent program.
Q: How often do you take on new pieces? Is it easier at this phase of your career?
A: If you are referring to a “new piece” as a commissioned work, I have to say that these opportunities don’t come more often than once or twice a year — although the fact that I am getting to do this at all is indeed very fortunate, and I am grateful.
It is such an exciting process to look and start breathing in air for a piece that has never been heard before and to bring to it a life that it will continue to have from that point onward.
In terms of getting to modern, contemporary pieces, I do that fairly often. Not all of them are “new” to me anymore, but some are. I work to incorporate new music into my repertoire every season. Of course there are also many older works that I hope to have the opportunity to perform someday as well.
Learning a new piece — whether it’s newly written or new for me in my repertoire — is always a challenge and an exciting process, but that doesn’t mean that it’s gotten any easier over the course of my career!
Q: Do you still practice every day?
A: Although every day is somewhat different, I do end up spending a good five to six hours each day for practice.
With travel, performances, rehearsals, teaching and other commitments, the schedule changes from day to day, but I do generally like to have a chunk of time in the mornings (before rehearsals, for instance) and in the evenings (after concerts).
It doesn’t help me to practice in short snippets because each time I re-start to practice there is a window of time that is necessary in order to get my fingers going in order to be able to practice. I lose time this way because I need to re-warm up for a few minutes before I can really practice for each session.
I also know that it isn’t the amount of time but the quality that counts. I am not practicing with a stopwatch, so to say. I only put my instrument away when the work is done, not when the time is up.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue academic degrees in psychology? Has that formal education played into your musical career?
A: For all of my life, I have been fascinated by people and how they think — how they respond to situations and why.
I also always intended to go to college, though I didn’t know what subject I would pursue for my degree ... I actually wasn’t particularly thinking that I would actually pursue a degree at all. I started simply by taking some courses.
When I took an introductory class in psychology at New York University as part of the core curriculum, I was intrigued by the subject –– it makes sense in retrospect because of the lifelong fascination I had with people’s minds.
I found the subject matter fascinating and decided to continue taking courses, eventually pursuing both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in psychology.
I spent some time considering whether to continue to pursue psychology as a career, though I eventually made the decision to continue as a musician instead.
I do feel, however, that my experience in college and my studies have changed who I am as a person, which in turn affects the way that I approach music as well.