It is difficult to believe that Midori, a youthful 39, has had a career that predates email as most of us know it. It might be that with head-turning performances with the New York Philharmonic at age 11 and for conductor Leonard Bernstein at 14, she will always be a wunderkind to many of her fans.
But Midori has grown up and now has many obligations, including chairing the strings department at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The Japan native, whose full name is Midori Goto, also is an in-demand concert soloist, and that aspect of her career brings her to Central Kentucky this weekend to play Ludwig van Beethoven's Violin Concerto with conductor Scott Terrell and the Lexington Philharmonic to launch the orchestra's 50th-anniversary season.
Because of a schedule that last week had Midori in four countries, we interviewed her via email. Here is an edited transcript of that interview. (Note: You can see a full transcript at Rich Copley's blog, Copious Notes, at LexGo.com.)
Question: Considering you are widely regarded as one of the top names in the world in classical music, most would assume Midori does not have to teach, so why do you teach?
Answer: I am passionate about teaching, and I think that is the main reason why I do teach. My work with my students has provided some of the most important moments that I've known. For me, teaching is always a two-way street. I learn an incredible amount from my students' ideas and aspirations. Working with committed, intelligent musicians challenges me to constantly reevaluate my own music making. And, of course, it's a wonderful joy to see my students set and achieve goals for themselves, both musical and personal.
Q: What does it mean to you to be the Jascha Heifetz chair of the department of strings at USC?
A: It's a privilege to be associated with the great violinist and teacher in such a way through my position at USC. It's also a fun "fact" that I get to think about as I play some of the repertoire. I am also the chair of the strings department, however, and that is the title, role and responsibility I live with every day, trying to hold the integrity of the department together.
Q: On your Web site (Gotomidori.com), you referenced this being the 30th anniversary of your performing career, and you expressed a little feeling that it's harder to get away from work and obligations these days. How has the life of a performing artist changed, from your perspective, over the past three decades?
A: I think the revolution in technology has definitely brought a major change in our lives, and our field as well. Gone are the days of faxes and telegrams. I think that there has been a decentralization of how a career is managed, and much is done electronically. Information is easier to dispense, but it's also difficult to assess how effectively it is reaching out. ... How one utilizes technology effectively has been a topic of discussion for many arts organization, and it is an ongoing question. At the same time, in the arts, we also know that not everything can be "replaced" by the new methods, and it is this conflicting idea between the thoughts that 1) replacement is possible and 2) there is no shortcut that has also channeled into our psyche as people.
Q: What are your hopes for the next 30 years of your career? Are there musical and educational achievements you aspire to?
A: There are many musical and educational goals that I have! I love learning about new things, and I think that I'll continue to discover new sources of inspiration and excitement, as well as new challenges and ambitions, in all types of projects. I also hope to be fortunate enough to continue to do as I am doing right now with various special projects and more. To be an artist is to continue to learn for life, and I learn all the time about my inadequacies. Most importantly, I seek to become as selfless as I can in order to get rid of self and to be freed from vice.