The Staller Center for the Arts saw the return of the renowned violinist, Midori, this weekend for a master class followed by a concert this past Sunday. Midori began studying the violin with her mother at an early age. She was invited to her first musical debut at the age of 11 at the New York Philharmonic’s traditional New Year’s Eve concert, which pushed her to beginning her career in music.
At age 20, Midori began an organization to bring music to underserved neighborhoods in U.S. and Japan. This organization originally started with personal appearances by Midori, but expanded over 21 years into four distinct organizations. The mission statement of the organization is that music is something to be experienced and enjoyed by all, which is something that Midori has brought directly into her teaching.
I got to sit down for a brief interview with Midori before her Staller concert to discuss her musical career.
Brandon Benarba: So to begin I wanted to ask about your organization, which you started when you were 20. That is a really young age to start something so big, what were some of the challenges you faced regarding starting the organization?
Midori: Um, well there are challenges in whatever you do, but it was something I learned to embrace. I did not realize what an undertaking it was and unfortunately how widespread the issue was, and that you can not just tackle the icing of the cake. You really have to tackle the issue head on and there are so many ways to try and achieve that. It is not like you can take a cookie cutter approach and think that it is going to work for all, you have to try all these different ways to try and spread music. Understanding the scope of the issue was a challenge, but embracing how widespread of a problem it was and really getting the inspiration from the vastness of the problem really pushed me forward. With music the possibilities are endless.
Brandon Benarba: Well music is such a universal thing that varies between cultures so there is a lot that you can work with. I know that the organization has continued to grow over time, so how is the reception from those you are trying to help today?
Midori: I think that those we are reaching out to have always been very receptive of the program. We do a lot of educational work, it isn’t just entertainment purposes, and so we work along with a bunch of institutions to work together. It isn’t always that you are going to feel the benefits of music instantly, for most people it is something that comes to them later. Sometimes you have to look back in retrospect to see how something benefits your life, which is something many of our students have felt.
Brandon Benarba: I noticed that during your master class today you have a very hands on approach to teaching music, which is how you have worked with musicians before. Do you believe that as music changes that you still need that physical interaction?
Midori: Yes, I really do believe that. It is not something that we can ever recreate digitally as music is so physically involving and you really start to feel it. You really need to have that one on one interaction between teacher and student to really understand.
Brandon Benarba: I know that you travel worldwide and perform music, so what is that like for you? I know that you recently just got back from Russia.
Midori: It is a huge privilege to be able to just perform. You get so much experience as an artist to be able to perform and join other cultures, and hear the different music and sounds, which really inspires us. And during the process of performing you really start to clarify on your ideas as an artist, which allows you to expand on them. The interactions I get from musicians in my travels is something that is really, really unique every time I go somewhere.
Brandon Benarba: You talk about these interactions and how they change your music, but what inspires you?
Midori: Well music itself is the biggest inspiration no question about that (laughter). It’s like, music doesn’t change, it doesn’t become better in certain places and worse in other locations. No, music is always there for me and it has continued to inspire me throughout my career.
Brandon Benarba: Ok, well how do you feel about your concert tonight? After all these years performing do you still get nervous doing these kinds of performances?
Midori: Oh no. I’m really looking forward to playing and especially being back in Stony Brook, where I haven’t been in a few years. I have performed here multiple times in the past before, so it is always meaningful to come back to a place. I mean it is always good to go and perform in a new place that there is something special to come back to a place you haven’t been in awhile.