Visiting Artist: Midori

“How long have you been playing this piece?” Midori asked students as they finished a Haydn piano trio. As part of her Orchestra Residencies Program work with the Louisiana Philharmonic and Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestras, the renowned violinist and educator had come to NOCCA to offer some hands-on guidance to our classical instrumentalists — particularly on chamber music pieces.

After hearing that they had been playing the piece for a while, she said, “You listen to each other very well, but do you listen as a unit? How does the blending of three very different instruments work?” She helped students understand their responsibility to convey the character of a piece, and she urged them to examine each sequence closely for clues left by the composer: “Why did Haydn put that change there? He didn’t have to. What does it add to the character?”

She encouraged students to bring out the emotion of the works they play. “What kind of entrance would you like to make. Is it with more energy or less? Happier or lighter? Grand or discreet? It is up to you, but something has to happen.”

As she worked with NOCCA’s developing artists on their analytical processes, she wanted to make sure they always looked at the whole composition and performance. “As a group, be sure you are pacing correctly. We have limitations with our instruments, and can only play so loud or so softly. We need to think both forward and backwards as we play music.”

Though the cold weather during Midori’s visit forced a cancellation of a planned community engagement project, her work to provide access to music of every variety should inspire young artists everywhere. Among her personal initiatives are Midori and Friends, founded in 1992 to provide music education and concerts to public school students in New York City; Music Sharing, launched in Japan; Instrumental Instruction for the Disabled Program; Partners in Performance, to broaden audiences for chamber music; and the Orchestra Residencies Program, launched in 2004-05. Midori has offered master classes to young violinists all over the world and currently holds the Jascha Heifetz Chair at USC’s Thorton School of Music. She is the winner of the Avery Fisher Prize and the Suntory Music Award. She made her concert debut at the New York Philharmonic at the age of 11 under the direction of Zubin Mehta.

“Music has to reach out,” she told students. “It goes past the wall of the concert hall. Music cannot be contained.”

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