Famous violinist Midori works with orchestra

February 22, 2010 — by Kyumin Shim and Ashley Tang

Boitz (left) conducts the Saratoga High School Orchestra, while violinist Midori (right) evaluates the performance.

Violin virtuoso Midori has performed at concert halls across the globe, from Dublin to Budapest to Tokyo. At age 14, she recorded her first album and in 2007, was designated the United Nations Messenger of Peace. Midori has also founded several organizations that provide musical education to children who might otherwise not have a chance to play an instrument.

On Feb. 2, Saratoga musicians had the chance to listen to Midori perform the Bach Sonata and then take advice from Midori herself. During third period, she encouraged students to fully appreciate music with their whole hearts and to listen more carefully to each other. She coached the group through two pieces, Quartet No. 8 by Shostakovich and Quartet in D by Borodin.

“There are many different ways to listen on many different levels,” Midori said. “You need to listen to the texture of the music and the orchestra as a whole. Ask yourself, ‘how are other parts contributing to your part in the orchestra?'”

Midori, 38, now instructs at USC’s Thornton School of Music and travels around the world as a professional violinist. She applied her teaching skills as she taught one of the school orchestras, Saratoga Strings. While music director Michael Boitz conducted the orchestra, Midori listened and gave tips to the students on how to improve their playing.

Said junior violist Mel Hsiang, “I liked how she talked about the emotional aspect of playing, rather than the technical part, unlike other guest conductors we have had in the past.”

Although Midori was only on campus for a short amount of time, many orchestra members felt that her visit had an extremely positive influence on the orchestra as a whole.

“Everyone was really trying to apply whatever she told us as soon as we started to play,” said sophomore cellist Connie Chien.

Both the students and Boitz were excited to meet Midori, although Boitz was a little nervous at first.

“I’m always nervous in these situations because I want to do my best,” said Boitz. “At the same time, I was extremely excited for the students to meet this world-class violinist.”

Midori also shared with the musicians a new perspective on how to play in orchestra.

“The orchestra is the conductor’s instrument,” said Midori. “He expresses what he’s trying to convey to you.”

After the workshop, students had time to ask Midori any questions that they had for her. One student asked if practicing violin was a chore or if she really enjoyed it.

“Most of the time, I enjoy practicing,” said Midori, “but sometimes when I’m really tired and worn out, I tell myself that I still have to practice. For me, the best time to practice is right after I perform at a concert, when I am free from any disruptions for a couple of hours.”

P.J. Woolston, the admissions program manager of USC, helped organize Midori’s visit. After rehearsing, students in orchestra took a photo together with Midori and Woolston to preserve their memory of the famous violinist.

Hsiang said, “It was very cool. I’m sad I didn’t get her autograph, but it was still very nice meeting her.”

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