Weekend Diversion: Midori and the Arts

Last night, I had the absolute pleasure to hear Midori, one of the top violinists in the world, play with the Oregon Symphony Orchestra.

(For those of you wondering, she was spectacular.)

What does Midori sound like? Here’s her playing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto fifteen years ago with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

While I recognize that classical music may not be to everyone’s taste, I believe that much like a quality education and quality science, everyone should have access to a quality arts program, too.

But the philanthropic work that Midori is undertaking to those ends is simply phenomenal. You can read a full biography of what she’s been doing here, but I thought I’d share some highlights with you.

The first organization she founded to tackle this issue was Midori & Friends, started in 1992 in response to serious cutbacks in music education in New York City schools; over the last 17 years, over 160,000 children have benefitted from this program. Midori & Friends provides comprehensive music education (including instrument instruction and general music instruction), workshops and concerts to children who might not otherwise have the opportunity for involvement in the arts.

In 2003 Midori created another non-profit organization, Partners in Performance. The aim of “PiP” is to broaden the audience for chamber music by bringing high profile chamber music performances to small community-based organizations in the U.S. Among the communities where PiP has been presented since its inception are Randolph, Vermont; Manasquan, New Jersey; Plymouth, New Hampshire; Reno, Nevada; Barron, Wisconsin; Richland, Washington; McHenry, Maryland; and five small communities in Montana, Minnesota and Missouri.

2004-2005 marked the inauguration of Midori’s Orchestra Residencies Program, in which she spends a week with a local youth orchestra which has ties to a small professional orchestra; Midori performs with both orchestras, coaching young musicians, appearing at benefits and subscription series concerts and working with both orchestras to raise arts awareness within the community.

Midori feels passionately that people must have access to a variety of great music, regardless of their age, race, social class, geographic location, or financial means. In 2007 Midori was designated an official U.N. Messenger of Peace by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who cited her community engagement work as a model of exemplary commitment to worldwide goals shared by the U.N.

Isn’t that amazing? And for all of this — her virtuosity with the violin and all of these education efforts — Midori isn’t even 40 yet! So whether you’re a fan and patron of the symphony or not, I hope you find this story of someone just taking the initiative to make this quality of music and of music education available to everyone uplifting and inspiring. I know it certainly inspires me!

Have a great weekend, and I’ll be back with more about the Universe for you on Monday!