Strings of
her heart

Honolulu Symphony

Halekulani Classical MasterWorks with Samuel Wong conducting and violinist Midori performing a program of works including Beethoven's Symphony No. 8 in F Major and Brahms' Violin Concerto in D Major

Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall

When: 8 p.m. today and 4 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $16, $28, $33, $44, $59, available at the Blaisdell box office and Ticketmaster outlets, or by calling the Honolulu Symphony ticket office at 792-2000 or Ticketmaster at 877-750-4400. Order online at or

It's midnight in Manhattan, and Midori Goto has just returned to the apartment she shares with her two 14-year-old dogs, including a very ill dachshund.

For someone who performs 90-plus concerts a year as a world-class violinist, who is finalizing her master's degree and teaches at the Manhattan School of Music, she doesn't sound all that tired on the other end of the phone line.

"Oh, things are just getting started here," says the 31-year-old Goto. "Remember, this is the city that never sleeps."

Goto -- better known simply as Midori -- will be performing the Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major with the Honolulu Symphony for its season opener.

Twenty years ago, Goto was an 11-year-old prodigy from Osaka, Japan. She enrolled in the studio of Dorothy Delay at the Juilliard School with hopes of following such fellow Asian greats as conductor Seiji Ozawa, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Cho-Liang Lin.

Goto's big break came when conductor Zubin Mehta chose her as a surprise guest soloist in a New Year's Eve concert by the New York Philharmonic. She created a sensation by playing like a virtuoso -- "with a maturity far beyond her years," critics raved. But the way this veteran tells it, the concert represented a blip on her radar screen.

"It wasn't like this was my first public concert," she says. "I wasn't scared or nervous, no, not at all. It may not have been like the other concerts I had done, but I was pretty used to the stage."


If that sounds a bit jaded, it isn't. Goto, who has an undergraduate degree in psychology and is nearly finished with her master's in gender and literature, says she has never been obsessed with music to the exclusion of other interests.

"I have lots," she says. "I made a conscious decision to pursue a career in this way. I was always interested in music and violin but not always interested in it as a career until 1999, when I started focusing on it as a business.

"I knew I would never stop playing violin or have music in my life. I was playing concerts but never thought it was something I had to do. It was just there."

During the 2002-2003 season, she developed a series of concerts and appearances called "Total Experience" in small, outlying Japanese towns. This series was based on the concept of "kizuna" -- Japanese for human interconnectedness -- and involved experimentation with thematic concepts and proactive audience participation.

Goto is also working with several composers in developing new music for the violin, but she won't say whom. She describes herself as a bookworm by growing up "in a house full of books."

"Everyone in my family always reads," she said. "For a long time, I fantasized about living in a library because I love doing research, not always about music."

And what hasn't she done that she would like to do?

Her answer is pure Midori.

"The things I haven't done, I haven't done -- for now."

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