Midori Goto was born in Osaka, Japan, in 1971. She received her first violin (a very tiny 1/16 model) when she was 3, and then began receiving lessons from her mother. Her mother had been inspired to teach Goto after hearing her humming a Bach tune with near-perfect recall.
This early sign of musicality would prove to be prescient. Goto gave her first public performance three years later, playing Paganini’s 24 Caprices in her hometown. She soon outgrew the level of education provided in Japan, so in order for her to receive a proper education, she and her mother moved to Japan. Goto auditioned for Juilliard’s Pre-College program by playing Bach’s Chaconne, a notoriously difficult violin piece. Unsurprisingly, she was accepted and began studying with Dorothy DeLay, the teacher behind many of the world’s most famous violinists.
Later that same year -- in 1982 -- she played with the New York Philharmonic during their New Year’s Eve concert showcasing rising young talent. Initially Goto wasn’t included in the program. But due to a last-minute scheduling change, she took the stage, and wowed the crowd. So impressive was her performance that the Philharmonic conductor, Zubin Mehta, asked her to tour internationally with them. She accepted, and soon after signed with Sony Classics, with whom she and Mehta would release a number of recordings.
In 1986, nearly three years into a thriving professional career, 15-year-old Goto decided to end her studies at Juilliard with DeLay. That same year, her career received another big boost with the help of the New York Philharmonic. Goto joined the Philharmonic at the Tanglewood venue in Massachusetts for a rendition of Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade. She played so fast and so passionately that she broke two violins in the process. By the end of her performance, Bernstein, who was also conducting that night, bowed to her in recognition of her incredible talent. The next day, she made the front page of the New York Times.
By the time 19-year-old Goto made her debut at Carnegie Hall in 1990, she was already a world-famous touring and recording artist. Seeking a new challenge, Goto began her philanthropic work in 1992 when she founded Midori and Friends, a nonprofit organization that provides semester-long music workshops for underprivileged children in New York. After receiving the esteemed Avery Fisher Prize in 2001, she used the prize money to create Partners in Performance, which brings chamber music to small communities around the United States. Since then, she’s created two other programs: the Orchestra Residencies Program, where youth orchestras have a chance to win a weeklong residency with Goto, and Music Sharing, which provides music lessons to children in Japan. Her efforts were recognized in 2007 when she was named an official U.N. Messenger of Peace.
As if that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Goto also received her bachelor’s in psychology from Gallatin School at New York University in 2000, then a master’s in 2005. She’s also taught at the Manhattan School of Music, the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, and most recently, Oxford University.
Now in her 40s, Goto is still aptly considered a prodigy. With an incredible repertory spanning contemporary, classical, chamber music and beyond, Goto has made a name for herself as the young violinist who can take on violin’s most challenging works. She’s also used her incredible talents for good, earning another well-deserved reputation as one of classical music’s most generous musicians. From an early age, it’s been clear that Midori Goto is a remarkable human being.