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Midori Goto, professionally known simply as Midori, was born in Osaka, Japan, and from the age of three studied violin with her mother, Setsu Goto, who had noticed the toddler singing melodies by Bach she had heard days earlier.
She made her concert debut in Osaka at six. Midori came to the U.S. in 1981, studying with Dorothy DeLay at the Aspen Music School and later the Juilliard School; a less direct mentor was Pinchas Zukerman. Midori made her debut at the New York Philharmonic's New Year's Eve concert in 1982, when she was 10. She charmed the crowd: a group of collectors loaned her an original Stradivarius instrument that she continues to play, and conductor Zubin Mehta invited her to tour Asia with the orchestra. The same year, she signed with CBS Masterworks (now Sony Classical), and her international career was launched. At 14, she landed on the front page of the New York Times after a performance with the Philharmonic in Central Park, and she benefited throughout her teen years from sympathetic press. "Any sentient adult watching her dig into Mozart's Concerto in D, K. 218, under the sympathetic baton of Gerard Schwarz could only have felt the tug of the parental instinct," wrote Times critic Donal Henahen in a 1989 review. She stunned both teachers and audiences with her mastery of some of the most difficult works in the violin repertory, including Paganini's 24 Caprices for solo violin, Op. 1, which she recorded in 1988.
Midori successfully left prodigy status behind and assumed a consistent position in the top rank of international concert attractions. Often associated with Mehta at first, she has worked with other conductors and orchestras worldwide. An undeniably charismatic performer, Midori has for much of her career remained within the boundaries of the mainstream violin concerto repertoire from Bach to Bartók. She has gradually broadened her scope, however, first with recitals (her debut recital at Carnegie Hall in 1990 was recorded), and later with chamber music (her first tour as part of a trio came in 2008, with pianist Jonathan Biss and cellist Johannes Moser) and commissions for new works. In addition to her activities as a prominent virtuoso, Midori has also founded and nurtured Midori and Friends, a nonprofit organization providing educational experiences and concerts for underprivileged and hospitalized children. By 2008, the program had benefited more than 150,000 students, and she has supplanted it with a community-oriented chamber music organization called Partners in Performance and a similar group in Japan called Music Sharing. Her work to promote classical music at the community level has taken her as far afield as Indonesia. Midori's numerous awards include both musical and humanitarian honors. She was a winner, in 2001, of the Avery Fisher Prize, and in 2007 United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon named her an official U.N. Messnger of Peace. The holder of bachelor's (magna cum laude, 2000) and master's (2005) degrees in psychology from New York University, Midori holds the Jascha Heifetz Chair at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California.