Preparing "Like an Athlete" to Play Violin
Midori Goto is an internationally-renowned violinist and philanthropist. Born in Osaka, Japan, Midori began studying violin with her mother at a very young age, and made her debut with the New York Philharmonic at the age of 11. Her violin is the 1734 Guarnerius del Gesu "ex-Huberman," which is on lifetime loan to her from the Hayashibara Foundation. Since 1992, Midori has balanced touring and performing with humanitarian work. She has founded four community engagement organizations—Midori & Friends, Partners in Performance, Orchestra Residencies Program, and Music Sharing—and in 2007 she was named a U.N. Messenger of Peace. She currently lives in Los Angeles.
Question: How do you prepare physically and mentally before a performance?
Midoro Goto: I'm always very conscious of having to warm up correctly. In a way, it's very much like an athlete, we warm up. We warm up our bodies so that the body can be relaxed, to take on the stress or the pressures of the performance. And it's the same thing also in practice. It is very much physical, to a certain extent, when we play our instrument. I don't particularly work out or lift weights or try to build muscles or anything like that, but I'm very careful about making sure that I'm very relaxed and there is, you know, there is no unnecessary tension or tension locked in, in the arms or in the body because it also affects the sound.
Question: Do you get nervous?
Midoro Goto: I think that before a performance, I think I try to concentrate, I don't get nervous at this point, but I'm always very eager to go on, to play, very excited to go on stage. But I also don't think of it as something particularly ultra-special. Just, you know, it's something—I think one of the reasons why I keep myself so calm is because I don't hype it up to be something so extraordinarily special, but I'm there to do what I like, I'm there to explore the music. And that makes it much more calm, say than, you know, hyping myself to think, "Wow, you know, I get to play in front of a large audience and this is a big concert and I have to do X, Y, and Z." Rather than that, every concert for me is important. But then also, that it's something that I don't particularly think as being almost, I don't think of it as, sort of a, you know, life or death situation. I take it as it comes. I am of course very well prepared, hopefully, for most of the concerts. But psychologically, I try not to make it feel so, so, so special.
Question: What is your mental state like while you perform?
Midoro Goto: I think that it's a form of, at least for me, extreme concentration. I don't particularly say that I go into a trance, but I'm concentrating on the music so much that it is very difficult to distract me, which in a way is a little bit trance-like, some people might say. But I think that the concentration, the focus is so strong, so pointed, that it's not possible for me to be distracted so easily or to be startled and I listen, I think it's hard to describe what the thoughts are, but, you know, so many things happen, or so many things should happen, you know, it's a lot of multi-tasking when one performs, but very difficult to explain verbally what this experience is like.
Recorded July 9, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
Midori Goto doesn’t lift weights or try to build muscle but she is "very conscious of having to warm up correctly" in order to handle the physical and mental strain of performance.
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