Violinist Midori, chair of the strings department and holder of the Jascha Heifetz Chair in Violin at the USC Thornton School of Music, will receive the Crystal Award on Jan. 25 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The award recognizes Midori’s commitment to community engagement worldwide, including her founding role and ongoing work with the organizations Midori & Friends, Partners in Performance, Music Sharing and the Orchestra Residencies program.
“I’m excited to be receiving the Crystal Award,” said Midori, professor of strings/harp at USC Thornton. “It serves as an encouragement for my future work. I look forward to meeting the World Economic Forum’s community of socially conscious world leaders.”
The World Economic Forum bestows the award on artists who have used their art and influence to contribute to international society. Previous winners include cellist Yo-Yo Ma, El Sistema founder Jose Antonio Abreu and dancer Mallika Sarabhai.
At the age of 20, upon learning of severe cutbacks to arts education in the United States, Midori conceived of an organization she called Midori & Friends. Over the last two decades, almost 200,000 children have participated in programs which include a 26-week tiered course for schoolchildren featuring instrument instruction, elementary music theory, choral singing and community concerts in New York City.
In 2001, Midori took the money she won as part of the Avery Fisher Prize and established Partners in Performance, this time focusing on classical music organizations in smaller communities. Partners in Performance awards a concert performed by Midori and a recital featuring a rising star at a reduced rate – both to be part of the winning organization’s regular season. This season, Partners in Performance will sponsor Midori concerts in Morehead, Ky., and Melbourne, Fla.
In 2004, she established the Orchestra Residencies program, an initiative designed to reach out to young musicians in youth orchestras in the United States. Each year, two winning youth orchestras are chosen by an independent committee for week-long residencies by Midori, who collaborates in activities with the youth orchestras and their partnering professional orchestras. Orchestra Residencies programs have been conducted in Alabama, Alaska, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Tennessee and Vermont. This year, Midori will bring programs to Alexandria, Va., and Eugene, Ore.
In 2010, Midori expanded the Orchestra Residencies program to include collaborations with orchestras outside the United States. The first of these initiatives, in the 2009-10 season, took place in Costa Rica; the second, in the 2010-11 season, was held in Bulgaria. Midori started the 2011-12 season in September with an international Orchestra Residencies program in Peru. Plans are under way for a residency in the Middle East in the 2012-13 season.
Midori also is involved with Music Sharing, an organization based in Tokyo. She and other visiting artists offer performances to children in schools, hospitals and institutions for the disabled. In 2006, Music Sharing expanded to include International Community Engagement programs. Those programs have taken place in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Mongolia and Vietnam; the next program is planned for Bangladesh in December.
In addition to her arts advocacy and community engagement, Midori typically plays 95 concerts a year. In 2006, she was designated a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.
Born in Osaka, Japan, Midori began studying the violin with her mother in her early years. At the age of 11, she made her debut with the New York Philharmonic after Zubin Mehta invited her as a surprise guest soloist. She received a standing ovation and the start to a stellar career.