Midori on Community Engagement

July 4, 2011

by Christina Chung

When we gather to make music, we simply forget about the boundaries that are put forth by language.”

- Midori Goto

On Saturday June 25th, ACC Artistic Advisor Midori Goto presented a talk entitled: “Midori on Community Engagement” at the ACC HK office.


The talk gathered an intimate group of guests including ACC HK Friends’ Committee members, ACC grantees and members of the local arts community who share in her interest towards seeing the community benefit from the arts. Whilst it is known widely that Midori is an extraordinary violinist, on Saturday afternoon it was the depth of her dedication and passion for her community engagement projects that captivated the room.


Midori traced her beginnings in community engagement to 1992 when she founded the organization ‘Midori & Friends’ which provides music education to underserved students in the Greater New York City area. Her vision was not to provide supplementary “enhancement performances” to these underserved schools but instead to bring in sustained, integrated arts programs which would nurture creativity in children and provide them with a well-rounded education.


Since 1992, over 160,000 children have participated in the ‘Midori & Friends’ program and it has led to higher academic grades and graduation rates for the schools involved.


She has since established two other organizations and programs which all carry at its core this belief in the ability of music to benefit individuals and communities at large. ACC had the pleasure of supporting her International Community Engagement Program (ICEP) in 2009 which took place in Mongolia. ICEP uniquely offers an opportunity for young musicians from Japan to form a string quartet with Midori and travel with her to share music with children who have limited access to the arts.


Whilst performing in schools, special schools, orphanages, hospitals and other institutions, the young musicians themselves receive a first-hand education in community outreach as they engage with the children and learn from Midori in this regard. Midori emphasizes the need to fully connect with the culture of the visited country and undergoes cultural training courses with her quartet group prior to their departure to ensure that the exchange and benefit is truly both ways for the musicians and children.


In addition to these, Midori’s ‘Orchestra’s Residencies Program’ and ‘Partners in Performance’ organization has her working actively to keep classical music alive in the United States by collaborating with youth orchestras and overseeing their music training programs.


It was precisely this far-reaching vision and dedicated personal involvement that moved the guests and inspired them. Her projects are not confined to isolated programs in pocket groups, but rather they are engineered to generate self-initiated and sustained community outreach by the people and places that have been impacted by her work.


During the talk Midori repeatedly mentioned how much her community projects have enriched her and its participants, but one of the most touching moments was when she discussed her experience in working with disabled children through her ‘Instrumental Instruction for the Disabled Program’.


In coming up with creative solutions for these children to be able to play their instruments despite their disabilities, Midori said that “this taught me what it means to really play an instrument”. It is music without concern for the form and posture of the body; returning its focus to the sound and the joy that it brings.


What Midori has accomplished is perhaps best summarized by a statement made by ACC grantee Martin Fung that afternoon: “it is beyond music, through music.”