An Evening with Bach; Fujinami duets ‘Concerto for Two Violins’ with Midori

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By Jannah Kalai
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(Photos courtesy of Natalie Nakasone | Hawaii Youth Symphony) Along with Joseph Fujinami (12), Shin Chang, assistant-concertmaster of Youth Symphony I, and Angela Yang, concertmaster of Youth Symphony II, performed with Midori.

In a stunning performance, Senior Joseph Fujinami took to the Blaisdell Concert Hall stage to perform the third movement “Allegro” from Johann Bach’s “Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor” with world-renowned violinist Midori Goto on April 8. In a six-day residency program, Midori hosted master classes, advocated for the expansion of musical education in curriculum and performed both with the Hawaii Youth Symphony and Hawaii Symphony Orchestra. Three students, including Fujinami, were selected through auditions to perform, respectively, the three movements of the Bach composition.

“To understand (Midori’s) work and the amount of community service she does for everyone helped me understand that being a musician is not all about performing your instrument and receiving praise and applause but also giving back to the community. That’s what Midori is highly respected for—her ability to give back to the community and some of the most dangerous and underprivileged slum districts in New York and all across the globe. It really deserved considerable respect for her which I take (respect) to,” explained Fujinami.

Auditions for the three positions in December 2015 were open to all violin players from the Youth Symphony programs, and an esteemed panel of judges selected the top students. Preparation for the audition was moderately different for the performers. “In terms of this audition, it was trying to prove to the judges that you are solo quality; meaning that you really have to project your tone, have the positionship that you express through your movements and body language—as well as overall technical ability,” stated Fujinami, who is the concertmaster for this year’s Youth Symphony I.“I don’t think many people are given the chance of performing with a professional musician, let alone the caliber of Midori,” stated MHS Music Director Bryan Hirata. “Even the rehearsal time that (Fujinami) has with her is going to be very valuable to his future experiences.”

Performing with professional musicians allows Hawaii Youth Symphony students to improve technique and overall intonation, but also set a standard. “When we have a soloist at that caliber, it’s such a high honor for them to come and I would expect the piece that we are performing with her to be exceptionally flawless,” stated Fujinami. Kira Goya, Junior and French horn player with Hawaii Youth Symphony I, emphasized, “When we work with guest musicians, everyone is always putting in their full effort to not only match the style of the piece and comply to the guest’s requests, but to show them the great things going on in Hawaii’s Youth Symphony.”

(Photos courtesy of Natalie Nakasone | Hawaii Youth Symphony) Youth Symphony I is the most advanced of Hawaii Youth Symphony’s seven orchestras, and Fujinami not only represents a selected soloist but he also represents Youth Symphony as the concertmaster for this season.

As the three soloists had rehearsed their movements for months, their anticipation for the concert trumped any apprehensiveness. “Midori is a very humble person, enthusiastic and willing to help all the students in their musical performance. Midori’s character, her personality, and knowing how willing she is to help us, that really eased the anxiety,” explained Fujinami. “I was very excited—I could never have imagined performing with Midori right alongside her in a duet. I was really looking forward to the concert and completely prepared to play with her that night.”

Members of the Youth Symphony and audience alike were mesmerized by Midori’s performance and anxious to hear the prepared duets. “My favorite experience working with Midori was being able to watch her perform. During her solo, I sometimes had over 20 measures of rest and at times, I just watched her in awe. She puts so much emotion into her playing and she truly inspires me to push myself to become a better musician,” stated Goya. Fujinami added, “In intermission, some of us were feeling very anxious about how it had gone so far. But my main goal when I went on for my movement in the Bach Double was to change the atmosphere of the performance.”

Midori’s expertise in technique and her humanitarian efforts to push music education curriculum made this performance exceptionally remarkable. “From this experience, I think that the whole orchestra, even the wind players and the percussionists, were blown away not only by her caliber and abilities but by how much she’s given back to communities through her music. I think that all of us were definitely inspired to push ourselves as musicians and to share our love and passion for music with others just as she does,” stated Goya.

For Fujinami, this experience exemplified the true depth of the art of musical performance. “I really am amazed and appreciative as to how much Ms. Goto has given to us in the Youth Symphony and even to the community just within the past few days. Ms. Goto and her assistant even flew to Kauai to visit and play for schools just hours before our concert. Ms. Goto’s projects in helping underprivileged children and communities across the globe with her violin has taught me one of the most important and meaningful lessons of being a musician,” explained Fujinami. Hirata added, “I think this performance gives him a sense of pride and a sense that as he progresses in his life and in his future career that he can accomplish anything that he wants. It’s going to affect his perception on what quality music is.”

Although this is Fujinami’s last season with Hawaii Youth Symphony, the interactions and opportunity to duet with prodigy violinist Midori and her passion for musical education and her art will be commemorated as a milestone for the rest of his life.


Beyond the bow

Midori is recognized both as a virtuoso performer and a humanitarian for musical education. In 1992, she founded the nonprofit organization Midori & Friends, which brings music education programs to underprivileged New York City school children. In 2007, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named her a Messenger of Peace. “Over the span of the (six)-day residency, Ms. Goto led countless school visits, speaking sessions and classes for students here in the Youth Symphony and across the state. I really am amazed and appreciative as to how much Ms. Goto has given to us in the Youth Symphony and even to the community just within the past few days. Ms. Goto’s projects in helping underprivileged children and communities across the globe with her violin has taught me one of the most important and meaningful lessons of being a musician,” stated Fujinami.

Compiled by Jannah Kalai