Arts & Culture

Violin playing a family affair

Ryu Goto carries an impeccable musical pedigree. His mother and father are violinists; his mother was his first teacher. His older sister is Midori, the famous violin virtuoso.

It was natural that Goto, 21, would also play the violin. It was perhaps inevitable he would excel. He made his professional debut at age 7, playing Paganini's Violin Concerto No. 1.

Goto will play the same piece with conductor Andrew Sewell and the Wichita Symphony Orchestra Saturday and Oct. 18 at Century II Concert Hall. Also on the program will be Berlioz's "Le Corsaire" Overture and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.

Goto is a musical artist on the rise. Concerts this season will take him to Japan, Mexico, Canada and Carnegie Hall. Yet his talent extends into areas outside music.

Goto was born in New York City and began playing the violin at age 3. He attended regular high school, studying at the Juilliard School of Music on Saturdays.

He's currently enrolled at Harvard University, studying physics. He's a passionate if self-deprecating sportsman who holds a black belt in karate and has played golf and lacrosse — a conscious counterweight to his immersion in music and the violin.

"I wanted to experience many different things — sports, academics, music," Goto said by phone from his home in Boston. "I had the opportunity and the advantage to be able to sample all these things when I was a kid. It was the same with college — I didn't want to go away to a tunnel-vision institution. I don't think it was for me."

Though music and science are related — it is, after all, the properties of vibrating strings that produce notes and overtones, which are the building blocks of key signatures and chords — Goto said it was his interest in sports, not his violin playing, that inspired him to seek a degree in physics at Harvard.

"I wish I was smart enough to be able to merge the two (physics and music), but I'm not," Goto said, then laughed. "I can relate physics more to the sports and athletic movements that I did. It made me realize physics was a very real science that I could get my hands on. It helped me realize why the movements I was being taught made sense."

Goto is 17 years younger than Midori, who in addition to international concertizing is a music professor at the University of Southern California. While admiring his sister's violin playing, Goto said he hopes to emulate her commitments to outreach and education.

"I like teaching," Goto said. "You don't lose anything when you teach. Knowledge is one of those great things where it doesn't disappear when you try to distribute it."

As for his performances of Paganini's Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Wichita Symphony, Goto said it's one of his favorite concertos.

"It's a light and enjoyable piece," Goto said. "This has kind of a youthful quality. It's definitely heartfelt; he's not just writing down notes to give a challenge to violinists. It's something everyone can enjoy. That's why I play it so often."

If you go

wichita symphony orchestra

What: Classics concert featuring music by Berlioz, Paganini and Beethoven; Ryu Goto, violin; Andrew Sewell, conductor

Where: Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Oct. 18

How much: Tickets are $20-$42, discounts available.

For more information, visit www.wso.org or call 316-267-7658.

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