Nine individuals who have achieved distinction in their fields were awarded honorary degrees at Yale University’s 2012 Commencement ceremony on May 21. Seated, from left, Margaret Hilary Marshall, Richard Wilbur, William Julius Wilson, Aaron Beck. Standing, from left, Robert Darnton, Midori, Jane Lubchenco, Angelika Neuwirth and Robert Gates. (Photo by Joy Bush)
(May 21, 2012) — At Yale’s 311th Commencement exercises this morning, the violinist Midori was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree. Midori was one of nine recipients of honorary degrees at today’s Commencement ceremony. The others were: Aaron Temkin Beck, M.D., Robert Choate Darnton, Robert M. Gates, Jane Lubchenco, Margaret Hilary Marshall, Angelika Neuwirth, William Julius Wilson, and Richard Wilbur.
“With poise, precision, and artistry, you have been acclaimed as one of the world’s great violinists since the age of fourteen,” said University President Richard C. Levin at the award ceremony. “Equally gifted in the classical and the contemporary repertoire, you have embraced new music even as you bring interpretative brilliance to the composers of the past.”
Levin pointed out Midori’s philanthropic ventures that have extended her influence far beyond the concert hall. She provides music education to 15,000 New York City children each year, and promotes music as a force for good as a United Nations Messenger for Peace.
“For your supreme talent and your commitment to education and community wellbeing, we are pleased to name you Doctor of Music,” Levin said.
An internationally renowned violinist, Midori is widely known as a master musician, an innovator, and a champion of the developmental potential of children. Named a Messenger of Peace by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2007, she has created a new model for young artists who seek to balance the joys and demands of a performing career at the highest level with a hands-on investment in the power of music to change lives.
She is also the founder of Midori & Friends, an organization that provides music education and performance opportunities to students in New York City schools that lack music programs.
Midori & Friends, founded in 1992, each year allows 15,000 students at 40 different public schools and community agency sites throughout New York City to participate in a 26-week curriculum that includes instrument instruction, elementary music theory, choral singing, and community concerts. Midori also has created two other organizations, Music Sharing, based in Japan, and Partners in Performance, based in the United States, to bring music closer to the lives of people who may not otherwise have involvement with the arts. Her commitment to community collaboration and outreach extends beyond these organizations to her work with young violinists in master classes all over the world, and to her Orchestra Residencies Program in the United States.
Midori plays up to 100 concerts a year, dividing her time among recitals, chamber music, and concerto performances worldwide. She has an extensive catalogue of recordings, and in recent years she has devoted a great deal of energy and resources to commissioning and performing new music. In the 2012–13 season, she will play the world premiere of a violin concerto by Hungarian composer Peter Eötvös that was recently commissioned for her by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the BBC Proms, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
In addition to being named Artist of the Year in 1988 by the Japanese government, Midori has won the Avery Fisher Prize (2001), the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis (2002), the Kennedy Center Gold Medal in the Arts (2010), the Mellon Mentoring Award (2012), and most recently the Crystal Award at the World Economic Forum, for her “20-year devotion to community engagement work worldwide” (2012). She is Distinguished Professor of Violin, Jascha Heifetz Chair in Violin, and chair of the Strings Department at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California.