President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden with Kennedy Center honorees Joan Baez, Midori, Debbie Allen, Dick Van Dyke and Garth Brooks.

WASHINGTON — Violinist Midori was one of five recipients of the 43rd annual Kennedy Center Honors in a ceremony that was broadcast on Sunday.

The event also celebrated the artistic accomplishments of multi-disciplinary artist, choreographer, and actress Debbie Allen; singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez; country singer-songwriter Garth Brooks; and actor Dick Van Dyke.

“The Kennedy Center Honors serves as a moment to celebrate the remarkable artists who have spent their lives elevating the cultural history of our nation and world,” said Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein.

“Debbie Allen moves seamlessly between artistic disciplines and is a cultural ambassador for all while having a monumental impact on dancers of color everywhere; folk icon Joan Baez breathed new life into the genre and powered rock music’s turn toward social and political consciousness; as one of the world’s best-selling music artists, Garth Brooks heightened country music’s profile like no other singer before him; with an international presence for over 35 years, violinist Midori combines graceful precision and expression for performances building connections between art and the human experience; with a charm that has made him one of the most cherished performers in show business history, Dick Van Dyke has brought us beloved film, stage, and TV characters adored by generations of fans, for more than seven decades.”


Reflective of this unique time in history, the center’s entire campus came alive with small, in-person events and re-envisioned virtual tributes. Featuring multiple events for physically-distant audiences in locations across the Kennedy Center’s campus including the Front Plaza of the building, the Grand Foyer in front of the John F. Kennedy bust, and the iconic Opera House stage, programs for each event encompassed both performances and speaking tributes for the Honorees.

A medallion ceremony for the honorees and a limited audience was hosted by the Kennedy Center during the week of May 17–22. The program is traditionally held in early December but was postponed due to the pandemic.

“This past year has taught us many things including the need to be flexible and adaptable,” stated Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter. “They say necessity is the mother of all invention. The unusual circumstances inspired and opened up new ways for us to present a deeper experience, and hopefully understanding, of the art and lifetime work of our honorees. 2020 has also shined a bright light on the impact of how art and culture speaks to our collective human experience. It can meet us at any moment — and sustain us during the most challenging days.

“Each of the 43rd Kennedy Center honorees and their work continues to speak to American culture and our national fortitude. We are thrilled to be able to fete these cultural icons in a time where the world and the nation needs the arts more than ever.”

“Artists have a singular responsibility, through our work and deeds, to echo and mirror our society and serve its needs,” said Midori. “As a new chapter of life is about to begin for all of us, I especially feel the current moment’s necessities and opportunities to explore a spring of new and preserved energies and discoveries, to play my part in seeking various avenues and forms of creativity and recovery.

“From an early age, I have been gifted with extraordinary experiences. I consider them to be my treasure and fortune that I might now draw upon. I wish to accomplish much going forward. My plans are to be making music again, in both pioneering and traditional ways, to sing out and to stir what lies within us, to describe mysteries, of the heart and of the mind.

“So, in the spirit of peace and connectivity through this country and the world, I am thrilled to be a recipient of one of this year’s Kennedy Center Honors, as we, together, reach toward renewed expression of the dreams and hopes that unify us all.”

Midori is a visionary artist, activist and educator who explores and builds connections between music and the human experience and breaks with traditional boundaries, which makes her one of the most outstanding violinists of our time.

As a leading concert violinist for over 35 years, Midori regularly transfixes audiences around the world, bringing together graceful precision and intimate expression. She has performed with, among others, the London, Chicago, and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras, the Sinfonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics, and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

She has collaborated with such outstanding musicians as Claudio Abbado, Emanuel Ax, Leonard Bernstein, Jonathan Biss, Constantinos Carydis, Christoph Eschenbach, Daniel Harding, Paavo Järvi, Mariss Jansons, Yo-Yo Ma, Susanna Mälkki, Joana Mallwitz, Antonello Manacorda, Zubin Mehta, Donald Runnicles, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Omer Meir Wellber.

Midori’s latest recording with the Festival Strings Lucerne of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and two Romances was released in October 2020 by Warner Classics. Her diverse discography by Sony Classical, Ondine and Onyx includes recordings of Bloch, Janáček, and Shostakovich and a Grammy Award–winning recording of Hindemith’s Violin Concerto with Christoph Eschenbach conducting the NDR Symphony Orchestra as well as Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin filmed at Köthen Castle, which was recorded also for DVD (Accentus).

Midori is deeply committed to furthering humanitarian and educational goals. She has founded and manages several nonprofit organizations, including Midori & Friends, which provides music programs for New York City youth and communities, and MUSIC SHARING, a Japan-based foundation that brings both Western classical and Japanese music traditions into young lives by presenting programs in schools, institutions, and hospitals. In recognition of such commitments, she serves as a U.N. Messenger of Peace.

Midori was born in Osaka in 1971 and began her violin studies with her mother, Setsu Goto, at an early age. In 1982, conductor Zubin Mehta invited 11-year-old Midori to perform with the New York Philharmonic in the orchestra’s annual New Year’s Eve concert, where the foundation was laid for her following career.

Midori plays the 1734 Guarnerius del Gesù “ex-Huberman.” She uses four bows — two by Dominique Peccatte, one by François Peccatte, and one by Paul Siefried.

Recent Kennedy Center history: Midori, performing with Picnchas Zuckerman, was among the guest cast paying tribute to previous Kennedy Center honoree Nathan Milstein (1987). She has previously been presented as part of the Fortas Chamber Music seasons (2008, 2011, 2012), and was a recipient of the Kennedy Center International Committee on the Arts Gold Medal (2010). She was among the guest artists participating in the Kennedy Center International Festival JAPAN! Culture + hyperculture in 2008. Additionally, she has a long history as a guest soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra (most recently in 2014 with Christoph Eschenbach conducting).

The section of the Kennedy Center Honors dedicated to Midori featured remarks by conductor and violinist Gustavo Dudamel; actor, poet, author, and singer John Lithgow; and actor, singer, songwriter, author, and comedian Bette Midler.

Multiple Grammy Award-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed Bach’s Prelude from Cello Suite No. 1 and violinists Gil Shaham and Adele Anthony performed Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, II. Largo.

Hilary Hahn performed Bernstein’s Serenade (after Plato’s “Symposium”) III: “Eryximachus,” while violinist Randall Goosby performed Paganini’s Caprice No. 24, “The Body Electric.”

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