Ryu Goto, 18, may be gaining worldwide attention, but that doesn’t mean the violin wunderkind has perfected the art of balancing first-year university life and the demands of classical-music fame. When he answers the phone in his Harvard dorm room at 5 in the afternoon, it’s with a gravelly voice and fuzzy head.
“Uh, hi,” he groans sleepily, before describing his schedule—or lack thereof. “I’ve become a nocturnal man for the last week. I’m an incredibly lazy person when I want to be and, well, I procrastinate until very early in the morning and end up not sleeping,” he admits. “Keeping the charade up takes up all my energy.”
The younger half-brother of Midori, the Leonard Bernstein–endorsed violin phenomenon, New York–born Goto has been gaining attention for his own talents since he was a toddler, and was signed last year to Deutsche Grammophon. His recent touring schedule has included stints in Japan, Norway, and the U.K.
But even though he’s keeping up a performance schedule, Goto says he isn’t pursuing any music studies at the moment, preferring to get a taste of “normal life experiences”, taking various courses in an undeclared major.
“Going to music school I could do anytime,” he says with a yawn. Even so, he says, he tries to squeeze in at least three hours of practice a day on the 1715 Stradivari violin on loan to him from a nonprofit organization.
Goto claims his dorm mates aren’t aware of his alter ego as a concert violinist. Asked if he’s been indulging in the student life, he chuckles. “I mean, yeah, Cambridge is like a college town. It’s like a student-run town and so, heh heh”¦” He trails off and then confesses: “Actually, right now, I’ve fractured both my legs. Don’t ask how I did it. It’s too embarrassing.”
Goto remains resolutely mum on the source of his injuries but becomes suddenly talkative when asked how he and his sister both became such accomplished musicians. “It’s all thanks to my mom. That’s all I can say.” His mother, Setsu, was an accomplished violinist in her youth and introduced both children to the instrument. “It’s kind of sad that she’s had to always be the brains behind the workings,” muses Goto. “My sister’s always the front, and [my mother] doesn’t seem to want to take any credit, really. She seems to be very content with staying in the shadows.”¦I can’t even begin to thank her. I just hope she gets a chance to sort of reveal to the world just how amazing she is.”
For now, Goto will have to content himself with showing the world his own talents: he’ll be performing Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane and Pablo de Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy on Friday (December 8) at the Orpheum and Monday (December 11) at Surrey’s Bell Performing Arts Centre with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. “They’re places to show off your technique, really,” says Goto of the pieces. “Honestly, there’s not much to say except that it’s kind of a cocky endeavour. I mean, the combination, especially, is like a one-two punch.”
Before ending the conversation, he apologizes. “I’m sorry I kind of sound sleepy. I woke up just as you called me.”¦I’m, like, constantly hallucinating because of lack of sleep.” Let’s hope he manages to catch some rest before landing on our shores.