MELBOURNE – Aiko Goto is excited to be going home. The violinist has been a member of the Australian Chamber Orchestra since 1998 and it has been a while since she and her fellow musicians have visited Japan.
“We haven’t played there since 2011,” she says. “When I go back to Japan to visit family and play music festivals, my friends and family keep asking me, ‘When is the ACO coming back to play for us?’”
The orchestra isn’t just headed back for a pair of performances, though. Goto and some of her colleagues — principal violinist Helena Rathbone, principal cellist Timo-Veikko Valve and principal double bassist Maxime Bibeau — will also be conducting a workshop at one of Goto’s old schools.
“It will be a very special experience to teach and play with the students at my old school,” the musician says.
Goto may have teaching in her genes. She is the grandniece of Shinichi Suzuki (1898-1998), the creator of the Suzuki method of music education. His way of teaching, while open to people of all ages, focused on showing children how to play music. Suzuki believed that since kids are able to pick up languages much easier than adults, they would also find it easier to pick up an instrument at an early age.
Suzuki isn’t the only Japanese music icon that Goto has connections to, either. She considers maestro Seiji Ozawa a mentor and has played with him many times in the past.
“Maestro Ozawa is an incredible conductor and can produce so many wonderful sounds and colors from his musicians just by the movements and expressions that come from his hands and body,” Goto says. “He has an amazing presence; whenever he enters the stage for a rehearsal, every player instantly stops practicing and falls silent while he is at the rostrum. I was really nervous the first time I played for him in a rehearsal, but that feeling instantly dissipated in our first concert together, as his conducting is so wonderful.”
With a workshop and two different concert programs planned, Goto may not have much free time available to do the typical things people do while they’re traveling abroad. She seems determined to try, though.
“I’m excited to share my favorite food and shops in Tokyo with my ACO colleagues, and introduce them to my friends and family,” she says. “We probably don’t have time for much sightseeing, but there’s definitely going to be some shopping!
“I’ve missed a lot about Japan, but I have loved living in Australia. I can’t say which is better, I adore them both.”
The Australian Chamber Orchestra performs as part of the Australia-Japan Foundation’s Australia Now 2018 program at Yomiuri Otemachi Hall in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on May 29 and 30. Both performances start at 7 p.m. with admission costing ¥6,500. For more information, visit www.australianow2018.com.