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Classical 101

Violinist Karen Gomyo To Perform With New Albany Symphony Oct. 16

For some classical musicians, the path from prodigy to professional is as swift as an overnight success: one brilliant Carnegie Hall Recital and the rest, as they say, is history. But concert violinist Karen Gomyo sees her career as a marathon, not a sprint. And because she's in it for the long haul, she prefers to take things slowly. "I don’t think that I would have been ready for some crazy, overnight Carnegie debut sort of thing," Gomyo said in a recent phone interview of her 1997 professional debut on a farm in upstate New York. "This would have never suited me." Instead, the Japanese-born Gomyo has been developing her career slowly and quietly, one carefully considered concert at a time. Gomyo will take to the stage of New Albany's Jeanne B. McCoy Center for the Arts Sunday, Oct. 16, at 3 p.m., when she performs Beethoven's Violin Concerto with the New Albany Symphony Orchestra. Gomyo's upcoming New Albany performance will be one of her first performances after returning to the violin concerto she calls "scary" to play, a concerto with which Gomyo, now in her late 20s, has already had a 15-year, off-again, on-again relationship. "I think if you ask any violinist they will say that it’s maybe the most challenging or difficult concerto, and it certainly is for me as well," Gomyo said. "It’s really monumental violinistically and musically. Also endurance-wise, it’s a very long piece, it has a long cadenza in it. It’s just a piece that exposes you on so many levels, and this is why I find it to be so difficult." Gomyo started learning Beethoven's only violin concerto while a student of the legendary violin pedagogue Dorothy DeLay, with whom she studied during her teen years at New York's Juilliard School. There, DeLay shepherded Gomyo through virtually all of the major concerto repertoire. "We had this method where every week I would bring in a new (concerto) movement," Gomyo said. "The Beethoven concerto did go through that process, too. So I would bring in this massive first movement, basically learn it in a week and play it for (DeLay) and, no matter how it is, just move on, move on to the next movement, bring it in the next week. It does make a difference, when you’ve injected the music, even if it’s for a short time, into your blood system, so to speak, so when you come back to it later, it’s already in you that much more." Gomyo says her first experience performing the concerto years later, in 2000, is indelibly imprinted in her memory. "I remember this very well," Gomyo laughed, "because I was frightened." After a few performances, Gomyo retired the concerto, then brought it out again three years later for another clutch of performances before deciding to shelve it indefinitely. "I really decided I’m going to put it away until, basically, now," Gomyo said. "Personally and musically, things have changed a lot for me in the last few years. People generally say that people in their 20s go through many changes, and I’ve certainly experienced that for myself. Just new perspectives on music, on life, on myself, and I just felt that this is a good time to see where I am with this piece." But don't be misled by Gomyo's career cautiousness; she's a big-league player with serious cred and a serious career. As if the DeLay pedigree weren't enough, Gomyo also won the 1997 Concert Artists Guild auditions, a win she credits with launching her concert career and opening her eyes, slowly and gently, to the demands of a concert soloist's life. "I was a 15-year-old who was very serious but also probably naïve in some ways. I didn’t really understand what the concert life entails and what it takes to be a performer who travels and needs to be in top shape all the time," Gomyo said. Now, with nearly a decade of concert experience to her credit, Gomyo has performed as soloist with major orchestras the likes of the New York Philharmonic, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra, as well as with many regional orchestras, and has collaborated with conductors Gerard Schwarz, Vasily Petrenko and Carlos Kalmar, among others. Still, Gomyo shies away from the spotlight because, she says, that's not what her career is about. "The reason I started (playing) the violin was simply because I adored music, and it really had nothing to do with wanting to become famous or wanting some kind of a spotlight," Gomyo said. "I was always interested in figuring out how I can be pretty decent at what I do, and somehow I think always realized that it’s a very, very long journey. So I was just very happy to have the opportunity to be able to perform and learn through that slow process behind the scenes a little bit, away from the spotlight, to try to find what it is that I feel I need in myself to become a better musician." Karen Gomyo performs Beethoven's Violin Concerto with the New Albany Symphony Orchestra Sunday, Oct. 16, at 3 p.m., at New Albany's Jeanne B. McCoy Center for the Arts. Tickets and information at newalbanysymphony.com or 614.245.4701.