25 January 2020
Classical violinist Karen Gomyo says the Japanese culture and the Canadian French philosophy have had a tremendous effect on her life. Photo: HKEJ
Classical violinist Karen Gomyo says the Japanese culture and the Canadian French philosophy have had a tremendous effect on her life. Photo: HKEJ

How an aspiring violinist, 5, fell in love with Mendelssohn

Mendelssohn’s violin concerto still rings in her ear but she hardly remembers the rest of the concert, or the remains of that day.

After all, Karen Gomyo was only five years old.

Now a successful classical violinist herself, Gomyo, 34, credits her career to her mixed heritage and the time and environment in which she was raised.  

Born to a Japanese mother and French Canadian father in Tokyo, Gomyo spent her childhood in Montreal, Canada, from the age of two.

When she was five, she knew she wanted to be a violinist after her mother brought her to a concert by the renowned Japanese-born American violinist Midori Gotō.

It turned out that the repertoire included Mendelssohn’s violin concerto.

She says she was moved by the performance and was absorbed in the strains of the violin.

Gomyo began violin lessons in the Suzuki method — taking the music by ear and committing it to memory — before learning to read sheet music.

“In my first two years, I barely could read notes,” she says.

“Learning by ear sharpened my hearing which I have greatly benefited from. In a performance, you make judgment calls by ear.”

Gomyo speaks Japanese at home. She attends a French school on weekdays and a Japanese school on Saturdays.

“Both cultures have had a tremendous effect on me,” she says.

“The Japanese culture taught me diligence and discipline. I have learned how to relax and enjoy life in a certain way from the Canadian French philosophy.”

At age 11, Gomyo moved to New York to train at the Julliard School under the legendary Dorothy DeLay.

It was the start of a hectic life.

New York gave her a taste of a highly competitive environment and aggressive peers, whose sole mission was “to be the best”.

She kept reminding herself that she was in it for love of music.

DeLay, notorious for her pedantic approach to music, turned out to be Gomyo’s trump card. Soon, the young violinist would graduate from DeLay’s classroom to the concert hall where she began solo performances.

In 2001, Gomyo went to the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and trained under Mauricio Fuks.

The next year, she studied under Donald Weilerstein at the New England Conservatory of Music, where she graduated five years later with an artist diploma.

Gomyo, an only hild, considers music an integral part of her life and the ultimate friend and companion.

“I have been an imaginative person and it feels so wonderful that I could lose myself in the music and give in to my imagination,” she says.

“Music has brought a kind of complexity to my life but it’s one that is emotionally rich.”

Karen Gomyo performs as a soloist for Bruch’s violin concerto with the Hong Kong Philharmonic at the Cultural Center on Friday and Saturday.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 15.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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A young Karen Gomyo performs at a recital and later at a concert hall (right photo). She has been awed by the strains of the violin since the age of five. Photo: HKEJ

Writer of the Hong Kong Economic Journal