Local violin prodigy continues to build legacy

Local violin prodigy continues to build legacy photo

Springfield-born violinist Kanako Shimasaki will perform with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra at its first concert of 2014, a special New Year’s-themed event. CONTRIBUTED

Local violin prodigy continues to build legacy

By Brett Turner

Contributing Writer

If Kanako Shimasaki had stuck with her first musical interest, Saturday’s Springfield Symphony Orchestra concert would sound very different.

Fortunately, the then 4-year-old Shimasaki was encouraged to trade the trombone for the violin. The decision has taken the Springfield resident around the world and opened up musical opportunities most can only dream of.

Shimasaki, 20, will join the Springfield Symphony Orchestra as a guest soloist for its program Cheers! at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Clark State Performing Arts Center.

Although she’s performed in international locations, there’s nothing like returning where she started as a member of the Springfield Youth Orchestra.

“It’s very exciting getting to play in my hometown for people I grew up with, who’ve supported me,” Shimasaki said. “It’s almost kind of like a progress report. Some people haven’t seen me as a soloist. With an orchestra it’s very different.”

Saturday’s concert will have a special New Year’s theme. It’s been a goal of Springfield Symphony Musical Director and Conductor Peter Stafford Wilson to recreate the famous Vienna New Year’s concerts, which include numerous classical pieces.

He chose a piece not normally associated with it, Maurice Ravel’s “Tzigane,” to showcase Shimasaki.

“Such music rarely makes it into concerts and this will be great fun,” Wilson said. “We’ve watched this talent for a number of years. This was a perfect showpiece for her skills.”

Shimasaki is in her junior year at the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.

Last year, she received a major honor when she was asked to participate in the Yamaha Young Performing Artist Program, a competitive program recognizing standout young musicians between ages 16-21 in contemporary, classical and jazz.

Eleven performers were selected. Shimasaki was the only stringed-instrument musician at an event last summer at Ball State University that allowed her to perform alongside other exceptional musicians and work with some of the best and most experienced people in the business.

“It had a really profound influence on me not only as a musician, but as an individual,” she said. “The main importance of it was the focus on things often overlooked in studying music.”

Shimasaki said she’s in it for the long haul. She’ll continue her studies and is looking forward to June, when she’ll join her sister, Mariko, a student at Julliard, for a special concert in Japan.

First, she’s excited to be starting out 2014 on her home turf.

“I like Springfield, the size of it, it has so much to offer,” she said.


What: Springfield Symphony Orchestra Cheers! featuring violinist Kanako Shimasaki

Where: Clark State Performing Arts Center, Kuss Auditorium, 300 South Fountain Ave., Springfield

When: Saturday, Jan. 4, 8 p.m.

Admission: $28-48 adults; $12-16 students (with valid ID)

More info: 325-8100 or go to www.springfieldsym.com