Naga Chokkanathan

Why Not? — Broken Violin

Posted on: June 18, 2010

Picture this – You are a violinist, playing a very complex composition in front of thousands of fans and critics. Suddenly one of the strings in your violin breaks. What would you do?

This is exactly what happened to Midori Gotō. A very gifted musician born in Japan, famous all over the world for her exceptional talent.

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At the tender age of 11, Midori debuted on stage. Very soon, many composers and music concertmasters started praising her as a prodigy. She was known for learning fast and playing even the most complex compositions effortlessly.

In 1986, she was performing at Tanglewood. It was a difficult piece composed and conducted by Leonard Bernstein. In the middle of performance, her E-String Broke.

Most of us would have frozen like a deer in front of headlights. But Midori didn’t think too much of this accident. Without a blink, she borrowed the violin of the concertmaster and continued playing, as if nothing had happened.

This new violin was much bigger for 14 year old Midori, but she didn’t care, all she wanted was, completing the performance without any flaws.

After few minutes, another accident. Once again, Midori broke E-String in this new violin also. She had to borrow another (big) violin from associate concertmaster to continue her performance.

When she finished playing that complex piece in her third violin, everybody gave her a standing ovation. New York Times praised her with a front-page article titled ‘Girl Conquers Tanglewood With 3 Violins’.

I believe Midori’s story has a powerful message for all of us. We can treat our work as a concert, and the resources (men, machines, material) that we use to complete this work as violins. When Midori’s violin broke, she didn’t complain, she was ready to adjust to a new, wrong-sized violin, changed the way she plays and made exceptional music with whatever was available at that time. She was concentrating only on things she can do to excel in her field, without worrying about other factors that are not in her control. Isn’t it the real sign of talent?



N. Chokkan …

18 06 2010


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