Junich Hirokami’s Gift to Columbus

Ken Matsuda (CSO viola) sent this notice from Japanese news about Junichi.

Junichi Hirokami will be conducting the Mito Chamber Orchestra in Japan this week, May 28, 29, and 30 as a last minute replacement for the ailing Seiji Ozawa. Ozawa (72) has been suffering from a herniated disk and has been told it will take a month to recover.

Hirokami (50) was personally asked by Seiji to replace him. Since Hirokami's success at the Saito Kinen Festival last year, Seiji Ozawa has complete trust in Junichi.

In all the hullabaloo over whether the Columbus Symphony will survive, we have all but forgotten the great spirit which unites us musically and in politic: Junichi Hirokami. I don't know if Columbus realizes (yet) what a gift we have. I hope it's not too late.

This very subject came up last night in a phone conversation with a close colleague, who mentioned Junichi's vital importance to us as an orchestra.

Orchestras do not become truly great until they have a unifying direction, either from a music director, or in some cases with older orchestras, a unifying tradition. Examples of the latter include Cleveland, whose tradition was formed by Szell, and Berlin, by Karajan.

The Columbus Symphony has been built over several generations by 4 music directors; Evan Whallon, Christian Badea, Alessandro Siciliani and now Junichi Hirokami.

Junichi is the perfect match for the abilities and experience of the Columbus Symphony. From past music directors we gained such skills as discipline and flexibility. Now we are poised for the next step, gelling into the cohesive power of one instrument.

Junichi's temperament is particularly suited in our case, since discipline and flexibility alone do not make a great orchestra. We need a musical "light" to direct all our various (and individually valid) intentions toward a common goal of one voice. His gentle and charismatic character coaxes us to higher planes of musical detail, with greater coordination and cooperation among our different personalities. This kind of unifying direction is not only Junichi's gift; it is also a result of our match with him.

As he has said more times than I can remember, he "chose" us because he saw what we could do, and knew he could do it for us. I am only just beginning to believe him. Musicians learn to expect less, being perfectionists disillusioned by an all too imperfect world. Our ideals are not snobbery, but reflect our desire to over-achieve and exceed expectations. We are our own worst enemies at times. But with the right spirit to guide us, we will gladly reach far beyond our normal capabilities. That's when a simple performance can become a revelation for all present.

Are you curious as to how we might sound after a few more years with Junichi? After all, many of you heard us with Maestro Hirokami in the past few months, and I believe most of you heard a difference. Already, in two years, we have grown immeasurably as an orchestra.

I am eternally optimistic that the "body politic" will hold sway when the intentions of all individuals are focused on the same goal. This not only applies to orchestras, but to cities as well.

Don't settle for less. Demand what is rightly yours: an orchestra led to greatness by a perfect match with the gifted and beloved Junichi Hirokami.

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