And today we met our soloist. He wore loosely laced silver Doc Martins, skinny jeans that fell at the hips, and a punk rock t-shirt which didn't quite cover the tattoos on his arms. His long, thick, curly, coarse black hair was tied in a high ponytail and his stature made the violin appear like a toy in his hands. It seemed more likely that he would be working at a record shop than performing a Paganini violin concerto. But surely enough, he is a violinist, and an incredible one. He amazed us with his incredible technique and command of the orchestra as he moved through the requisite Paganini pyrotechnics. It was more like a rock concert. At the break, one of the Japanese members of the orchestra asked me, "What land does he come from?" It was likely just her non-native English phrasing of the question, "Where is he from?", but her words highlighted the exoticism of his impact. I didn't know, but have since learned that he is Serbian.
And again this week, the uniformity of Japan and the stereotypes of classical music are challenged. It is so refreshing to see examples of other ways of being and contributing to this art form. I don't think I'd realized how much I've missed that being here. I find myself falling into the categories of right and wrong in so many areas of life, especially music, especially orchestral playing in Japan. But there are so many other shades. And our guests are yet another confirmation of the importance of every person in the world sharing their voice so that others can hear them and take strength in it, no matter how different they may seem to those around them.