Local teen selected to national youth orchestra

Kenton Ridge senior who practices six hours daily is named music ambassador.


Mariko Shimasaki isn’t going to dissuade people from calling her and her older sister, Kanako, prodigies.

“You can call us prodigies. It’s a nice compliment,” said Mariko, a senior at Kenton Ridge High School who’s been mastering the violin since age 5.

“We’re not exactly prodigies,” she clarified. “We just learned to make an effort.”

All that hard work has led to Mariko, 17, earning a title that can’t be disputed — musical ambassador of the United States.

The local teen has won a spot in the violin section of the inaugural National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America.

Assembled by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, the orchestra will spread musical goodwill this summer on a tour to Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia and then to London. According to the Carnegie Hall website, the orchestra will be made up of “120 of the brightest young players from across the country.”

“I’m very honored to be in the first one,” Mariko said.

The orchestra will be under the baton of Grammy-winning conductor Valery Gergiev, and will feature Grammy-winning violinist Joshua Bell on Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto,” “which is my favorite piece,” she said.

“Everything is coming together,” she added, “and it’s amazing.”

Mariko, who’s taken first place in concerto competitions hosted by the Columbus Symphony and Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, isn’t your typical KR student.

“I gave up things like prom and homecoming so I could practice,” she explained.

Her daily routine includes six hours of practice.

“I just put off my homework until the end of the night,” she confessed, “even if it means I’m finishing my homework at 3 a.m.”

Mariko also takes a rigorous amount of pre-college coursework through the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where her sister is now a full-time student.

Kanako, who began playing violin at age 4, will return home next January to perform Ravel’s “Tzigane” with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

They are, however, your typical sisters.

“There’s competition all the time,” Mariko said. “Since she’s older, she thinks she knows more than me.”

Their parents, longtime Springfield residents Koshin and Noriko Shimasaki, got them violins at such an early age to instill discipline in them. Neither parent is a musician.

“We learned together,” said Noriko Shimasaki, the girls’ mother, who hails originally from Kyoto, Japan.

“I don’t imagine a life without the violin,” Mariko said.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Community News

Garth Brooks’ donation helps K99.1FM raise $310,000 for hospital
Garth Brooks’ donation helps K99.1FM raise $310,000 for hospital

Garth Brooks and his fellow county music entertainer wife Trisha Yearwood helped K99.1FM’s “Cares for Kids” Radiothon gather a record $310,713 in its 20th year raising money for Dayton’s Children’s Hospital. Brooks’ and Yearwood’s matching of funds meant each dollar in that hour was quadrupled leading to a...
Abuse allegations have revived scrutiny of Bill Clinton - and divided Democrats
Abuse allegations have revived scrutiny of Bill Clinton - and divided Democrats

A torrent of sexual abuse allegations against powerful figures in politics and media has reignited the defining political fight of the 1990s. But this time, the battle is being waged within the ranks of Democrats and their allies, including leaders of the feminist movement. A growing number now say they were wrong to have so stridently defended former...
Springfield High hosts unique college fair
Springfield High hosts unique college fair

Springfield High School students were exposed to a one-of-a-kind college fair this week. Twelve Historically Black Colleges and Universities were present at the first HBCU Day, including Norfolk State, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical, Fisk, Spelman, Howard, Central State and Wilberforce universities. These schools were created to serve the African-American...
AC/DC co-founder Malcolm Young dead at 64
AC/DC co-founder Malcolm Young dead at 64

Rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, the co-founder of the rock ’n’ roll group AC/DC, died Saturday, Rolling Stone reported and the band announced on its website. He was 64. Young had been suffering from dementia for the past three years, which forced his retirement from the band that he founded with his brother Angus Young in 1973...
Texas residents find mail dumped near sewer drain
Texas residents find mail dumped near sewer drain

Residents in a Texas neighborhood are angry that their mail apparently has been going down the drain. Brenda Tisdale was walking her dogs in a southwest neighborhood in Mesquite when she noticed a few clean, white pieces of paper in a sewer drain, KTVT reported. “I was thinking, ‘that’s where all of our mail has gone,&rsquo...
More Stories