Dicterow will become a USC colleague when he joins the faculty in the fall. He said Midori attended a master class he gave on campus, recalling that she arrived straight from the airport after a long flight from Europe.
"That's the way she is. She has a lot of energy."
A focused intensity
It can be difficult to believe that Midori is already 41. At the same time, this former wunderkind has been famous for so long, it's hard to believe she's only 41.
Still physically petite, she could easily be confused for a student. But in terms of temperament, she has shed most traces of the woman-child "moppet" that her harsher critics called her during her youth.
If anything, Midori gives off the focused intensity of a mid-career workaholic who is wedded to her job. Her days usually begin at 6 a.m. — which is not the hour she arises, but the time she gets into her office at USC. She's usually still going well past midnight.
"Sometimes, I sleep a couple hours and do some work, and then go back to bed," she said.
Midori said she practices between four and six hours a day. "If I do less than four, the violin starts to get a little bit jealous," she said.
Most semesters, Midori spends a significant time away from campus on concert tours around the world. Her colleagues say that she makes every effort to fly back to L.A. in between concerts, even if it's just for a few days, and that she gets work done through email.
Midori lived in Santa Monica for a period after moving from New York. But four years ago, "I decided to go green and got rid of my car," she said. She now lives five minutes by foot from her office on campus.
Robert Cutietta, dean of the Thornton School, said Midori was initially hesitant about taking the job at USC.
"For two years, we kept approaching it and walking away from it," he recalled in a phone interview. "She was concerned about living in L.A., and balancing the job with her career. I didn't think she would say yes."
But Midori did say yes, and in the years since moving to L.A., she appears to have found a kind of career equilibrium. "I think she enjoys having the responsibility," said cellist Ralph Kirshbaum, also a professor at USC.
Even when she's on concert tours, "we're quite used to getting emails from her."
In person, Midori is talkative and amiable, but there are parts of her life that she clearly doesn't like to discuss. A question about the "child prodigy" label elicited a curt response: "I don't think much about it."
For this interview, she declined to open up about her private life except to say that she lives by herself.
"People are especially curious because I don't talk about it," she said.
Her reticence might have something to do with lingering public interest in the turbulent years in her 20s, when she battled anorexia and depression, resulting in a number of hospital stays.
Her personal difficulties were not made public at the time, but she later recounted them in her 2004 memoir, "Simply Midori," which has been published in German but not in English.
After recovering, she pursued a life outside music, studying psychology and gender studies at New York University. Her master's thesis was tellingly about pain research.