When Ryu Mitsuhashi was a toddler, her grandfather advocated that music be part of her life.
Her grandfather, an elementary school teacher and Japanese prisoner of war in Russia during World War II, believed music had the power to bring people together in harmony and peace.
Mitsuhashi’s parents heeded the advice. When Mitsuhashi was 3, she and her mother learned — via the Suzuki Method — to play violin in her hometown of Tokyo.
Mitsuhashi, a 2013 University of Maine graduate, was a fast learner. When she was 9, her family moved to Westchester, New York and at age 10 she was accepted into The Juilliard Pre-College Division — “a program for students of elementary through high school age who exhibit the talent, potential, and accomplishment to pursue a career in music” — in New York City.
When Mitsuhashi and her family returned to Japan a couple of years later, she toured Europe with the Tokyo Junior Philharmonic.
For much of her 23 years of life, Mitsuhashi has been spreading goodwill through her music. She has shared her talents in concerts broadcast on network TV as well as on stages around the world, at UMaine, with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra and in area retirement homes.
Mitsuhashi, who has played solo violin concertos with the University of Maine Orchestra, recently returned from a tour of Croatia and Slovenia with a professional orchestra — Orkester Camerata Austriaca — from Linz, Austria. On the tour, she performed a solo of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major.
She credits Anatole Wieck, who teaches violin and viola and conducts the University of Maine Chamber Orchestra, with helping her relax on stage.
While she worries she might forget the music or that a violin string could break, she says Wieck encourages her “to enjoy what she’s doing and to give pleasure to other people by enjoying to play.”
And she says she’s thrilled and energized when concertgoers tell her that they have been entertained by her performance.
While she’s used to living in New York and Tokyo, with populations of 8 and 13 million respectively, Mitsuhashi says she has not been homesick in Orono.
Initially, though, she was “light sick.” Mitsuhashi says in Tokyo she was used to 24-7 bright lights and big-city action. Here, “everything closed at 9 p.m. and it was dark.”
Soon, she’ll again be amid the lights and action as she’s returning this summer to Japan for a monthlong visit. In addition to spending time with family and friends, she’ll play in two concerts.
Since graduating from UMaine with a bachelor of music degree in performance in 2013, Mitsuhashi has been taking part in Optional Practical Training — working in her field of study, which includes teaching music at Bangor Montessori and providing private music lessons.
This fall, Mitsuhashi plans to begin pursuing a master of music degree in performance at UMaine.
Careerwise, she dreams of being a musician with Cirque du Soleil. The Montreal-based company’s shows are celebrated for their “dramatic mix of circus arts and street entertainment.”
Mitsuhashi says that recently she also has been considering following in her father’s footsteps and becoming a surgeon.