On This Day
15 May: Anne Akiko Meyers Was Born

Born in San Diego on 15 May 1970, Anne Akiko Meyers is undoubtedly one of the world’s most esteemed violinists. Possessing flawless technique and artistry, critics and audiences marvel at her “wonderous palette of tones that range from edgy and almost gnawing, from whispery light to full-bodied, and from lyrical to clear as crystalline glass.” Akiko Meyers played on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson at the age of 11 and has since collaborated with contemporary composers to create a remarkable collection of new repertoire for future generations.

Anne Akiko Meyers on The Tonight Show

From Pasadena to LA

Anne Akiko Meyers

Anne Akiko Meyers

Daughter of an artist and a college president, Akiko Meyers was born in San Diego and raised in Southern California. Her mother is Japanese and her father American, and Anne “loves the different cultural traditions.” She doesn’t think that nationality influences her choices, “but being open and appreciating your heritage and traditions is paramount to all individuals. This is what makes each of us so entirely unique.” Her father was a classical music nut, and she remembers listening to the playing of David Oistrakh as a child. Living in the Mojave Desert it took eight hours round trip for lessons with Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld.

Akiko Meyers initially studied with Shirley Helmick, but was accepted at the preparatory division of the University of South California’s Thornton School of Music at the age of 7. She clearly remembers practising in the front seat of the Volkswagen Beetle, and Akiko Meyers credits Schoenfeld with teaching her to play music.

Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending (Anne Akiko Meyers, violin; Philharmonia Orchestra; Andrew Litton, cond.)

Studying Under Alice Schoenfeld

Anne Akiko Meyers and Alice Schoenfeld

Anne Akiko Meyers and Alice Schoenfeld

In an interview, Akiko Meyers relates that Alice Schoenfeld had a very strict approach, as she was herself taught by a student of Joseph Joachim. She recalls, “Once, while I was practising Mozart’s G major Concerto, she asked me to make the first chord ‘sound like the lustre of a pearl’. How does an eight- or nine-year-old do that? It was incredible how she trusted me to understand such complicated concepts. With her guidance, I went from playing the notes to refining the music.”

Schoenfeld taught Akiko Meyers to associate music with emotions and storytelling, and to that end made her wear dresses to suit the piece. “For Mozart, it was pure white and pink ribbons; for Lalo a fiery red dress; for Mendelssohn it was blue.” In addition, Akiko Meyers learned the importance of chamber music and the significance of sharing thoughts and ideas with classmates. “This was truly inspiring,” she explained, “and I feel this core to this day when I perform. Making music is such a collaborative effort, chamber music enforced my love of the violin repertoire and how important it is to listen to one another when playing.”

Édouard Lalo: Symphonie espagnole, Op. 21 (Anne Akiko Meyers, violin; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Jesús López-Cobos, cond.)

Indiana to New York

Anne Akiko Meyers with Shinichi Suzuki

Anne Akiko Meyers with Shinichi Suzuki

One of the experiences that greatly shaped her future was a visit to the Hollywood Bowl with her mother and her sister. As she recalled, “we were sitting in the nosebleed section with our Japanese bento dinners, and while we ate, we heard the Tchaikovsky violin concerto and I decided then and there, I wanted to be a concert violinist.” Akiko Meyers moved to Indiana at the age of 13 to study with Josef Gingold, one of the most influential violin teachers in the United States.

Leaving her family behind, Akiko Meyers felt lost in Indiana. “I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock,” she explains. “There were cultural barriers and some racial problems, and with so many life changes, I was lucky to get 15 minutes of practice in per week.” Indiana did not have a pre-college program, so she made the decision to leave after only one semester. When she was asked to perform at the Aspen Music Festival, Dorothy DeLay, the teacher of such virtuosos like Sarah Chang and Nigel Kennedy, offered Anne a full scholarship to the Juilliard School and took her on as a private student.

Einojuhani Rautavaara: Fantasia (Anne Akiko Meyers, violin; Philharmonia Orchestra; Kristjan Järvi, cond.)

ICM Contract

Anne Akiko Meyers and Dorothy DeLay, 1988

Anne Akiko Meyers and Dorothy DeLay, 1988

While adjusting to New York and Juilliard, Anne signed with Young Concert Artists when she was 16, and shortly thereafter was offered a contract with talent giant ICM. Akiko Meyers was delighted to get paid for what she loved to do, but there was little glamour in the teaching studio. “Up until then,” she explains, “I had been more focused on creating a beautiful sound than on technique, but that quickly changed!”

“Dorothy was unlike any teacher I had before,” Anne explained. “I’ve had teacher who wanted to tell me everything. She told me nothing and helped me teach myself. Dorothy would have me dissect every piece, looking into its construction and technical hurdles. She wanted me to memorise one concerto movement or virtuoso work per week, which could be overwhelming.” For Akiko Myers, it was a sink-or-swim environment and she confessed to learning a tremendous amount in a very compressed amount of time.

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Anne Akiko Meyers Performs Arvo Pärt: “Fratres”

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