When she was five years old, Reiko Niiya’s mother put a violin in her hands because in her family all the women played either the violin or the piano. Her mother’s plan: study violin, go to the best music schools available and then move from her native Japan to America and become a violinist. In a nutshell, that is what Niiya did. For the past 30 years, she has enriched the cultural life of Southwest Florida as the concertmaster for the Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra.
Niiya grew up in a family of musicians. Her sister plays the piano, her aunt the violin, her mother plays and teaches piano; and many assorted cousins are pianists or violinists. Carving out a career as a professional violinist was the natural thing to do, “I grew up in a family of female members who were career women. So I never questioned that I would have a career.”
Niiya attended the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in Japan and Indiana University. As a freelance musician, she has been concertmaster of six different orchestras and at one time was concertmaster of three orchestras during the same season. She has performed across the country with artists such as Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, Natalie Cole, Sarah Brightman and Aretha Franklin.
She says because she has a husband who is “very supportive” and children who were understanding and supportive of her career when they were young and still living at home, she was able to balance career and family.
In addition to performing with the Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra, she also serves as the concertmaster for the Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., annual benefit concert and as one of the concertmasters at Wolf Trap in Virginia. To fulfill her mission of keeping classical music alive, Niiya also conducts private lessons on a limited basis and teaches at Edison State College. “I want to create more good violinists.”