Over several decades, my travels have given me the opportunity to learn from a wealth of different voices—from the immense compassion and grace of Bach’s Cello Suites, to the ancient Celtic fiddle traditions alive in Appalachia, to the soulful strains of the bandoneón of Argentina’s tango cafés. I have met and been guided by musicians who share my wonder at the creative potential that exists where cultures intersect.
The Silk Road Ensemble is a musical model that requires curiosity, collaboration and wholehearted enthusiasm from all the participants. The music we play does not belong to just one culture or even to only the Silk Road region. Ensemble members are united in their demonstration of virtuosity and generosity, and that combination has led us to perform in an astonishing range of locations, from the premier forum for global conversation, the United Nations General Assembly Hall, to the hushed, sacred space of Todai-ji Temple in Nara, Japan.
Bringing together much of the world on one stage requires music that Chinese pipa, Persian kamancheh, Indian tabla and Western strings can play together. For this we rely on the readiness of composers to write and arrange for our distinctive group. Perhaps because they support experimentation and innovation, our commissioning workshops have a remarkable record of producing successful works for our repertoire. Our creativity begins with play—exploring sounds, testing ideas—and I am delighted that this has allowed several of our performers to compose and arrange music for us as well. Above all, I am tremendously grateful for the opportunity to undertake this work and for the abiding friendships we have developed along the way.
- Yo-Yo Ma
About Yo-Yo Ma:
The many-faceted career of cellist Yo-Yo Ma is testament to his continual search for new ways to communicate with audiences and to his personal desire for artistic growth and renewal. Mr. Ma maintains a balance between his engagements as soloist with orchestras worldwide and his recital and chamber music activities. His discography includes over 75 albums, including more than 15 Grammy award winners.
Mr. Ma serves as the Artistic Director of the Silk Road Project, an organization he founded to promote the study of cultural, artistic and intellectual traditions along the ancient Silk Road trade routes. Since the Project’s inception, more than 70 works have been commissioned specifically for the Silk Road Ensemble, which tours annually. Mr. Ma also serves as the Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Institute for Learning, Access and Training. His work focuses on the transformative power music can have in individuals’ lives, and on increasing the number and variety of opportunities audiences have to experience music in their communities.
Mr. Ma was born in Paris to Chinese parents who later moved the family to New York. He began to study cello at the age of four, attended the Juilliard School and in 1976 graduated from Harvard University. He has received numerous awards, among them the 2001 National Medal of Arts, the 2006 Sonning Prize, the 2008 World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award, and the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2011 Mr. Ma was recognized as a Kennedy Center Honoree. Mr. Ma serves as a UN Messenger of Peace and as a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts & the Humanities. He has performed for eight American presidents, most recently at the invitation of President Obama on the occasion of the 56th Inaugural Ceremony.
The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma will perform at Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts on Thursday, March 21, 2013. Tickets are available online at NortonCenter.com or by calling 1-877-HIT-SHOW.