Yo-Yo Ma

Musician (cellist)
Humanities and Arts
Performing Arts

Yo-Yo Ma’s multi-faceted career is testament to his enduring belief in culture’s power to generate trust and understanding. Whether performing new or familiar works from the cello repertoire, collaborating with communities and institutions to explore culture’s role in society, or engaging unexpected musical forms, Mr. Ma strives to foster connections that stimulate the imagination and reinforce our humanity.

In 2018, he set out to perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s six suites for solo cello in one sitting in thirty-six locations around the world. And in 2021, he began a new journey to explore the many ways in which culture connects us to the natural world. Over the next several years, Mr. Ma will visit places that epitomize nature’s potential to move the human soul, creating collaborative works of art and convening conversations that seek to strengthen our relationship to our planet and to each other. Both endeavors continue his lifelong commitment to stretching the boundaries of genre and tradition to explore how music not only expresses and creates meaning, but also helps us to imagine and build a stronger society and a better future.

It was this belief that inspired Mr. Ma to establish Silkroad, a collective of artists from around the world who create music that engages their many traditions. Through his work with Silkroad, as well as throughout his career, Yo-Yo Ma has sought to expand the classical cello repertoire, premiering works by composers including Osvaldo Golijov, Leon Kirchner, Zhao Lin, Christopher Rouse, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Giovanni Sollima, Bright Sheng, Tan Dun, and John Williams.

In addition to his work as a performing artist, Mr. Ma has partnered with communities and institutions from Chicago to Guangzhou to develop programs that advocate for a more human-centered world. Among his many roles, he is a UN Messenger of Peace, the first artist ever appointed to the World Economic Forum’s Board of Trustees, and a member of the Board of Nia Tero, the U.S.-based nonprofit working in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and movements worldwide.

Mr. Ma’s discography of more than one hundred albums (including nineteen Grammy Award winners) reflects his wide-ranging interests. His latest album is “Beethoven for Three: Symphonies Nos. 2 and 5,” with pianist Emanuel Ax and violinist Leonidas Kavakos.

He has received numerous awards, including the Avery Fisher Prize, the National Medal of the Arts, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Kennedy Center Honors, and the Polar Music Prize. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1993.

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