Full Frame Newsmaker: Yo-Yo Ma, Bringing the World Together One Note at a Time

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Yo-Yo Ma is one of the world’s preeminent musicians and cultural entrepreneurs. With a career that has spanned more than 50 years, Ma’s vast contributions to classical music are undeniable: a discography of more than 75 albums, a trophy shelf that holds 16 Grammy Awards, and collaborations with some of the world’s greatest musicians.

Yo-Yo Ma: Transcending Borders Through Music

Yo-Yo Ma: Transcending Borders Through Music

One of the world’s most acclaimed musicians, Yo-Yo Ma, uses the arts to help strike a balance between knowing yourself and being aware of the wider world.
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Ma’s achievements, however, reach far beyond the concert hall and recording studio. In 1998, he established The Silk Road Project – a performing arts non-profit organization dedicated to promoting cross-cultural dialogue and inter-disciplinary collaboration by bringing together musicians, artists, educators and cultural entrepreneurs from around the world. The project takes inspiration from the history of the silk road – the ancient cross cultural trade route that once linked China to Europe.

“Creation, innovation, trying to see from different perspectives, from different altitudes…you want to have as many different perspectives as possible in order to get closer to describing something that you think might be true,” Ma told CCTV’s Mike Walter in an exclusive interview. “And that’s the way that we, as a group, would like to think what education is all about and what culture is all about.”

Yo-Yo Ma, Bringing the World Together One Note at a Time

Yo-Yo Ma, Bringing the World Together One Note at a Time

Yo-Yo Ma is one of the world’s pre-eminent musicians and cultural entrepreneurs. With a career that has spanned more than 50 years, Ma’s vast contributions to classical music are undeniable: a discography of more than 75 albums, a trophy shelf that holds 16 Grammy Awards, and collaborations with some of the world’s greatest musicians.
Download Video

One of the Silk Road Project’s main initiatives is workshops for educators and students focused on “passion-driven learning” – an approach to education that depends on arts and creativity as teaching and learning tools.

“When you’re working in the arts, you’re using a different part of your brain than when you’re studying a topic,” said Laura Freid, Executive Director of the Silk Road Project. “And we’re finding that kids are learning faster and longer if there’s passion in their learning.”

The Silk Road Project also promotes the music of the Silk Road Ensemble – an initiative that brings together distinguished performers and composers from more than 20 countries in Asia, Europe and the Americas under the artistic direction of Yo-Yo Ma.

“While I play Indian classical music, to me everything from the West is Western classical music, whereas here people call it as classical music, right?” said Sandeep Das, a world-renowned tabla player who has been a member of the Silk Road Ensemble for 15 years. “But if you think about it, do these differences actually exist? To me, no, these are manmade differences.”

Whether it be music, passion-driven learning or cross-cultural dialogue, Yo-Yo Ma’s career – and the impact of his work on audiences, students and fellow musicians – seems to be proving that innovation can succeed where all else fails.