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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, Yo-Yo strives to foster connections that stimulate the imagination and reinforce our humanity.
In August 2018, Yo-Yo began a new journey, setting out to perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s six suites for solo cello in one sitting in 36 locations around the world, iconic venues that encompass our cultural heritage, our current creativity, and the challenges of peace and understanding that will shape our future. Each concert is an example of culture’s power to create moments of shared understanding, as well as an invitation to a larger conversation about culture, society, and the themes that connect us all.
The Bach Project continues Yo-Yo’s lifelong commitment to stretching the boundaries of genre and tradition to explore music as a means not only to share and express meaning, but also as his contribution to a conversation about how culture can help us to imagine and build a stronger society and a better future.
It was this belief that inspired Yo-Yo to establish Silkroad, a collective of artists from around the world who create music that engages their many traditions. In addition to presenting performances in venues from Suntory Hall to the Hollywood Bowl, Silkroad collaborates with museums and universities to develop training programs for teachers, musicians, and learners of all ages.
Through his work with Silkroad, as well as throughout his career, Yo-Yo Ma has sought to expand the classical cello repertoire, frequently performing lesser-known music of the 20th century and commissions of new concertos and recital pieces. He has premiered works by a diverse group of composers, among them 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, Yo-Yo partners with communities and institutions from Chicago to Guangzhou to develop programs that champion culture’s power to transform lives and forge a more connected world. Among his many roles, he is the artistic director of the annual Youth Music Culture Guangdong festival and a UN Messenger of Peace, and is the first artist ever appointed to the World Economic Forum’s board of trustees.
Yo-Yo’s discography of over 100 albums (including 19 Grammy Award winners) reflects his wide-ranging interests. In addition to his many iconic renditions of the Western classical canon, he has made several recordings that defy categorization, among them “Appalachia Waltz” and “Appalachian Journey” with Mark O’Connor and Edgar Meyer, and two Grammy-winning tributes to the music of Brazil, “Obrigado Brazil” and “Obrigado Brazil – Live in Concert.” Yo-Yo’s recent recordings include: “Songs from the Arc of Life,” with pianist Kathryn Stott; “Sing Me Home,” with the Silkroad Ensemble, which won the 2016 Grammy for Best World Music Album; “Bach Trios,” with Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile; “Brahms: The Piano Trios,” with Emanuel Ax and Leonidas Kavakos; and “Six Evolutions - Bach: Cello Suites.”
Yo-Yo was born in 1955 to Chinese parents living in Paris. He began to study the cello with his father at age four and three years later moved with his family to New York City, where he continued his cello studies with Leonard Rose at the Juilliard School. After his conservatory training, he sought out a liberal arts education, graduating from Harvard University with a degree in anthropology in 1976. He has received numerous awards, including the Avery Fisher Prize (1978), the Glenn Gould Prize (1999), the National Medal of the Arts (2001), the Dan David Prize (2006), the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award (2008), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2010), Kennedy Center Honors (2011), the Polar Music Prize (2012), and the J. Paul Getty Medal Award (2016). He has performed for eight American presidents, most recently at the invitation of President Obama on the occasion of the 56th Inaugural Ceremony.
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
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THE TRAINING GROUNDS FOR THE MUSICIANS OF
The Tanglewood Music Center Fellowship Program is the Boston
Symphony Orchestra's summer academy for advanced musical study. The
TMC offers an intensive schedule of study and performance for
emerging professional instrumentalists, singers, conductors, and
composers who have completed most of their formal training in
Serge Koussevitzky, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's music
director from 1924 to 1949, founded the school with the intention
of creating a premier music academy where, with the resources of a
great symphony orchestra at their disposal, young musicians would
sharpen their skills under the tutelage of Boston Symphony
Orchestra musicians and other specially invited artists.
The Berkshire Music Center opened formally on July 8, 1940, with
both speeches (Koussevitzky, alluding to the war then raging in
Europe, said, "If ever there was a time to speak of music, it is
now in the New World") and music, including the first performance
of Randall Thompson's Alleluia for unaccompanied chorus, which was
written for the ceremony and arrived less than an hour before the
event was to begin, but which made such an impression that it is
sung every summer at the TMC's Opening Exercises. The TMC became
Koussevitzky's pride and joy for the rest of his life. He assembled
an extraordinary faculty in composition, operatic and choral
activities, and instrumental performance; he himself taught the
most gifted conductors.
Koussevitzky continued to develop the Tanglewood Music Center
until 1950, a year after his retirement as the BSO's music
director. Charles Munch, his successor in that position, ran the
TMC from 1951 through 1962, working with Leonard Bernstein and
Aaron Copland to shape the school's programs. In 1963, new BSO
Music Director Erich Leinsdorf took over the school's reins,
returning to Koussevitzky's hands-on leadership approach while
restoring a renewed emphasis on contemporary music. The TMC's
annual Festival of Contemporary Music, produced in association with
the Fromm Music Foundation, was begun in 1963.
In 1970, three years before his appointment as BSO music
director, Seiji Ozawa became head of the BSO's programs at
Tanglewood, with Gunther Schuller leading the TMC and Leonard
Bernstein as general advisor. Leon Fleisher served as the TMC's
Artistic Director from 1985 to 1997. In 1994, with the opening of
Seiji Ozawa Hall, the TMC centralized its activities on the Leonard
Bernstein Campus, which also includes the Aaron Copland Library,
chamber music studios, administrative offices, and the Leonard
Bernstein Performers Pavilion adjacent to Ozawa Hall. In 1998,
Ellen Highstein was appointed to the new position of Director of
the Tanglewood Music Center, operating under the artistic
supervision of Seiji Ozawa. Maestro James Levine took over as Music
Director of the BSO in 2005 and has continued the tradition of
hands-on involvement with the TMC, conducting both orchestral
concerts and staged operas, as well as participating in
masterclasses for singers, conductors, and composers.
It would be impossible to list all the distinguished musicians
who have studied at the Tanglewood Music Center. According to
recent estimates, 20 percent of the members of American symphony
orchestras, and 30 percent of all first-chair players, studied at
Today, alumni of the Tanglewood Music Center play a vital role
in the musical life of the nation. Tanglewood and the Tanglewood
Music Center, have become a fitting shrine to the memory of Serge
Koussevitzky, a living embodiment of the vital, humanistic
tradition that was his legacy. At the same time, the Tanglewood
Music Center maintains its commitment to the future as one of the
world's most important training grounds for the composers,
conductors, instrumentalists, and vocalists of tomorrow.
Tanglewood Music Center Instrumental Fellows