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. Yo-Yo maintains a balance between engagements as a soloist with orchestras, recital and chamber music activities, and collaborations with a wide circle of artists and institutions.
With partners from around the world and across disciplines, Yo-Yo creates programs that stretch the boundaries of genre and tradition to explore music-making as a means not only to share and express meaning, but also as a model for the cultural collaboration he considers essential to a strong society. Expanding upon this belief, in 1998 Yo-Yo established 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. Silkroad has commissioned more than 100 new works from composers and arrangers around the globe, and released seven albums, most recently a collection of music recorded for The Vietnam War, a documentary film from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.
Through his work with Silkroad, as well as throughout his career, Yo-Yo Ma seeks 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 Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant, artistic director of the annual Youth Music Culture Guangdong festival, and UN Messenger of Peace. He 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 categorisation, 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.
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 will be 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 (Yo-Yo Ma Official Website).