The Grammy-nominated Silk Road Ensemble joined great performers at the Kennedy Center Opera House stage in honoring renowned cellist and Silk Road Project Artistic Director Yo-Yo Ma, one of five recipients of a 2011 Kennedy Center Honor. At the Honors Gala, Ensemble members played for Mr. Ma among other collaborators: Emanuel Ax; James Taylor and conductor John Williams; and Stuart Duncan, Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer, who performed with Mr. Ma on the recently released album, The Goat Rodeo Sessions. Stephen Colbert and Elmo from Sesame Street also gave tributes to Mr. Ma.
In announcing the honorees, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Chairman David M. Rubenstein acclaimed Mr. Ma’s “sterling musicianship” and founding of the Silk Road Project, which “has inspired students across the world to love and honor music.” Mr. Ma was honored alongside singer Barbara Cook, singer and songwriter Neil Diamond, saxophonist and composer Sonny Rollins, and actress Meryl Streep.
As part of the annual Honors Gala, the cultural highlight of the year in Washington, D.C., nine members of the Silk Road Ensemble—musicians from the United States, Japan, Spain and China—performed “Turceasca.” Based on a Turkish wedding song, this propulsive piece explodes with rhythmic joy.
An international collective of musicians, the Silk Road Ensemble first formed under the artistic direction of Mr. Ma in 2000. In sharing traditions across cultures and creating new music, the Ensemble takes inspiration from the historical Silk Road trading routes. Over the past 11 years, the Ensemble has performed to critical acclaim throughout Asia, Europe and North America and has recorded five albums. Its most recent, Off the Map, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Classical Crossover Album in 2011.
The Honors recipients are recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts—including the forms of dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures and television. The Kennedy Center’s Board of Trustees selects honorees, using excellence as the primary criterion for the award.
The Honors Gala was recorded for broadcast. The two-hour primetime special will air on the CBS Network on Tuesday, December 27, 2011, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT).
Hyosung Corp. is Lead Sponsor of the Silk Road Project 2011-2014. Rolex is the Exclusive Partner of the Silk Road Project. MetLife Foundation is the Official 2011 Tour Sponsor of the Silk Road Project.
The Silk Road Project
The Silk Road Project is an internationally minded nonprofit arts, cultural and educational organization that promotes innovation and learning through the arts. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma founded the Project in 1998 with a vision of connecting the world’s neighborhoods by bringing together artists and audiences around the globe. The Project takes inspiration from the historical Silk Road trading routes, employing the Silk Road as a modern metaphor for sharing and learning across cultures, art forms and disciplines.
Under the artistic direction of Mr. Ma and the leadership of CEO and Executive Director Laura Freid, the Silk Road Project presents performances by the acclaimed Silk Road Ensemble, engages in cross-cultural exchanges and residencies, leads workshops for students, and partners with prominent cultural institutions to create educational programs and materials. Silk Road Connect, the Project’s multidisciplinary arts integration approach, inspires students and educators to make connections across all areas of their lives and studies.
Developing new music is a central undertaking of the Silk Road Project, which has been involved in commissioning and performing nearly 70 new musical and multimedia works from composers and arrangers around the world.
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 60 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. Mr. Ma was recently selected as a 2011 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.
Gala will be broadcast on CBS on December 27, 2011, 9-11 p.m. ET/PT