Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma and friends to Perform with 400 Silk Road Connect Students in New York on June 7, 2011

Yo-Yo Ma - Photo by Todd Rosenberg
For 2011’s City Parks Foundation’s SummerStage opening night, 400 New York City sixth-graders and their teachers will perform with the internationally acclaimed Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma and friends including the chamber orchestra The Knights and surprise guests. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. on June 7 at the SummerStage Mainstage in Central Park.

This free evening of music, dance, art and stories titled “Night at the Caravanserai: Tales of Wonder” will celebrate Silk Road Connect, a Silk Road Project pilot program in New York City public middle schools designed to inspire passion-driven learning through the arts.

Directed by former ballet star Damian Woetzel, the performance will evoke an imaginary caravanserai, a roadside inn along the Silk Road where travelers are gathering for a festival of the stars. In this evocative setting, actor Bill Irwin will preside as the Innkeeper, with appearances by vocalist Bobby McFerrin, author Jhumpa Lahiri, and jookin dancer Lil Buck, among other special guests.

Sixth-grade students and teachers from Edward Bleeker JHS 185 in Queens, Frederick Douglass Academy III in the Bronx, Granville T. Woods MS 584 in Brooklyn, and PS/MS 161 Pedro Albizu Campos School in Manhattan will perform accompanied by music directed by cellist Mike Block and inspired by the exchange among cultures along the ancient Silk Road.

I think that performers and teachers share a common goal: to communicate in a way that is memorable, that transports their audience,” said Yo-Yo Ma, Silk Road Project founder and artistic director. “Transformative learning remains active in students’ minds and connects to future experiences. I can’t wait to join the students from our pilot schools to share and celebrate what they’ve learned in Silk Road Connect through performance in Central Park. I hope they will experience being part of something larger than themselves, and that they’ll always remember this adventure.”

Silk Road Connect uses arts integration to inspire passion-driven learning in the classroom and beyond. A central aspect of the approach is collaboration among teachers and visiting teaching artists who engage students in connecting multiple aspects of their lives and studies. In 2009 the Silk Road Project accepted an invitation from the New York City Department of Education to pilot Silk Road Connect in several New York City public middle schools. The two-year pilot program concludes this year; however, Silk Road Connect will remain active in New York City and will continue to offer professional development support for arts integration to teachers currently in the program and other educators within the Department of Education.

The Silk Road Project has plans to introduce a Silk Road Connect summer institute at Harvard University, with which it is affiliated. Drawing on the outcomes of the pilot program in New York City, the institute will focus on arts integration in schools and will be open to educators and teaching artists regardless of their location.

The “Night at the Caravanserai: Tales of Wonder” performance is made possible with support from Pershing Square Foundation, The Ford Foundation, New York Community Trust, National Endowment for the Arts, and Union Square Fund. Hyosung Corp. is Lead Sponsor of the Silk Road Project 2011-2014. MetLife Foundation is the Official 2011 Tour Sponsor of the Silk Road Project.

Silk Road Connect is multidisciplinary educational approach that employs hands-on experiences and the transformative power of the arts to enrich the existing sixth-grade curriculum and spark a lifelong passion for learning. By invitation from the New York City Department of Education, the Silk Road Project piloted Silk Road Connect in New York City public middle schools during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years. Partner organizations include the American Museum of Natural History, the Manhattan School of Music, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic’s Genographic Project, and Teachers College at Columbia University. For more information visit

Author: World Music Central News Department

World music news from the editors at World Music Central


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