Yo-Yo Ma

Cellist and Founder, Silkroad

Yo-Yo MaYo-Yo Ma is an award-winning concert cellist who partners with communities and institutions across the globe to develop programs that champion culture’s power to transform lives and forge a more connected world. Much of this work has emerged from Silkroad, the nonprofit international collective of artists Ma founded in 1998, which collaboratively creates music that engages its artists’ many traditions. In the years since, Silkroad has increased its engagement with public education, including through developing classroom curriculum and educator professional development programs designed to spur interest in the arts and foster interdisciplinary connections.

Ma has recorded more than 100 albums, is the winner of 18 Grammy Awards, and has performed for nine American presidents, most recently on the occasion of President Biden’s inauguration. He has received numerous awards, including the National Medal of the Arts, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Kennedy Center Honors. Whether he is 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, Ma exemplifies how culture can help us to imagine and build a stronger society and a better future.

Born in Paris, Ma began to study the cello with his father at age four. Three years later, the family moved to New York City, where Ma continued his cello studies at the Juilliard School. After his conservatory training, he attended Harvard University and received a liberal arts degree in 1976. Among his many roles, Ma has served as a UN Messenger of Peace since 2006 and is on the boards of the World Economic Forum and Nia Tero, the latter of which is a global collaborative seeking to advance indigenous peoples' stewardship of vital ecosystems around the world. Ma’s latest album, Songs of Comfort and Hope, was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He plays three instruments—a 2003 instrument made by Moes & Moes, a 1733 Montagnana cello from Venice, and a 1712 Davidoff Stradivarius.