Yo-Yo Ma Reflects on Silk Road Ensemble and Prestigious Classical Career

By Philip Trapp on May 23, 2016 03:54 PM EDT

Legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma has built a distinguished classical music career over the last half-decade. Reflecting on his most recent album, Sing Me Home, with his dynamic musical collective, the Silk Road Ensemble, the renowned musician speaks on perseverance and cooperation in achieving his celebrated oeuvre.

Born in Paris, Yo-Yo Ma began studying cello at the age of 4, first performing in front of audiences the following year. As he tells Parade magazine, he initially sought after an even larger instrument, settling on the cello after considering bass:

"I picked the cello out of many possibilities. At first, I wanted the world's largest instrument, the double bass. The cello was a compromise. It took me many years to acknowledge it was ok to be a cellist. I strive towards normalcy."

Almost 40 years and a wealth of respected albums and world-recognized performances later, Yo-Yo Ma founded the non-profit Silkroad Project in 1998, promoting the free exchange of ideas in the arts. From that organization, the cellist's musical collective of Silk Road Project was born. Ever-changing, the outfit has contained over 30 different musicians since its inception.

The latest Silk Road album, Sing Me Home, was relased last month. The effort has been praised by classical aficionados for its unique performances and next-level collaboration. Speaking to the Harvard Business Review, Yo-Yo Ma (a Harvard alumnus) explained his approach in successful cooperation among a group of seasoned musicians:

"I've learned to say, 'Maybe there are two opinions. If you think differently than I do, let me put myself in your shoes and see what's successful according to you, and then you do the same for me.' Once we've done that, our minds are more open. We already know two solutions, and often we'll find a third, where two truths can live together."

The famed cellist will release a new documentary, The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, this June. Longtime fans of Yo-Yo Ma and those new to his work will learn much about the musician and his projects from the film.

Below, watch Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble tackle the classic Jay Z track, "Empire State of Mind."

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TagsYo-Yo Ma, The Silk Road Ensemble

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