My Tuesday December 15 Chicago Sun-Times piece on Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's new partnership with cellist and educator Yo-Yo Ma. You can hear my interview with Muti and Ma here at wfmt.com.
Yo-Yo Ma on South Michigan Avenue last year/Chicago Sun-Times
Yo-Yo Ma coming to CSO for three-year education and social connection residency
BY ANDREW PATNER
NEW YORK -- Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director designate Riccardo Muti took a giant step toward realizing his goals of connecting the CSO with wider audiences and young people of all backgrounds by tapping cellist Yo-Yo Ma, one of the world’s best known musicians and most tireless classical music advocates, for a new position in the orchestra’s artistic and educational leadership.
Just hours before being named Musician of the Year by Musical America at a Lincoln Center event here, Muti announced Monday afternoon that Ma would begin a three-year term next month as the CSO’s first Judson and Joyce Green creative consultant, working with the orchestra and its education programs in almost every area, from classrooms to community centers and juvenile detention facilities to Orchestra Hall itself.
“Yo-Yo and I have played together many times for so many years,” Muti said in an interview here Monday. “We have always found our collaboration a pleasure and an easy dialogue.
“But perhaps even more importantly, we have the same idea that merely giving concerts and making music is not enough. In a world that is increasingly complex, we need to tear down artificial walls and bring music to a wider array of people and bring those people and communities to music.”
A performer and educator who circles the world commanding top fees and selling out halls wherever he appears, Ma said, “I have a deep affection for Chicago. The chance to work with Maestro Muti in a city that was the culmination of so much of my 10 years of work on the Silk Road Project and which is in many ways its own multi-ethnic, multi-generationa, and multi-experiential cultural capital is a great honor and very exciting.”
The creative consultant position brings together Muti’s experiences with his Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra in Italy and international outreach efforts, Ma’s work connecting the music of Central Asia’s Silk Road with the West and the Far East, and the CSO’s own award-winning programs under the umbrella of its Institute for Learning Access and Training.
In addition to helping to develop and advance existing CSO education programs, Ma will work with multiple new aspects of its institute, including a series for pre-schoolers, intensive workshops for high school and college-age musicians and programs in collaboration with Muti for incarcerated and at-risk youth. Ma also will lead Symphony Center Presents thematic chamber music residencies in engaging fellow international artists with college and pre-college-age musicians.
Details of how and where Ma spends his time will be worked out as his appointment begins. “We have to rehearse,” Ma, 54, said. “As in rehearsing music, you read passages, find new ways, try different gestures. And we have to learn about different communities -- as we did along the Silk Road -- by meeting people as guests and not as hosts, and truly participating in an exchange with them.”
“Chicago is a great engine, for the country and the world,” said Muti, 68. “And it is a cultural engine as well. Together with the management and staff and the orchestra itself, Yo-Yo and I look forward to driving this to new places and in new ways.”