A Conversation With Yo-Yo Ma

Elliott Hall of Music
Purdue University, 712 3rd Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907
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Purdue University President Mung Chiang and the Purdue Presidential Lecture Series present the renowned cellist, recording artist, and humanitarian leader Yo-Yo Ma in a special engagement moderated by PBS NewsHour correspondent Jeffrey Brown. Through personal anecdotes, thoughtful inquiry, and musical interludes, Yo-Yo Ma explores how culture can help us all seek truth, build trust and act in service of one another.

Yo-Yo Ma’s multi-faceted career is testament to his belief in culture’s power to generate trust and understanding. Whether performing new or familiar works for cello, bringing communities together to explore culture’s role in society, or engaging unexpected musical forms, Yo-Yo strives to foster connections that stimulate the imagination and reinforce our humanity. Among his many roles, Yo-Yo is a United Nations Messenger of Peace and the first artist ever appointed to the World Economic Forum’s board of trustees. His discography of more than 120 albums (including 19 Grammy Award winners) ranges from iconic renditions of the Western classical canon to recordings that defy categorization.  

Yo-Yo was born in 1955 to Chinese parents living in Paris. He began to study the cello with his father at age four and three years later moved with his family to New York City, where he continued his cello studies at the Juilliard School before pursuing a liberal arts education at Harvard. He has received numerous awards, including the Avery Fisher Prize (1978), the National Medal of the Arts (2001), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2010), Kennedy Center Honors (2011), the Polar Music Prize (2012), and the Birgit Nilsson Prize (2022). He has performed for nine American presidents, most recently on the occasion of President Biden’s inauguration.