Press Releases

    Note No. 6034
    22 September 2006

    Note to Correspondents

    Secretary-General to Recognize Renowned Cellist Yo-Yo Ma as Messenger of Peace

    Four Messengers of Peace Join Secretary-General for Peace Bell Ceremony

    NEW YORK, 21 September (UN Headquarters) -- On Thursday, 21 September -- the International Day of Peace - United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan will honour cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, by appointing him a United Nations Messenger of Peace.  He joins nine other Messengers of Peace, individuals who possess widely recognized talents in the field of arts, literature, music and sports who have agreed to help focus worldwide attention on the work of the United Nations.

    The many-faceted career of cellist Yo-Yo Ma is testament to his continual search for new ways to communicate with audiences and to his personal desire for artistic growth and renewal.  Whether performing a new concerto, revisiting a familiar work from the cello repertoire, coming together with colleagues for chamber music or exploring cultures and musical forms outside of the Western classical tradition, Mr. Ma strives to find connections that stimulate the imagination.

    When he proposed to appoint Mr. Ma, the Secretary-General said, "Over the course of your extraordinary musical career, you have demonstrated time and again your dedication to overcoming cultural differences and bridging gaps between nations and generations.  Through your music, the message of peace can spread far and wide and influence people around the world to focus on harmony and human dignity."

    Mr. Ma maintains a balance between his engagements as soloist with orchestras throughout the world and his recital and chamber music activities.  He draws inspiration from a wide circle of collaborators, each fuelled by the artists' interactions.  One of Mr. Ma's goals is the exploration of music as a means of communication, and as a vehicle for the migrations of ideas, across a range of cultures throughout the world.

    In accepting the title, Mr. Ma stated, "I am honoured to join the artists, educators and humanitarians who strive in their work to celebrate and communicate the universal values at the heart of the United Nations."

    In 1998, Mr. Ma established the Silk Road Project to promote the study of the cultural, artistic and intellectual traditions along the ancient Silk Road trade route that stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Pacific Ocean.  The Project seeks to illuminate the heritages of the Silk Road countries and identify the voices that represent these traditions today.  The Project's major activities have included the 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which included more than 400 artists from 25 countries and drew more than 1.3 million visitors, and concerts at the 2005 World Expo in Aichi, Japan.  Over the next few years, in collaboration with leading museums in Asia, Europe and North America, the Project will co-produce a series of performances, exhibition and educational events focusing on great works of art from each museum's collections.

    Mr. Ma is an exclusive Sony Classical artist, and his discography of over 75 albums includes more than 15 Grammy Award winners and reflects his wide-ranging interests.  He has made several successful recordings that defy categorization, among them two Grammy-winning tributes to the music of Brazil, Obrigado Brazil and Obrigado Brazil - Live in Concert.  Mr. Ma's most recent recordings include Paris - La Belle Epoque, with pianist Kathryn Stott, and Silk Road Journeys: Beyond the Horizon, with the Silk Road Ensemble.

    Mr. Ma is strongly committed to educational programmes that not only bring young audiences into contact with music, but also allow them to participate in its creation.  While touring, he takes time whenever possible to conduct master classes as well as more informal programs for students - musicians and non-musicians alike. He has also reached young audiences through appearances on Arthur, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street.

    Born to Chinese parents living in Paris, Mr. Ma began to study the cello with his father at age four and soon came with his family to New York, where he spent most of his formative years.  Later, his principal teacher was Leonard Rose at the Juilliard School.  He sought out a traditional liberal arts education to expand upon his conservatory training, graduating from Harvard University in 1976.  He has received numerous awards, including the Avery Fisher Prize (1978), the Glenn Gould Prize (1999), the National Medal of the Arts (2001) and the Dan David Prize (2006).  Mr. Ma and his wife have two children.

    Since 1997, Mr. Annan has appointed nine prominent persons to serve the United Nations as Messengers of Peace:  Muhammad Ali, Vijay Amritraj, Anna Cataldi, Michael Douglas, Jane Goodall, Enrico Macias, Wynton Marsalis, Luciano Pavarotti and Elie Weisel.  On the day of his appointment, Mr. Ma will join the Secretary-General and four Messengers of Peace for the traditional Peace Bell ceremony.  He will perform "Partita" for solo cello by Turkish composer Ahmed Adnan Saygun.

    The Secretary-General will present Mr. Ma with a framed citation and a lapel pin in the form of a dove exclusively designed by artist Leni Fuhrman for the Messengers of Peace.

    For information regarding Messengers of Peace and Mr. Ma's appointment, please contact Yvonne Acosta at tel.: 212 963 7214.

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