Yo-Yo Ma Completes GSE Residency
Silk Road Project emphasizes education and music
Renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma ’76 and his non-profit organization, known as the Silk Road Project, received the inaugural Thelma E. Goldberg Arts in Education Award yesterday at the culmination of a three-day residency at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
The award—created by Harvard Business School professor Ray A. Goldberg ’48—was given to Ma’s organization for innovation, artistry, and commitment to education.
The Silk Road Project, a non-profit organization founded by Ma in 1988, aims to connect artists across the globe through musical performances, workshops, and educational programs.
In 2005, the Silk Road Project implemented five-year residencies at Harvard and the Rhode Island School of Design to promote musical education and appreciation.
During their stay at the GSE, Ma and the Silk Road Project hosted music workshops, performed with students, and discussed their new Silk Road Connect program.
Silk Road Connect was created to forge a more engaging and interdisciplinary learning experience for middle school students.
In its pilot year, Ma said, Silk Road Connect integrated the historical, scientific, and cultural significance of the indigo plant into the sixth grade curriculum at five New York City middle schools.
Ma also emphasized a “deep parallel” between music and teaching in that both seek to make lasting impressions.
“I try to make something as ephemeral as music memorable to people,” he said. “I want it to live long enough inside of them to inspire action—then my job as a performer is done. I feel that it’s the same with teaching.”
As a part of the Silk Road Project’s residency, the Graduate School of Education also hosted several roundtable discussions with professors, GSE students, and members of Project Zero, a School of Education initiative devoted to the study of the development of learning.
Allison K. Ross, a student in the Arts in Education Program at the GSE, said Ma’s innovative vision of music and education attracted her to the talks.
“As an artist, I was curious how Ma’s artistry led him to be an educator,” she said.
In keeping with the Silk Road residency’s theme of “inspiring passion-driven education,” Ma also led an interactive workshop featuring performances from Harvard College musicians.
The students had little time to rehearse their pieces before the workshop with Ma on Tuesday, but Ma said that spontaneity was part of the workshop experience.
“As Harvard students, they’re virtuosos at cramming,” Ma said, laughing.