• Yo-Yo Ma will deliver the spring 2018 Compton Lecture at MIT. He has been a leading international voice for music as a means to promote cross-cultural understanding and social good.

    Yo-Yo Ma will deliver the spring 2018 Compton Lecture at MIT. He has been a leading international voice for music as a means to promote cross-cultural understanding and social good.

    Photo: Jason Bell

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Yo-Yo Ma to deliver spring 2018 Compton Lecture

Yo-Yo Ma will deliver the spring 2018 Compton Lecture at MIT. He has been a leading international voice for music as a means to promote cross-cultural understanding and social good.

Renowned cellist will speak in March on the role of culture in a strong society.


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President L. Rafael Reif announced today that cellist Yo-Yo Ma will visit the MIT campus on Monday, March 19, to deliver the spring 2018 Karl Taylor Compton Lecture.

“From his performances and recordings, the world knows Yo-Yo Ma for his brilliance as an artist,” Reif said. “However, I am especially thrilled to welcome him back to campus next spring so he can share with our students his passionate curiosity and deep commitment to making a better world. By reaching across boundaries of cultures and disciplines, he builds the kind of unexpected creative connections that resonate deeply with the MIT community. I am delighted that he will deliver the Institute’s best-known and most prestigious invited lectureship.”

The Karl Taylor Compton Lecture Series was established in 1957 to honor the late Karl Taylor Compton, who served as president of MIT from 1930 to 1948 and as chair of the MIT Corporation from 1948 to 1954. The lecture series is intended to give the MIT community direct contact with the important ideas of our times and with people who have contributed much to modern thought.

Yo-Yo Ma was born in Paris in 1955 and began to study the cello with his father at age four. Having moved with his family to the United States at age 7, he studied at the Julliard School and later at Harvard University, from which he graduated in 1976. Perhaps the most celebrated cellist of his generation, Ma is a prolific performer and teacher, having recorded more than 100 albums, given thousands of live performances and master classes, and served as artistic advisor or consultant to organizations such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Carnegie Hall.

His numerous awards include the Avery Fisher Prize (1978), the Glenn Gould Prize (1999), the National Medal of the Arts (2001), the Dan David Prize (2006), the Leonie Sonning Music Prize (2006), the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award (2008), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2010), the Polar Music Prize (2012), and the Vilcek Prize in Contemporary Music (2013). In addition, Ma was appointed a CultureConnect Ambassador by the U.S. Department of State in 2002 and currently serves as a United Nations Messenger of Peace. His work provides opportunities for music to be experienced within communities, with a special commitment to programs that introduce children to music and its creation.

The breadth of activity and accolades in Ma’s long career stem from ferocious curiosity and delight in the global multitude of musical forms beyond the Western classical canon. Ma continues to explore music as what he terms “a means of communication and as a vehicle for the migration of ideas across a range of cultures throughout the world.” He’s known for commissioning new works, particularly in connection with Silkroad, the nonprofit organization he founded in 1998 to foster radical cultural collaboration toward a more hopeful world.

“When I think of Yo-Yo Ma, I do so in at least two ways: He’s the world’s leading cellist and the world’s leading ambassador for the performing arts through Silkroad, a project that works to transcend cultural boundaries via the shared experience of music,” said Associate Provost Philip S. Khoury, chair of the Compton Lectures Advisory Committee. “More than that, Mr. Ma is our Cambridge neighbor. It is a phenomenal privilege to welcome him to the MIT stage.”

All members of the MIT community are invited to attend Compton lectures. The timing, venue, and format of Ma’s lecture will be announced in the spring 2018 semester. Registration via MIT certificates will be required.


Topics: Arts, Music, President L. Rafael Reif, Community, Humanities, Special events and guest speakers

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