Yo-Yo Ma Debuts Live Guests Interactive Bach Music Series-“Bach, Unlocking Meaning, and Finding Purpose.”

ByQuyen Anne

Sep 10, 2023

The 8-week series will feature videos of Ma discussing the Bach Suites for solo cello, with participants invited to join the discussion

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma is launching a new eight-week interactive program entitled “Bach, Unlocking Meaning, and Finding Purpose.” Consisting of a mixture of videos, livestreams, and bonus behind-the-scenes footage, the program will also offer a forum where its participants can come together to discuss all things Bach.

The central part of the program is made up of the weekly “episodes” — seven videos that focus on each of Bach’s Suites for solo cello, with one introductory episode. Ma has determined a theme for each Suite, and will use that theme as a starting point to help bring listeners to a new understanding of the piece.

In addition, Ma will be hosting a number of streams titled “Live in Conversation.” Each week, Ma is joined by a different collaborator, so as to access wisdom from a range of prominent musicians. Guests include Jacob CollierAdam GrantBaratunde Thurston, and Krista Tippett.

During these sessions, participants can take part in the discussion by submitting their questions to a facilitator.

“I am so excited about this,” Ma said of the project. “Because it is interactive, I get to find out in a 360-degree way how people think, hear and react to it. To get that all around, it’s something that never happens. It’s a unique way to create some form of cultural communication.”

Renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma is launching a seven-week Bach interactive virtual experience, “The Music Art Life Experience,” presented by Raptive and launching May 1.

Johann Sebastian Bach’s six suites for solo cello will serve as the starting point for a wider exploration of lessons for creativity, community and the pursuit of a rich and purposeful life.

Joining the musician for conversations and programs focusing on the art of living are journalist Krista Tippett, author Adam Grant, Jacob Collier and comedian Baratunde Thurston.

Ahead of the launch, Ma told Variety, “I am so excited about this. Because it is interactive, I get to find out in a 360-degree way how people think, hear and react to it. To get that all around, it’s something that never happens. It’s a unique way to create some form of cultural communication.”

With Bach as the focal point in how music intersects with art and life, Ma hopes to delve deeper into the power music possesses. Ma said, “Music hits both our conscious mind and our unconscious mind at the same time. At the subconscious level, it hits our emotions. It takes you to a time, to your first kiss, your first dance, your first date or your first whatever.”

He continued, “It is so powerful in the fact that music can hit on all those senses at the same time. That’s what makes it a very powerful way of expression.”

Ma, who was first introduced to Johann Sebastian Bach’s music when he was four years old, has recorded the cello suites at various stages of his life — in his 20s, his 40s and his 60s. The suites, he explained, have been his constant musical companions. “They have given me sustenance, comfort and joy during times of stress, celebration and loss,” he said.

Aside from the interactive conversations and experience, participants will get to view rarely seen archival recordings of Ma performing Bach’s six solo suites for cello.

Learn more and register here.

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.Read the Text-Only Version of the Biography

In concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Ricardo Muti

All the things I love about life outside music have to do with people, and playing the cello allows me to fulfill all those interests through music.


Yo-Yo Ma
Most recently, Yo-Yo began Our Common Nature, a cultural journey to celebrate the ways that nature can reunite us in pursuit of a shared future. Our Common Nature follows the Bach Project, a 36-community, six-continent tour of J. S. Bach’s cello suites paired with local cultural programming. Both endeavors reflect Yo-Yo’s lifelong commitment to stretching the boundaries of genre and tradition to understand how music helps us to imagine and build a stronger society.

In Mumbai, 2019

At the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Athens, 2019

Yo-Yo is an advocate for a future guided by humanity, trust, and understanding. Among his many roles, Yo-Yo is a United Nations Messenger of Peace, the first artist ever appointed to the World Economic Forum’s board of trustees, a member of the board of Nia Tero, the US-based nonprofit working in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and movements worldwide, and the founder of the global music collective Silkroad.

In the Kalahari Desert, 1993

With the Silkroad Ensemble at the United Nations Headquarters, 2008

As musicians, we transcend technique in order to seek out the truths in our world in a way that gives meaning and sustenance to individuals and communities. That’s art for life’s sake.

Yo-Yo Ma, Nancy Hanks Lecture, April 8, 2013

Working with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and its Negaunee Music Institute

In Guangzhou with Youth Music Culture Guangdong, 2020

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, such as “Hush” with Bobby McFerrin and the “Goat Rodeo Sessions” with Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile. Yo-Yo’s recent releases include “Six Evolutions,” his third recording of Bach’s cello suites, and “Songs of Comfort and Hope,” created and recorded with pianist Kathryn Stott in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yo-Yo’s latest album, “Beethoven for Three: Symphony No. 6 and Op. 1, No. 3,” is the second in a new series of Beethoven recordings with pianist Emanuel Ax and violinist Leonidas Kavakos.

With Fred Rogers, 1985

The Goat Rodeo Sessions with Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile, and Stuart Duncan

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.Yo-Yo and his wife have two children. He plays three instruments: a 2003 instrument made by Moes & Moes, a 1733 Montagnana cello from Venice, and the 1712 Davidoff Stradivarius.

Songs of Comfort and Hope, 2020

With Emanuel Ax, 2016

Culture is the foundation on which we will imagine and build a world in which we reaffirm our commitment to equality and safety for all, we act with empathy, and we know that we can always do better.

Yo-Yo Ma in Time, October 22, 2020

At the Trent School, 1962

At the United Nations Headquarters, 2006

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