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Yo-Yo Ma | Silk Road Ensemble play Chicago's Symphony Center / Chicago Tribune

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Cellist Yo-Yo Ma has long been one of the most recognizable classical musicians as well as one of today's most committed spokesmen for the essential role of culture in society. Now nearing 60, Ma says - "better interpret the world," as he continues to perform in creative collaborations with like-minded friends, colleagues and arts and educational institutions - partnerships that leap across national boundaries.

For the last 15 years, his Silk Road Ensemble, an international nonprofit music collective dedicated to cross-cultural ambassadorship have performanced over 70 commissions, bringing different musical traditions togetner to create a synthesis that helps us understand each other in our global society. The Silk Road group returns to Chicago's Symphony Center as part of their 15th anniversary U.S. tour. Their program will hold works inspired by musical traditions as diverse as Sicilian, Persian and Syrian, including the world premiere of a double concerto arrangement of Chinese composer Zhao Lin's "Paramita."

In a recent phone interview, Ma took time out from a Silk Road rehearsal with the New York Philharmonic to explain how he's managed to keep things fresh and new over the life of his ensemble.  READ THE FULL Chicago Tribune INTERVIEW