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March 22, 2019

Culture Connects Us with Yo-Yo Ma


UMS partnered with Yo-Yo Ma to bring two unforgettable days of inspiration to Michigan.

The musical hero shared personal reflections with an audience of 3,000 in Hill Auditorium on February 27, 2019, followed by a community “Day of Action” in Flint the next day.

Ann Arbor | Culture, Understanding, And Survival

In his special talk titled Culture, Understanding, and Survival, Yo-Yo Ma began by performing musical selections from Bach on both the cello and the piano. “All life is based on theme and variations,” he said, encouraging the audience throughout the presentation to continue to listen to the world around us and toexperiment.

Yo-Yo Ma on Piano

Yo-Yo Ma giving presentation

Asked how he keeps repertoire fresh, Mr. Ma remarked, “I play as if it’s the last time I will ever play a piece.” He added that it’s truly a gift to be able to access that feeling.

Flint | Day of Action

Yo-Yo Ma met local community leaders the next morning in Flint, Michigan, to lead a workshop and dialogue around strategies for making local arts more inclusive and accessible to all.

Yo-Yo Ma speaking at Flint Fresh

In the afternoon, Mr. Ma hosted a free community cultural showcase in Flint’s historic Berston Field House. An enthusiastic crowd arrived, eager to hear Mr. Ma and talented local artists perform.

Yo-Yo Ma with child

Yo-Yo Ma and Tunde Olaniran

Flint singer, rapper, dancer, choreographer, producer, and activist Tunde Olaniran introduced him to a cheering audience to kick off the event!

Kuungana African Drum and Dance CompanyCreative Expressions Dance Studio

Yo-Yo Ma recording on iPhoneEl Ballet Folklorico Estudiantil

“Does Flint have talent or what?!” Mr. Ma exclaimed, as he enjoyed performances by local groups, including the Kuungana African Drum and Dance Company, Creative Expressions Dance Studio, The Boys and Girls Club of Flint Steel Band, and El Ballet Folklorico Estudiantil and Flint Mariachi Band.

Yo-Yo Ma with African Drummer Kevin “Baba” Collins

A fitting end to the community cultural celebration, African drummer Kevin “Baba” Collins joined Yo-Yo Ma in an impromptu, improvised performance!

UMS thanks Yo-Yo Ma for his incredible vision and partnership in bringing these meaningful experiences to life, and demonstrating how #CultureConnectsUs all.

More Bach Inspiration

For more listening inspiration, enjoy Yo-Yo Ma’s new recording of Bach’s Complete Cello Suites on Apple Music or Spotify.

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