Aspen Institute Arts Program Announces 2013 Harman-Eisner Artist in Residence

April 8, 2013

Contact: Erica Sheftman
The Aspen Institute Arts Program 


Washington, DC, April 8, 2013 –– The Aspen Institute Arts Program is pleased to announce that world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma will serve as its 2013 Harman-Eisner Artist in Residence. In this role, Mr. Ma will participate at the this summer’s Aspen Ideas Festival and engage in Institute activities throughout the year in New York, Washington, DC, and other cities around the country.

Ma has been integral to several key moments in the history of the Aspen Institute Arts Program since its inception in June 2011. Most recently, Ma participated in the inaugural Aspen Arts Strategy Group, discussing his involvement with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Citizen Musician movement and his work with Silk Road Connect, the renowned arts integration program he founded. Joined by Arts Program Director Damian Woetzel, Ma also hosted the culminating event of the convening – a discussion and demonstration of “Citizen Artistry,” and ways the arts can enrich society through education and community engagement. 

Ma also participated in the inaugural US-China Forum on the Arts and Culture, hosted by the Aspen Institute Arts Program in Beijing in November 2011. The forum was the first in a series of exchanges seeking to strengthen mutual understanding between American and Chinese artists and cultural representatives.

“In this year, in which we are pursuing the goal of increasing opportunities for Citizen Artists to contribute to society, it is an honor to welcome Yo-Yo as Artist in Residence – he truly is the Citizen Artist-in-Chief,” said Arts Program Director Damian Woetzel.

While in Aspen this summer, Ma will convene a symposium with invited conductors and music directors of several of the nation’s foremost symphony orchestras, and will lead a Festival pre-session on music and community mobilizing in the 21st century.

“As a musician, I’m trained to do two things at the same time: work toward a goal larger than myself and pay attention to the smallest possible detail. I think Citizen Artists engage their communities with a similar approach, asking, ‘What is the largest challenge facing my neighborhood, city or country?’ and ‘How can I, as an artist, contribute to a solution?’” said Yo-Yo Ma.  

“I am delighted to join my good friend Damian Woetzel in catalyzing a national conversation about how artists practice citizenship, and can think of no better place to do that than the Aspen Ideas Festival,” Ma continued. “I am especially looking forward to joining Damian and Aspen Music Festival Artistic Director Robert Spano in a conversation about musical citizenship with some of our most creative community leaders, Symphony Orchestra Music Directors.”

The many-faceted career of cellist Yo-Yo Ma is testament to his continual search for new ways to communicate with audiences and to his personal desire for artistic growth and renewal. Whether performing new or familiar works from the cello repertoire, coming together with colleagues for chamber music or exploring cultures and musical forms outside the Western classical tradition, Mr. Ma strives to find connections that stimulate the imagination. As the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Judson & Joyce Green Creative Consultant, he focuses on the transformative power music can have in individuals’ lives, and on increasing the number and variety of opportunities audiences have to experience music in their communities. Ma is also the artistic director of the Silk Road Project, an organization he founded to promote learning across cultural boundaries.

Mr. Ma is a UN Messenger of Peace and serves on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. He received the 2012 Polar Music Prize, was recognized as a 2011 Kennedy Center Honoree, and is a 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient. In 2001 he received the National Medal of Arts.

The Harman-Eisner Artist in Residence program was inaugurated in July 2006 to ensure that the valuable ideas and perspectives of leading artists are shared in the Institute’s ongoing “Great Conversation” — in discussions related to arts and culture, but also in those related to the myriad other vital issues the program addresses, from urban development, education, and race to the environment, domestic politics and foreign policy. Previous Harman-Eisner Artists in Residence have included director Julie Taymor, architect Elizabeth Diller, conductor Robert Spano, dancer and current Arts Program Director Damian Woetzel, author Tobias Wolff, painter Chuck Close, actor and playwright Anna Deavere Smith, stage director Stephen Wadsworth, and opera singer Jessye Norman

“Yo-Yo Ma is not only a genius and a once-in-a-generation talent, but he is the perfect example of an artist willing to use his skills and gifts to help create a more compassionate country,” said Michael D. Eisner, Institute trustee and chair of its Committee on the Arts. “I couldn’t be more proud to have him join us at the Aspen Institute this year.”  

Artists are selected and invited by the Aspen Institute Arts Program. Inquiries should be directed to Erica Sheftman at (212) 895-8040 or 

The Aspen Institute Arts Program was established to support and invigorate the arts in America, and to return the arts to the center of the Aspen Institute’s “Great Conversation.” Directed by Damian Woetzel, it brings together artists, advocates, educators, managers, foundations and government officials to exchange ideas and develop policies that strengthen the reciprocal relationship between the arts and society. For more information, visit and follow @AspenInstArts on Twitter.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit


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