Silkroad (arts organization)

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Silkroad, formerly the Silk Road Project, Inc., is a not-for-profit organization, initiated by the cellist Yo-Yo Ma in 1998, promoting collaboration among artists and institutions, promoting multicultural artistic exchange, and studying the ebb and flow of ideas. The project was first inspired by the cultural traditions of the historical Eurasian Silk Road trade routes and now encompasses a number of artistic, cultural and educational programs focused on connecting people and ideas from around the world.[1] It has been described as an "arts and educational organization that connects musicians, composers, artists and audiences around the world"[2] and "an initiative to promote multicultural artistic collaboration."[3]

In July 2020, Rhiannon Giddens took over from Yo-Yo Ma as Artistic Director.[4]

Recent events[edit]

In 2009, Silkroad began an educational pilot program for middle-school students in New York City public schools.[5] The program, called Silk Road Connect, focuses on passion-driven education through arts integration and is being developed with help from education experts at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.[6] In July 2012, Silkroad and Harvard Graduate School of Education presented "The Arts and Passion-Driven Learning," an arts education institute that modeled the Silk Road Connect arts integration approach.[7] The program has continued each year since.

In celebration of its 10th anniversary, Silkroad presented performances and programs by the Silk Road Ensemble in North America, Asia and Europe from 2008 to 2010. Its anniversary season began with the Silk Road Ensemble's performance with Yo-Yo Ma of the United Nations Day Concert in October 2008.[8] Tenth-anniversary activities also included a North American concert tour by the Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma in March 2009, which featured the North American premiere of Layla and Majnun, a chamber arrangement for the Silk Road Ensemble of a traditional Azerbaijani opera.[9]

The organization has published a book, Along the Silk Road, and commissioned more than 70 new chamber music compositions.[10] Silkroad has also created educational materials entitled "Silk Road Encounters" and has partnered with the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE) to produce Along the Silk Road, a curriculum for students in grades six-10,[11] and The Road to Beijing, a documentary made available with related lessons about Beijing in advance of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.[12]


Silkroad is affiliated with Harvard University; the organization moved its offices to the Harvard campus in Boston, Massachusetts, in July 2010 at the outset of a renewed five-year affiliation with the University, designed to enable new artistic and cultural opportunities at Harvard and in surrounding communities.[13] Silkroad has been affiliated with both Harvard University and the Rhode Island School of Design in the USA, where the Silk Road Ensemble engaged with faculty and students in annual residencies.[14] Silkroad's partnership with Rhode Island School of Design took place from 2005 through 2010.[15] As part of Silkroad programming, the Silk Road Ensemble has also been involved in short-term residencies at Museum Rietberg in Zurich, Switzerland; The Art Institute of Chicago; University of California, Santa Barbara;[16] Rubin Museum of Art in New York City; Nara National Museum in Nara, Japan; the Peabody Essex Museum[17] in Salem, Massachusetts; and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto.

The Music of Strangers[edit]

The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble is a documentary film about Silkroad directed by Morgan Neville, who also produced with Caitrin Rogers.[18] The film was released in U.S. theaters starting in June 2016. The Orchard has acquired all worldwide rights to the film with the exception of U.S. domestic television rights, which HBO has acquired.[19] Reviews of the documentary included: Rotten Tomatoes 85%; Washington Post 3/4; and, 7/10 IMDb.

The Silk Road Ensemble[edit]

Silk Road Journeys: Beyond the Horizon

The Silk Road Ensemble is a musical collective and a part of Silkroad. The ensemble is not a fixed group of musicians, but rather a loose collective of as many as 59 musicians, composers, arrangers, visual artists and storytellers[citation needed] from Eurasian cultures.

The Ensemble has regularly commissioned new works from across a broad musical spectrum, including works by Zhao Jiping and Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky, and is known for its series of interdisciplinary festivals and residencies presented in North America, Europe, and Asia. They have performed in many locations along the historic Silk Road, including Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, India, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan.[citation needed]

The Ensemble uses various instruments from the Silk Road region, including a pipa, a Chinese short-necked plucked lute; a duduk, an Armenian double reed woodwind; a Shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo flute; and a morin khuur, a Mongolian horse head fiddle; among many others.[citation needed]


The Silk Road Ensemble has recorded eight CDs. The group's 2009 CD Off the Map was nominated in the Best Classical Crossover Album category at the 53rd Grammy Awards in 2011.[20]

  • 2001 - Silk Road Journey: When Strangers Meet
  • 2005 - Silk Road Journeys: Beyond the Horizon (released earlier in Japan in 2004 titled Enchantment)
  • 2007 - New Impossibilities
  • 2008 - Traditions and Transformations: Sounds of Silk Road Chicago
  • 2009 - Off the Map
  • 2013 - A Playlist Without Borders
  • 2016 - Sing Me Home
  • 2017 - The Vietnam War: A Film By Ken Burns & Lynn Novick [soundtrack]
  • 2020 - Falling Out of Time


In addition to Ma, performing members of the ensemble include:

Silk Road Ensemble composers and arrangers include:

Silk Road Chicago[edit]

Silk Road Chicago was a yearlong, citywide celebration, from June 2006 to June 2007, with special events, performances, and exhibitions that explored cross-cultural discovery and celebrated the artistic legacy of the historic Silk Road. Silk Road Chicago was a partnership among Silkroad, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Chicago Office of Tourism, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and The Art Institute of Chicago.


  1. ^ On the Silk Road again – Harvard Gazette
  2. ^ Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble Return to Japan Archived 2008-10-08 at the Wayback Machine — World Music Central, February 15, 2008.
  3. ^ Follow the mellow Silk Road with Yo-Yo and his celloThe Irish Independent, August 23, 2008.
  4. ^ "Rhiannon Giddens Named Artistic Director Of Silkroad". 2020-07-28. Retrieved 2020-08-03.
  5. ^ Chancellor and Yo-Yo Ma Launch Partnership to Enrich Middle School Instruction — New York City Department of Education press release
  6. ^ Yo-Yo Ma visits HGSE with Silk Road Project — Harvard Graduate School of Education News, October 20, 2009.
  7. ^ Inspiring as well as educating: Musicians, Ed School leaders probe teaching methods that turn 'have to' into 'want to'Harvard Gazette, August 3, 2012.
  8. ^ Oestreich, James. Silk Road Project Turns 10The New York Times, October 26, 2008.
  9. ^ For the love of Layla: Yo-Yo Ma's Ensemble creates a version of Layla and MajnunThe New York Times, February 27, 2009.
  10. ^ Commissioned Works Archived 2008-12-23 at the Wayback Machine — The Silk Road Project
  11. ^ New Curriculum Brings Cultural Exchange to Chicago Classrooms Archived 2009-04-24 at the Wayback Machine — Silk Road Project Newsletter, Summer 2007.
  12. ^ Program packages primer on Beijing in time for Games — Stanford News Service, July 9, 2008.
  13. ^ Silk Road Project moves to Harvard: New Allston headquarters will expand campus and community arts education, strengthen partnership — Harvard Gazette, April 13, 2010.
  14. ^ Silk Road Project, RISD and Harvard announce educational collaborations Archived 2011-07-17 at the Wayback Machine — press release
  15. ^ Silk Road Project ends tie to RISD — Providence Journal, April 14, 2010.
  16. ^ Exploring the Silk Road: History Cultural and Social Exchange Archived 2010-06-27 at the Wayback Machine — Silk Road Ensemble at UCSB residency brochure
  17. ^ Creative Exchanges: Sights and Sounds of the Silk Road Archived 2008-10-29 at the Wayback Machine — PEM residency archive
  18. ^ Neville, Morgan (2016-03-04), The Music of Strangers, retrieved 2016-03-24
  19. ^ Hipes, Patrick (11 September 2015). "Yo-Yo Ma Documentary 'Music Of Strangers' Lands At The Orchard & HBO – Toronto". Deadline. Retrieved 2016-03-24.
  20. ^ Small Labels, Superhuman Symphony Dominate Classical Grammy Nominations — Deceptive Cadence from NPR Classical, December 2, 2010
  21. ^ Silk Road Ensemble list Archived 2008-12-23 at the Wayback Machine — The Silk Road Project
  22. ^ "Silkroad".
  23. ^ Silk Road Ensemble list Archived 2008-12-23 at the Wayback Machine — The Silk Road Project

External links[edit]