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On Center: Silkroad Ensemble will make its Penn State debut November 5 at Eisenhower

by on July 24, 2019 10:49 AM

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma has spent a lifetime transcending cultural divides and bringing people together, so it’s only natural that the musical organization he founded at the turn of the century is devoted to relationships that cross borders.

The Silkroad Ensemble, named for the ancient trade route that exchanged commodities and innovations between southern Europe and eastern Asia, will make its State College premiere in concert at 7:30 p.m. November 5 in Penn State’s Eisenhower Auditorium.

“In a world filled with a legion of seemingly endless cultural and religious divisions and conflicts fueled by the ever-expanding networks of both real and fake news, it’s hard to remember the commonality that we do share,” observes a writer for the website San Francisco Classical Voice. “Artists have always sought new sources for inspiration, and the Silkroad Ensemble has been blurring and blending cultural boundaries successfully for two decades, driven by its maxim, ‘Music, radical cultural collaboration, and passion-driven learning for a more hopeful world.’”

The ensemble has been called “vibrant and virtuosic” by the Wall Street Journal, “one of the 21st century’s great ensembles” by the Vancouver Sun, and a “roving musical laboratory without walls” by the Boston Globe.

Silkroad musicians perform in a variety of configurations and locations – from a duo or trio in museums to as many as 18 in concert halls. They also guide teacher and musician training workshops; create residency programs in educational and community settings; and experiment with new media and genres to share Silkroad’s mission.

The group’s roster of musicians and composers includes artists from more than 20 countries.

Together, they take inspiration from diverse traditions to fashion a new musical language that speaks to contemporary audiences living in a world that’s never been more connected.

Silkroad has performed in more than 30 countries and recorded seven albums. Sing Me Home, a 2016 release, won the Grammy Award for Best World Music Album. Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville’s documentary about the ensemble, The Music of Strangers, also came out in 2016.

A screening of The Music of Strangers – free and open to the public – will take place at 7 p.m. November 4 in the HUB-Robeson Center’s Freeman Auditorium on the University Park campus.

Silkroad’s “vision of international cooperation is not what we read in our daily news reports,” writes a Los Angeles Times reporter. “Theirs is the better world available if we, like these extraordinary musicians, agree to make it one.”


Tickets for the Silkroad Ensemble concert, plus 25 other Center for the Performing Arts 2019–20 presentations, are on sale. For tickets and information, go to

John Mark Rafacz is the editorial manager of the Center for the Performing Arts.





John Mark Rafacz is the editorial manager of the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State.
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