My dear young colleagues,

Please consider joining me at the second Youth Music Culture Guangdong workshop in January, 2018. Last year, I had the great privilege of launching the first version of this workshop with Maestros Yu Long and Michael Stern, and I hope that in 2018 we will have just as many enthusiastic and talented young Chinese musicians joining us from across China and beyond.

YMCG is nine days of exploration, conversation, and performance, dedicated to the creation not only of creative and flexible musicians, but also of artists who think actively about why their music is needed and how to serve that need. The participants are young musicians such as you, supported by an esteemed international faculty. Over the course of the week, we will play as an orchestra, in chamber ensembles, and in bands of improvisers, and we will discuss what makes this all work and why it is so important in the 21st century.

In 2018, YMCG will have an emphasis on one composer – Ludwig van Beethoven. Why Beethoven? First, Beethoven was a pivotal personality in a rapidly changing world, both as a culmination of the classical era and a herald of the romantic. As an improviser, virtuoso pianist, and composer he shows us how an artist who is able to be many things produces the great creativity we need to understand change and chart a new course – something of great relevance today. Second, 2020 will be the 250th anniversary of his birth, which means we will soon have a tremendous opportunity to share this connection between change and creativity with others. We hope to help each one of you build the fluency with repertoire, vocabulary, and psychological insight to talk about and play Beethoven in your communities so that others can see why his music is so relevant today.

We will explore Beethoven’s music in three ways. As an orchestra, Michael Stern will lead us in an exploration and performance of the monumental Symphony No. 3, Eroica. We will also divide into ensembles to play chamber music from Beethoven and related composers, such as Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn and Schubert. And, we will remind ourselves that Beethoven, like Bach, Mozart, and others, was a great improviser. Our fearless leader of the Silkroad workshops, Mike Block, will teach us to improvise and arrange new compositions in the classical style. By the end of our time together, I hope we will all feel at one with Beethoven, treating him and ourselves as equals in a conversation and having the empathy to “become” him when we perform his music.

In all of this, you will work with a diverse and talented faculty. This year we have with us the inimitable pipa virtuoso, Wu Man. Edgar Meyer will join us on the double bass, equally at home in classical music and bluegrass, composition and improvisation. Our violins and violas will be led by Cornelia Heard, violinist and head of the Strings Department at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University, the distinguished soloist and chamber violinist Pamela Frank, Hsin-Yun Huang, viola professor at the Juilliard School, and violinist/violist/poet Mario Gotoh, an original member of the orchestra for the Broadway hit “Hamilton”. Joe Gramley, who joined the Silkroad Ensemble at its founding workshop in 2000, returns to lead our percussionists. John Yeh has played clarinet with the Chicago Symphony for more than twenty years, and cellist Mike Block has been a member of the Silkkroad Ensemble for more than ten. We will also learn from a great Scottish fiddler, Hanneke Cassel, and (by pure luck), pianist Anna Polonsky, who teaches at Vassar College and is a very sought after chamber musician, is able to join us for the rehearsal days, playing sonatas, trios, and wind quintets with both participants and faculty. There may be others joining us. Stay tuned!

If you join us and our kind hosts from the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra in January, I hope you will have a joyful experience. My wish is that the participants will make many, many connections during these nine days – encounters with colleagues, new musical relationships, conversations that develop into friendships. I hope you will connect ideas, turn hunches into experiments, realize that your love of one thing can turn into something much bigger, and turn all these experiences back to your music and your life. Perhaps you will leave thinking your life is a little fuller, a little more hopeful, and feel filled with greater energy and determination to make a difference.

Looking forward to January!

With warmest wishes,

Yo-Yo Ma