Youth Music Culture Guangdong (YMCG) launches in 2017 with renowned musician Yo-Yo Ma as Artistic Director

After nearly two years of planning, the Youth Music Culture Guangdong (YMCG) will launch in January 2017. Presented by the Guangdong Provincial Department of Culture, YMCG is organized by the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra (GSO) and the Xinghai Concert Hall. This unique and meaningful project will become an annual highlight in China in years to come. In fact, the YMCG follows the footsteps of major musical and cultural events in Guangdong province over the past decade, including the Canton International Summer Music Academy (2005–2007) and the Canton Asian Music Festival (2010) that had shown the region’s potential to reach out to the world. The YMCG’s Artistic Director is none other than internationally renowned artist Yo-Yo Ma, who accepted the invitation by GSO’s Music Director Maestro Long Yu to lead this meaningful and multi-faceted project.

A world-famous musician and an old friend of the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, Yo-Yo Ma made his GSO debut in 2010 in the closing concert of the Canton Asian Music Festival under the baton of Maestro Long Yu and has since returned twice to perform with the orchestra. Mr. Ma has an unrivalled depth and breadth of artistic experience, and is among the most revered artists in the world today. With his versatility and all-embracing visionary zeal, the YMCG will bear the imprint of his unique ideas on the arts and beyond. The inaugural YMCG will surely launch on a high note.

The inaugural YMCG, scheduled between January 7 and 20, 2017, entails the founding of a youth orchestra comprised of young musicians and students under age 35 from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, brought together through by audition or invitation, working together during the two-week project. Celebrated American conductor Michael Stern will serve as the orchestra’s Music Director and Conductor. The orchestra will be coached by a distinguished 12-member faculty, each personally selected by Mr. Yo-Yo Ma. Faculty members include Lynn Chang, Mike Block, Liang Wang, Kinan Azmeh, Joseph Gramley, Tina Blythe, Reylon Yount and Wu Tong, among others. The YMCG Orchestra is founded on the overriding principle of gathering people from diverse backgrounds and fostering meaningful interaction. There will be a series of public activities in Guangzhou from January 7 to January 15. Orchestra members participate not only in performances, master classes, seminars and cultural exchange, but also extend their engagement beyond classical music into broader cultural spheres. Most performances will offer tickets to the public at low prices; some will even be free of charge. A brief tour of Hong Kong and Macao is also scheduled for the YMCG Orchestra during the project’s second week.

Artistic Director Yo-Yo Ma shared his thoughts on the YMCG’s missions and goals: “Music—like the other arts, humanities, and sciences—is at the heart of culture. And culture is the tool that our society uses to discover truth, create trust, and share meaning. When humans play, or sing, or write, or explore, we not only create beauty and knowledge, but we also help to develop solutions to our greatest challenges. I believe that any musician or artist should not only be technically proficient, but also be mindful of the power of their art and the need for it in their world. It is with this in mind that I invite people to participate in the first YMCG. Hosted by the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra and staffed by faculty from around the world, this seminar aims to create trust and connect young musicians from China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. Our curriculum will address both musicianship and citizenship. It will be led by a distinguished group of faculty drawn from the worlds of music and education—from the Silk Road Ensemble to Harvard University and elsewhere. It will deepen the participants’ understanding of classical style, develop flexible thinking through participation in different genres of music, and ask them to practice core artistic values such as curiosity, connection, and collaboration. When combined with discussion of how music can respond to the needs of others, we hope that this approach will create powerful, memorable moments that will encourage empathy, hope, and understanding. We hope that the YMCG will leave participants not only with a wonderful musical experience, but also with new skills and inspirations about the powerful role that music and musicians can play in our increasingly complex 21st-century world.” Yo-Yo Ma hopes young musicians who participate in the YMCG project can ponder three core issues—Content (“How to understand music?”), Communication and Reception (“Whose need does music meet? Yourself, the audience or the composer?”). Answers to these philosophical questions will provide benefits for a lifetime.

According to YMCG project organizers, up to now, no other music festival in mainland China has been founded on addressing young people on an international level. Guangdong province has always been a pioneer on many fronts throughout history, and the founding of YMCG this year is most timely. Not only does the province enjoy one of the country’s strongest economies, but its cultural foundation and global connections are also enviable. Guangzhou ranks among China’s first-tier cities and enjoys one of the longest histories as a port open for foreign trade; it has been a business center in the region for more than a millennium. Guangzhou is also a major city along the coastal Silk Road with a deep and rich cultural heritage. The YMCG will open a door through which people can see both outside and inside China. As an annual arts and cultural project, the YMCG will provide a veritable platform for deepening understanding, increasing trust, and fostering cultural interaction among young people