Yo-Yo Ma (Doctor of Arts)

Ma received an honorary degree at Dartmouth’s 2019 commencement ceremony.

YO-YO MA, as the most accomplished and celebrated cellist the world has ever known, you’ve perfected the art of performance and proven the power of music to promote peace and understanding. 

Born in Paris to Chinese parents, you arrived in America with your family in 1962. With your musical talent present from the time you were a toddler, you settled on cello at age 4, began performing at age 5, and made your American television debut at age 8. You attended the prestigious Juilliard School, but yearned for something more. In 1976, you earned an anthropology degree from Harvard, where you came to appreciate the cultures and communities at the core of your life’s work. 

On stage and in the studio, you’ve pushed the boundaries of creative expression, embracing a wide range of musical genres and experimental art forms. From accompanying the Muppets on Sesame Street to jamming with jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin, you’ve surprised and delighted audiences of all ages with some of the most memorable musical collaborations in pop culture history. 

Eager to bring audiences and musicians together for the common good, you orchestrated path-breaking initiatives such as Silkroad and The Bach Project to demonstrate our shared humanity and the benefits of a more connected world.

With an incredible 90 studio albums, your impressive body of work has earned you 19 Grammy Awards and our country’s highest artistic honors, though it is your role as the consummate “citizen musician” we honor most today. 

For your virtuosity, artistry and inventiveness, for your genuine love of all people, and for your embodiment of the belief that every individual should utilize their given talents for the betterment of humankind, Dartmouth is proud to award you the honorary degree of Doctor of Arts.