Cellist Yo-Yo Ma is probably the closest thing there is to a rock star in the world of classical music. He appears on over 100 albums (including 18 Grammy Award winners), and he’s performed all over the world with everyone from pianist Emanuel Ax to mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile to Kermit the Frog.
Ma’s multi-faceted career demonstrates his desire to find new ways to communicate with audiences and to promote global awareness and cultural understanding by exploring musical forms outside the Western classical tradition.
We got a chance to catch up with Yo-Yo Ma during a recent visit to DePauw University where he opened this year’s Green Guest Artist Concert Series with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. His visit was presented as part of an educational program at DePauw: “21st-Century Musician Initiative.” Ma serves as honorary chair of that initiative. While in Greencastle, he took a few minutes out of a jam-packed schedule to speak with WFIU’s Music Director Joe Goetz.
One of the musicians Yo-Yo Ma has met and collaborated with on that journey is multi-instrumentalist, composer, and teacher Maria Pomianowska. She heads the ReBorn ensemble, which resurrects forgotten Polish instruments such as the Plock fiddle, bilgoray, and Suka. Her musical journey has taken her from the Academy of Music in Cracow to India, China, the Middle East, and the Imperial Court of Japan. She has performed with Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Branford Marsalis, and many others, and she has released 21 solo albums.
Pomianowska and Reborn recently performed at the Lotus Festival in Bloomington. The ensemble features an ancient Polish instrument called the Suka. The Suka was almost lost to time, until Pomianowska and a handful of colleagues took on the task of reconstructing it and figuring out how to play it. Pomianowska is also the director of the Cross-Culture Warsaw Festival, where she brings together musicians from all over the world. Pomianowska and her band Reborn joined us in the WFIU studios, where she told her remarkable story.