Renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma has made a name for himself not only in the world of music, but also in the world of education as a proponent of cultural-based learning. With his expanding tour itinerary for 2009, Ma will continue his work with a series of performances with the Silk Road Ensemble in the U.S.

The cellist completes his 2008 North American itinerary with an October 24 concert at the United Nations in New York, NY, but he returns to the States with a January 9 performance at Orchestra Hall in Chicago, IL. A January 17-30 tour of venues in India and the Middle East will take Ma out of the country again, but afterwards, his itinerary keeps him mostly in North America through early June.

The concerts featuring the Ensemble begin March 6 at the Performing Arts Center in Providence, RI, and continue through the month, ending with a March 19-20 set at Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto, ON. After Ma’s solo performances in April and May, the Silk Road Ensemble will regroup for a June 5-6 run at Avery Fisher Hall in New York, NY. In all, the group has 12 currently scheduled performances for 2009.

Ma founded the Silk Road Project in 1998 to “study the ebb and flow of ideas among different cultures” along the ancient trade route known as the silk road and to “plant the seeds of new artistic and cultural growth,” according to his statement on the organization’s Web site. The Silk Road Ensemble, a collective of musicians and composers that performs specially commissioned works with Ma at select events around the world, grew out of that mission.

“We live in a world of increasing awareness and interdependence, and I believe that music can act as a magnet to draw people together,” Ma explained in his statement on the Silk Road site. “By listening to and learning from the voices of an authentic musical tradition, we become increasingly able to advocate for the worlds they represent. Further, as we interact with unfamiliar musical traditions we encounter voices that are not exclusive to one community. We discover transnational voices that belong to one world.”

Ma has been performing and recording music since his early childhood in the 1960s. He released his debut album, “Finzi: Concerto for Cello and Orchestra Op. 40,” in 1978 and has worked on more than 70 additional records since then, including the soundtrack to the 2005 film “Memoirs of a Geisha.” According to his official Web site, Ma performs on two instruments, a 1733 Montagnana cello from Venice and the 1712 Davidoff Stradivarius.

Yo-Yo Ma itinerary:
(Dates subject to change.)

October 14 New York, NY Carnegie Hall
October 16 – 18 Nashville, TN Schermerhorn Symphony Center
October 24 New York, NY United Nations
January 9 Chicago, IL Orchestra Hall
January 11 Los Angeles, CA Royce Hall Auditorium
February 26 Portland, ME Merrill Auditorium At City Hall
March 6 Providence, RI Providence Performing Arts Center *
March 8 – 9 Boston, MA Symphony Hall *
March 11 North Bethesda, MD Music Center at Strathmore *
March 13 – 14 Ann Arbor, MI Hill Auditorium *
March 16 – 17 Minneapolis, MN Orchestra Hall *
March 19 – 20 Toronto, ON Roy Thomson Hall *
March 30 University Park, PA Eisenhower Auditorium
March 31 New York, NY Carnegie Hall
April 2 Birmingham, AL Alys Stephens Center for the Performing Arts
May 2 Greenvale, NY Tilles Center for the Performing Arts
May 5 Houston, TX Jones Hall for the Performing Arts
May 12 Vancouver, BC Chan Centre for the Performing Arts
May 14 Davis, CA Mondavi Performing Arts Center
May 15 Berkeley, CA Zellerbach Auditorium
May 17 San Diego, CA Balboa Theatre
May 29 Atlanta, GA Woodruff Arts Center
June 5 – 6 New York, NY Avery Fisher Hall *

* with the Silk Road Ensemble