Yesterday, President Obama named the fifteen civilians who will be awarded the highest civilian honour in the country: the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Among those named was Yo-Yo Ma, who is being honoured for his significant contribution to the nation’s musical and arts.
Here is the biography of Ma that was included in the White House’s press release yesterday:
Yo-Yo Ma is considered the world’s greatest living cellist, recognized as a prodigy since the age of five whose celebrity transcends the world of classical music. Born in Paris, Ma was a child prodigy who went on to study with Leonard Rose in New York. He made his Carnegie Hall debut at age nine. He was the recipient of the Avery Fisher Prize in 1978, and, in 1991, Harvard awarded him an honorary doctorate in music. He serves as Artistic Director of the Silk Road Project, and has won sixteen Grammy awards. He is known especially for his interpretations of Bach and Beethoven, and for his ability to play many different styles of music, including tango and bluegrass. He serves on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
Yo-Yo Ma was in good company yesterday. Other recipients of the Medal of Freedom (which will be officially awarded early next year) include Congressman John Lewis, a significant leader of the Civil Rights Movement, poet Maya Angelou, civil rights activist Sylvia Mendez, and Bill Russell, the nation’s first African American coach of a major professional sport team. Former president George H.W. Bush will also awarded a Medal of Freedom, presumably for his efforts working alongside former President Bill Clinton to help with the Hurricane Katrina response efforts.
Congratulations to Yo-Yo Ma and all the other Medal of Freedom recipients!