Yo-Yo Ma, Silk Road Ensemble to celebrate musical culture in Hill performance

By Paige Pfleger, Daily Arts Writer
Published March 15, 2013

In 2000, world-renowned musician Yo-Yo Ma founded the Silk Road Ensemble — a chamber group inspired by the historical Silk Road. Since its creation, the group, composed of multiple musicians from different countries, has traveled the globe, bringing audiences a musical experience that blends cultural boundaries.

The Silk Road Ensemble


Friday 8 p.m.
Hill Auditorium
From $20


The Silk Road Ensemble’s goal is to connect cultures and build relationships with new audiences using its unique blend of music from around the world. It combines ideas of travel, transformation, innovation and tradition in hopes of creating a global community.

As a result of its desire to spread its distinctive music so widely, the Ensemble travels all over the world. The Ensemble has toured in Europe, Asia and all over the United States since 2000, and its stop at Hill Auditorium is a part of its most recent U.S. concert tour.

University alum and Assistant Professor of Music Joseph Gramley is a multi-percussionist and an original member of the Silk Road Ensemble. His extensive training at the University and The Juilliard School has helped him to become proficient in many percussion instruments, from the drum set to hand drums, as well as a myriad of keyboard instruments — the marimba, xylophone and vibraphone.

“The group is dedicated to exploring some of the tradition and innovation that is found in existing music, as well as commissioning new work from composers from all over the world to utilize our unique instrumentation,” Gramley said. “It’s a really great conglomeration of styles and genres of music dedicated to those far-Eastern and near-Eastern lands.”

Because the group is composed of multiple musicians from different countries, the members rehearse individually until two days before the tour, when they reconvene and rehearse together. This year, they will meet in Boston.

“It’s chamber music, so there’s not a leader of rehearsal, per se. Everyone contributes and brings ideas,” Gramley said. “It’s a process that’s based completely on communication and trust — trust in each other’s musicianship and being able to communicate with each other to get our ideas across. It’s sort of like a brainstorming session but with instruments.”

However, it seems as though communication would be difficult to maintain for a group comprising so many different backgrounds, countries and, of course, languages.

“There are language barrier problems, but over the years, we’ve found ways to work with various artists from around the world. We’ll start a conversation, perhaps without our instruments. If we need an interpreter, we have one,” Gramley explained. “And once the conversation is started, we do a lot of great communicating through the music and building trust.”

The group works closely with cellist Yo-Yo Ma — an experience that Gramley and the other musicians are extremely grateful for.

“He is an incredible catalyst for bringing people together,” Gramley said. “He is amazingly gracious and open to new ideas. Working with him in rehearsals is an incredible learning opportunity. He’s not afraid to try new ideas or push his colleagues to try new things. He’s an amazing advocate for what the arts can do for audiences, for young people and for the community.”