Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad receives largest gift in its 21-year history – The Strad

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The organization, founded by Yo-Yo Ma, receives $3 million from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

1. SilkRoad_86_© Max Whittaker

The gift will support efforts to expand educational initiatives for social justice and equity

Silkroad, the non-profit organization founded by the cellist Yo-Yo Ma and home of the Silkroad Ensemble, has been awarded $3 million by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The gift – the largest in Silkroad’s 21-year history – will support a four-year capacity-building effort to expand educational initiatives for social justice and equity, and to create new musical projects under the leadership of Artistic Director Rhiannon Giddens. 

‘I am so excited for the opportunity to partner with The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and for their trust in our vision,” said Giddens. “This grant is hugely meaningful at a time during which we are focused on re-envisioning Silkroad’s artistic and education programs and growing our social impact work. Thanks to the Foundation, we will be able to realize our ambitious goals and sustain our commitment to social justice and equity through music and arts education.’

Executive Director Kathy Fletcher added, ‘we firmly believe in the universal, shared humanity that comes through music, and the healing nature that the arts can possess. With this generous grant award, Silkroad is poised to continue breaking down boundaries and accomplishing its mission of connecting people across race, religion, culture, and language.’

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The $3 million grant funds will be allocated to build capacity over four years as follows:

  • Supporting the artists who create, execute, and lead Silkroad’s programmes, including new projects such as: Home Within (an artistic response to the Syrian conflict), Phoenix Rising (an artistic response to the COVID-19 pandemic), Powered by Womxn (an initiative to uplift and empower the voices of womxn), and The Railroad Project (a effort that will encompass commissions of new music, educational residencies and curriculum development, a new album and multi-part documentary series, a nationwide tour, and community-based events and site-specific visual arts).
  • Expanding two flagship education programs: Global Musician Workshop and the Arts and Passion-Driven Learning Institute, in order to accommodate a greater number of participants and with the ultimate goal of making these initiatives tuition-free.
  • Creating an internship programme that provides professional development experiences for emerging administrators and valuable training to the next generation of arts leaders.
  • Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) through ongoing anti-racism discovery and training in partnership with Overcoming Racism and Sozo Vision; this work will be facilitated across all areas, including artistic, education, administration, and governance.
  • Underwriting compensation for the artistic and administrative staff who are vital to Silkroad’s success, as well as the contractors and firms who complement their efforts.
  • Increasing organizational sustainability through a new cash reserve.

Regarding this gift, founder Yo-Yo Ma shared ‘the Mellon Foundation’s extraordinary generosity will allow Rhiannon and Silkroad to continue building the creativity, access, and collaboration that we all need to thrive. I can’t wait to join them on the journey.’

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