Yo-Yo Ma is arguably the most famous modern classical musician (although we doubt many would argue with us). The French-born, Chinese American cellist gained a name for himself first through his incredible musical talent. But more recently his humanitarian efforts have become equally impressive. Named a UN Peace Ambassador back in 2006, Ma has since lived up to his title by combining his passions on his recent tour.

For his stop in Denver, Ma not only played a historic Red Rocks show — but also partnered up with the Governor’s office to create a day of discussion throughout the city to talk about refugee integration, food security, homelessness, urban growth and displacement. His Denver visit marks the start of a two-year social impact initiative for Ma in conjunction with his tour. Along with his day of discussion, Ma stopped at Youth on Record — a local non-profit that supports at-risk kids through the power of music — for a special performance.

During his brief but impactful show — Ma performed in response to Ana Karina Casas Ibarra’s story about the plight of her undocumented brother. The tear-jerking story and harrowing reply was truly a one of a kind experience especially because Ibarra was accompanied by Stan Garnett, who was Boulder’s District Attorney during the time of her brother’s deportation. Following Ma’s solo performance, he was joined by a children’s orchestra via El Sistema — another youth and music non-profit. While very different, each portion of the brief show were beautiful expressions of empathy and hope.

“Bringing music to the people is part of our community activation work at Youth on Record,”Jami Duffy, Executive Director / Youth on Record. “When you combine that with our social justice work, there’s not a better musician (Yo-Yo Ma) to collaborate with. He believes what we believe; that culture and the arts are essential to community building. The opportunity to share our stories and music with such an amazing musician and humanitarian was a dream come true.”

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