Yo-Yo Ma to speak at Northwestern

Junnie Kwon, Reporter

Cellist and virtuoso Yo-Yo Ma and ballet dancer Damian Woetzel will speak Oct. 14 on campus as a part of the Chicago Humanities Festival’s Morry and Dolores Kohl Kaplan Northwestern Day.

The duo will start their presentation “A Conversation About the Arts and Citizenship” with a music performance followed by dialogue and questions from the audience at Cahn Auditorium, said Mary Kate Barley-Jenkins, programming director for the Chicago Humanities Festival.

CHF is marking its 23rd year with the theme of America.  Aware of Ma’s extensive work in promoting arts and citizenship, Barley-Jenkins reached out to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to help recruit him for the festival.

“One of the things that Yo-Yo suggested was that we also bring in Damian Woetzel, because he and Damian actually work together on this idea of … how artists practice their citizenship as individuals and also to the institutions they work with,” Barley-Jenkins said.

Northwestern Day began two years ago when CHF partnered with the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities to reach people outside of the festival’s main location in the Loop. Teachers and students who have their WildCARDs will get in free to all events except two — the discussion with Ma and the conversation with “Daily Show” personality John Hodgman will both cost $5 for faculty and students.

“We have engaged audiences throughout the entire city and suburbs … so this is our way of bringing the festival to some of our different audiences … and also to partner with a world-class university,” she said.

On Oct. 21, CHF will host a similar day at the University of Chicago.

Ma and Woetzel, former principal dancer at New York City Ballet, are one of nine Northwestern Day programs, four of which will feature NU professors. Topics range from American TV to the Middle East to NU English Prof. Julia Stern’s book on Bette Davis.

“We like to think of all our presenters as stars,” Barley-Jenkins said.  “We spend over eight or nine months pouring over hundreds and hundreds of ideas … and we really curate the festival to be the best of the best,” Barley-Jenkins said.

Although Yo-Yo Ma may hold the most star power, Barley-Jenkins said all the presenters are impressive.

“It’s so hard to pick,” she said. “It’s like all my children.”

Junnie Kwon