By Penny Johnson, Contributing Author
Awarded annually by The White House – as selected by the US President, based on recommendations from the Distinguished Civilian Service Awards Board – the Presidential Medal of Freedom honours individuals who have made “especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to a cultural or other significant public or private endeavor.” In early 2011, cellist, Yo-Yo Ma will be one of fifteen recipients of the national honour, to be awarded by President Barack Obama. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is regarded as the country’s highest civilian honor.
A winner of multiple Grammy Awards – for which his recordings of the Bach Cello Suites garnered particular recognition – and a performer of the highest rank who has soloed with most major symphony orchestras, in addition to having an extensive career as a chamber musician, the fifty-five year old Ma was chosen by President Obama in 2009 to serve on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. Regarded for his continual search for new ways of communicating with audiences, Ma has been actively involved in such projects as El Sistema (the Venezuelan miracle system of music education founded by Dr. José Antonio Abreu, former laureate of The Glenn Gould Prize) and the Silk Road Project that he initiated in 1998.