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Yo-Yo Ma Comes To Knoxville To Connect People Through Music And Nature


Melony Dodson talks with Executive and Artistic Director of the Big Ears Organization, Ashley Capps, about Our Common Nature

"Music, like all of culture, helps us to understand our environment, each other, and ourselves. Culture helps us to imagine a better future. Culture helps turn 'them' into 'us.' And these things have never been more important"

Yo-Yo Ma

On Friday, May 26th, the world famous cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, will be joined by friends and fellow musicians, as they perform in Knoxville at World's Fair Park as part of Ma's project titled Our Common Nature. As it is described on Yo-Yo's website, Our Common Nature is a cultural journey...a celebration of the ways nature can reinvigorate the human experiment, reuniting us in a pursuit of a common future. And what better way to do that, than through music?

Ma has been visiting and performing in different areas of the United States as part of this project and Knoxville, with its close proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains, made the list. For this performance, Ma has partnered with the Big Ears Organization to expand his program and create a week of cultural experiences with the intent of lifting up the many different voices that make up Appalachia: Indigenous, European, Latinx, Black, and beyond. Local artists, scientists, leaders, and community members will come together to explore our common future, with nature as our guide.

The festival unofficially begins on Thursday, May 25th, with mandolin virtuoso, Chris Thile's, performance at the Bijou Theatre. On Friday, May 26th, activities will begin at 4:45pm on the North Lawn of World's Fair Park. There will be a Community Village Stage with performances that are free and open to the public. The lineup includes Evie Andrus, Kelle Jolly, Drums Up Guns Down, Raven Rock Dancers, Rica Chica, and a community parade featuring the Cattywampus Puppet Council & the Knoxville Honkers & Bangers. For those who were not able to purchase a ticket for the Yo-Yo Ma & Friends concert, that performance will be simulcast on a large screen on the North Lawn. Additionally, several local organizations, including the Tremont Instiute, Ijams Nature Center, Knox Pride, Knox Asian Festival, and many more will have booths and family-friendly activities set up. Last, but not least, a variety of food trucks will be set up on the North Lawn as well. All of this is free and open to the public. The only ticketed event on Friday is the Yo-Yo Ma & Friends concert, which will be on the South Festival Lawn. Rhiannon Giddens with Justin Robinson & Dirk Powell perform at the Bijou Theatre on Saturday, May 27th at 8pm. This is a ticketed event as well, but it is currently sold-out.

Patrons may bring a small purse or backpack, water bottles, a picnic blanket, and lawn chairs. Pets are not allowed. Here is a link for FAQ's: https://ourcommonnature.org/faq/

Tickets and additional information: https://ourcommonnature.org/
Information is also available on the Our Common Nature Facebook page (which has a schedule of the free performances on the North Lawn): https://www.facebook.com/OurCommonNature

Melony calls the beautiful mountains of Boone, N.C., home, although she was born near Greensboro, N.C. There’s just something about those Blue Ridge Mountains that got in her blood and never left after she moved there to attend Appalachian State University (ASU). While at ASU, she majored in piano performance and music therapy and began to cultivate a love for accompanying and for collaborating with other musicians. This soon led her to earn a master’s degree in collaborative piano at the University of Tennessee, which she attended from 2006-2008.