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Yo-Yo Ma to receive first Fred Rogers Legacy Award

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© Todd Rosenberg Photography
Yo Yo Ma
By Stacey Federoff
Sunday, April 6, 2014, 11:12 p.m.

In a 1985 episode of “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood,” Yo-Yo Ma, the world-renowned cellist, performs two Bach movements before the show's host tells his audience; “Do you know what a present that is? When you play something for somebody, it's just like giving them a present.”

Ma will be the first recipient of a Fred Rogers Legacy Award, developed by the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media at St. Vincent College in Unity.

“We really wanted to focus on elements of service that pay forward Fred Rogers' legacy,” said Karen Strubel Myers, director of development at the center.

The award was conceived as part of the center's 10th anniversary. The award will not necessarily be an annual honor, but will recognize meritorious work, Myers said.

Joanne Rogers, wife of the late Fred Rogers, acted as honorary chairwoman for the center's advisory council in giving the award to Ma.

“He, of course, told her he wanted to come to St. Vincent to receive it,” Myers said.

On May 23, Ma will give a recital after accepting the award at a ceremony in the St. Vincent Basilica.

With 75 albums and 15 Grammy awards, Ma is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among many other awards, including the designation as a United Nations Messenger of Peace.

In 1998, Ma established the Silk Road Project to promote the study of the cultural, artistic and intellectual traditions along the Silk Road trade route that stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Pacific Ocean.

It includes Silk Road Connect, a multidisciplinary middle school engagement initiative designed to encourage a lifelong passion for learning.

Ma focuses on using his gifts to benefit others, said Junlei Li, visiting professor in early learning and children's media in the Fred Rogers Center.

“He's used all of those skills to serve,” Li said. “We're thrilled the connection between him and Fred Rogers continues. ... It's not about nostalgia, it's about thinking, what does all this mean for the young people and grown-ups of today?”

Tickets for the reception, ceremony and recital are $150, with proceeds benefiting scholarships and fellowships at the center.

For more information, go to or call the center at 724-805-2750.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media.

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