While the event has traditionally focused on more political issues, it will take a turn this year with its theme of "Empowering Society Through the Arts."
With this turn toward the arts, the featured artist at this year's discourse, slated for Sept. 29 through Oct. 1, will be world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Joined by DePauw University alumni and other distinguished guests, Ma will lead a celebration of the arts while exploring their vital community role in sparking creativity, innovation, self-expression and dialogue.
"On behalf of the DePauw community, we are profoundly excited to welcome Yo-Yo Ma to our campus," said DePauw President Brian W. Casey. "His life's work at the intersection of music, creativity and the exchange of ideas makes him an extraordinary ambassador, not only for the arts, but also for liberal education as a whole."
Ma's dedication to not only classical music, but to the exchange of cultures and ideas, makes him a good fit for the university as this year's discourse focuses on the arts.
"It's absolutely thrilling that he's coming to DePauw," DePauw professor of cello Eric Edberg said. "Not only is he the most famous and successful cellist on the scene today, and probably the biggest draw of any classical artist, but he's so committed to innovation and using music to bridge cultures.
"That's something that music schools, including DePauw, are looking at," Edberg added. "How do we prepare our music students for what musicians do in the 21st century? All across the country, there's a process of redefinition of what our mission is as classical musicians and as educators."
DePauw major gifts officer and DePauw Discourse organizer Steve Setchell said this approach toward music and the arts in general is precisely what makes this year's event such a vital topic.
"While the arts may not be an election issue, per se, as many other conversations have been, it is certainly a vital public issue and one that affects communities in terms of exchange of ideas, citizenship, creativity," Setchell said. "We feel it's a distinct program among other DePauw Discourse events, but one that very much supports the public issue emphasis."
Currently the Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Ma has had a multi-faceted career that reflects a quest to find new ways to connect with audiences and support artistic growth and renewal. He is a multiple Grammy Award-winning cellist, whose eclectic repertoire represents a unique variety of musical forms and cultures.
Approaching music as a means of communication and a vehicle for the movement of ideas, Ma created the Silk Road Project in 1998 to promote study of the cultural, artistic and intellectual traditions along the Silk Road trade route from the Mediterranean Sea to the Pacific Ocean.
"He does so much with his Silk Road Project and other cross-genre projects he's done with tango musicians, jazz musicians and Bobby McFerrin to break down the walls between classical music and other forms of music," Edberg said.
Ma's visit to Greencastle will span September 29 and 30, including a DePauw Discourse performance and discussion as well as a master class with DePauw School of Music students in the Judson and Joyce Green Center for the Performing Arts.
"Judson and I are delighted to bring Yo-Yo Ma to DePauw Discourse, the School of Music and the entire DePauw community," said Joyce Taglauer Green '75, DePauw Discourse chair. "Setting the stage for a conversation distinct from those of previous DePauw Discourse programs, this year's focus enables alumni and friends to celebrate the arts and consider their broad impact on our lives and society at large."
Edberg said he is overjoyed with what the Greens are doing for musicians, not only with their involvement at DePauw, but by underwriting Ma's current position with the Chicago Symphony.
"They're really doing such great things to empower musicians, train musicians and to stimulate this kind of thinking," Edberg said.
Established in 2004, DePauw Discourse gathers alumni and other distinguished guests with students, faculty and members of the DePauw community in thought-provoking dialogue about some of the most pressing public issues of the day. Past presenters have included Lee H. Hamilton, Vernon E. Jordan, Madeleine Albright, L. Paul Bremer, Paul Volcker, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.
A DePauw Discourse schedule, including Yo-Yo Ma events, will be made available later this spring. Visit www.depauw.edu/discourse or contact Setchell for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-446-5298.