Annan met with the 50-year-old cellist January 12 to discuss his new role as a "peace envoy." Ma will join a distinguished list of peace ambassadors, who include basketball player Magic Johnson, tenor Luciano Pavarotti, jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, actor Michael Douglas, and Nobel laureate Elie Weisel.
Ma was born in Paris to Chinese parents and was a child prodigy when he moved to the United States at age 7. He graduated from Harvard University in 1976 and is now one of the world's most popular cellists; acclaimed for his performances and recordings of standard repertoire, new works, world music, and for his innovative collaborations. He has won more than a dozen Grammy awards.