Yo-Yo Ma, Biography
Yo-Yo Ma (Chinese American, born Oct 7, 1955) is a cellist.
He spent his schooling years in New York City and was a child prodigy,
performing from the age of five. He graduated from Juilliard School and Harvard
University and has enjoyed a prolific career as both a soloist performing with
orchestras around the world and a recording artist. His 90+ albums have
received 18 Grammy Awards.
Childhood and Youth
Yo-Yo Ma was born in Paris to Chinese parents and had a
musical upbringing. His mother, Marina Lu, was a singer and his father,
Hiao-Tsiun Ma, was a violinist and professor of music at Nanjing National
Central University (predecessor of the present-day Nanjing University). The
family moved to New York when he was five years old.
At a young age, Ma began studying violin and later viola,
finally settling on the cello in 1960 at age four. According to Ma, his first
choice was the double bass due to its large size, but he compromised and took
up cello instead. The child prodigy began performing before audiences at age
five and performed for Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy when
he was seven. At age eight, he appeared on American television with his
sister, Yeou-Cheng Ma, in a concert conducted by Leonard Bernstein. In 1964,
Isaac Stern introduced them on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and they
performed the Sonata of Sammartini. He attended Trinity School in New York but
transferred to the Professional Children's School, from which he graduated at
age 15. He appeared as a soloist with the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra in a
performance of the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations.
Ma played in the Marlboro Festival Orchestra under the
direction of cellist and conductor Pablo Casals who was in his 90th at that
time. Ma would ultimately spend four summers at the Marlboro Music Festival
after meeting and falling in love with festival administrator Jill Hornor his
first summer there in 1972 at the age of 16.[7
Yo-Yo Ma is married to Jill Hornor, a German literature
professor at Harvard. They have two children, Nicholas and Emily.
Ma studied at The Juilliard School at age 19 with Leonard
Rose and attended Columbia University but dropped out. He enrolled at Harvard
College later on. Ma received his bachelor's degree from Harvard in 1976. In
1991, he received an honorary doctorate from Harvard.
Ma is known for his smooth, rich tone as well as his
virtuosity. In addition to recordings of the standard classical repertoire, he
has recorded a wide variety of folk music such as American bluegrass music,
traditional Chinese melodies, the tangos of Argentinian composer Ástor
Piazzolla, and Brazilian music. He also collaborated with Grammy Award-winning
jazz/reggae singer Bobby McFerrin.
Ma currently plays with his own Silk Road Ensemble, which
has the goal of connecting the world’s neighborhoods by bringing together
artists and audiences. From flashy surf guitar sounds to ninth century Chinese
poetry, from modular playlists to Egyptian rhythms, the Silk Road Ensemble
mixes the modern and the traditional, breaking boundaries of ethnicity and era.
With a Playlist Without Borders, Ma and his ensemble demonstrate that there are
no barriers for those approaching music with an open mind.
Yo-Yo Ma's primary performance instrument is a Montagnana
cello built in 1733 valued at US$2.5 million. It was named “Petunia” by a
female student who approached him after one of his classes in Salt Lake City
asking if he had a nickname for his cello. He said, "No, but if I play for
you, will you name it?" She chose Petunia and it stuck. This cello was
lost in the fall of 1999 when Ma accidentally left the instrument in a taxicab
in New York City. It was later recovered undamaged. Another of Ma's cellos
is the Davidov Stradivarius built in 1712. It was previously owned by
Jacqueline du Pré, who passed it to him upon her death. He also owns a modern
cello made by Peter and Wendela Moes of Peissenberg, Germany, and one of carbon
fiber by the Luis and Clark company of Boston
Photo: "Yo-Yo Ma 2013" by Ralph Daily -
https://www.flickr.com/photos/ralphandjenny/12196206846/. Licensed under CC BY
2.0 via Wikimedia Commons