Ma plays the cello during the “Presentation of the Crystal Award” at the Annual Meeting 2008 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 25, 2008.
|Born||October 7, 1955 (age 55)
|Occupations||Cellist, composer, pedagogue|
|Instruments||Cello, Piano, Viola, Violin|
|Years active||fl. ca. 1961–present|
|Labels||CBS, RCA, Sony|
|Associated acts||Silk Road Ensemble|
Davydov 1712 Stradivarius
Domenico Montagnana 1733
Luis and Clark
- This is a Chinese name; the family name is Ma (simplified Chinese: 马; traditional Chinese: 馬; pinyin: Mǎ).
Yo-Yo Ma (simplified Chinese: 马友友; traditional Chinese: 馬友友; pinyin: Mǎ Yǒuyǒu; born October 7, 1955) is a French-born American cellist, virtuoso, orchestral composer of Chinese descent, and winner of multiple Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts in 2001  and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 . He is one of the most famous cellists of the modern age.
Yo-Yo Ma was born in Paris on October 7, 1955, 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. His family moved to New York when he was five years old.
At a very young age, Ma began studying violin, and later viola, before finding his true calling by taking up 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 John F. Kennedy and Dwight D. Eisenhower 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. By fifteen years of age, Ma had graduated from Trinity School in New York and appeared as a soloist with the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra in a performance of the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations.
Yo-Yo Ma: Elgar Cello Concerto, 1st mvmt
Ma studied at the Juilliard School with Leonard Rose and briefly attended Columbia University before ultimately enrolling at Harvard University. Prior to entering Harvard, Ma played in the Marlboro Festival Orchestra under the direction of nonagenarian cellist and conductor Pablo Casals. Ma would ultimately spend four summers at the Marlboro Music Festival after meeting and falling in love with Mount Holyoke College sophomore and festival administrator Jill Hornor his first summer there in 1972.
However, even before that time, Ma had steadily gained fame and had performed with most of the world’s major orchestras. His recordings and performances of Johann Sebastian Bach‘s Cello Suites recorded in 1983 and again in 1994–1997 are particularly acclaimed. He has also played a good deal of chamber music, often with the pianist Emanuel Ax, with whom he has a close friendship back from their days together at the Juilliard School of Music in New York.
Yo-Yo Ma: Elgar Cello Concerto, 2rd mvmt
Ma currently plays with his own Silk Road Ensemble, which has the goal of bringing together musicians from diverse countries all of which are historically linked via the Silk Road, and records on the Sony Classical label. Ma’s primary performance instrument is the cello nicknamed Petunia, built by Domenico Montagnana in 1733. It was named this by a female student that 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, more than 270 years old and valued at US$2.5 million, 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, the Davidov Stradivarius, was previously owned by Jacqueline du Pré who passed it to him upon her death, and owned by the Vuitton Foundation. Though Du Pré previously voiced her frustration with the “unpredictability” of this cello, Ma attributed the comment to du Pré’s impassioned style of playing, adding that the Stradivarius cello must be “coaxed” by the player. It was until recently set up in a Baroque manner, since Ma exclusively played Baroque music on it. He also owns a cello made of carbon fiber by the Luis and Clark company of Boston.
In 1997 he was featured on John Williams’ soundtrack to the Hollywood film, Seven Years in Tibet. In 2000, he was heard on the soundtrack of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and in 2003 on that of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. He collaborated with Williams again on the original score for the 2005 film Memoirs of a Geisha. Yo-Yo Ma has also worked with world-renowned Italian composer Ennio Morricone and has recorded Morricone’s compositions of the Dollars Trilogy including The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. He also has over 75 albums, 15 of which are Grammy Award winners. Ma is a recipient of the International Center in New York’s Award of Excellence.
On November 3, 2009, President Obama appointed Ma to serve on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. His music was featured in the 2010 documentary Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story, narrated by Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman.
Yo-Yo Ma: Elgar Cello Concerto, 3rd mvmt
Ma has been referred to as “omnivorous” by critics, and possesses a more eclectic repertoire than is typical for classical musicians. A sampling of his versatility in addition to numerous recordings of the standard classical repertoire would include his recordings of Baroque pieces using period instruments; American bluegrass music; traditional Chinese melodies including the soundtrack to the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon; the tangos of Argentinian composer Ástor Piazzolla; an eclectic and unusual collaboration with Bobby McFerrin (where Ma admitted to being terrified of the improvisation McFerrin pushed him toward); as well as the music of modern minimalist Philip Glass in such works as the 2002 piece Naqoyqatsi. He is known for his smooth, rich tone as well as his considerable virtuosity, including a cello recording of Niccolò Paganini‘s 24th Caprice for solo violin, Zoltán Kodály‘s cello sonata, and other demanding works.
Yo-Yo Ma: Elgar Cello Concerto, 4th mvmt
Notable live performances
Ma performed a duet with Condoleezza Rice at the presentation of the 2001 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal Awards. Ma was the first performer on September 11, 2002, at the site of the World Trade Center, while the first of the names of the dead were read in remembrance on the first anniversary of the attack on the WTC. He played the Sarabande from Bach’s Suite in C minor (#5). He performed a special arrangement of Sting‘s “Fragile” with Sting and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
He performed John Williams‘ “Air and Simple Gifts” at the inauguration ceremony for Barack Obama on January 20, 2009, along with Itzhak Perlman (violin), Gabriela Montero (piano) and Anthony McGill (clarinet). While the quartet did play live, the music played simultaneously over speakers and on television was a recording made two days prior due to concerns over the cold weather damaging the instruments. Ma was quoted as saying “A broken string was not an option. It was wicked cold.” 
On August 29, 2009, Ma performed at the funeral mass for Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Pieces he performed included the Sarabande movement from Bach‘s Cello Suite No. 6, and Franck‘s Panis Angelicus with Placido Domingo.
On October 3, 2009, Ma appeared alongside Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the National Arts Centre gala in Ottawa. Harper, a noted Beatles fan, played the piano and sang a rendition of “With A Little Help From My Friends” while Ma accompanied him on his cello.
Yo-Yo Ma The Swan Saint-Saens
Ma has appeared in an episode of the animated children’s television series, Arthur, as well as on The West Wing (episode “Noël“, in which he performed the prelude to the Bach Cello Suite No.1 at a Christmas dinner at the White House), Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. In The Simpsons episode “Missionary: Impossible“, Ma, (voiced by Hank Azaria) runs after Homer Simpson along with many other frequent guests of PBS.
Ma has also been seen with Apple Inc. and former Pixar CEO Steve Jobs. Ma is often invited to press events for Jobs’s companies, and has performed on stage during event keynote presentations, as well as appearing in a commercial for the Macintosh computer.
According to research done by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., of Harvard University, in 2010 for the PBS series Faces of America, in which Ma made an appearance, a relative had hidden the Ma family genealogy in his home in China to save it from destruction during the Cultural Revolution. Ma’s paternal ancestry can be traced back eighteen generations to the year 1217. This genealogy had been compiled in the 18th century by an ancestor, tracing everyone with the surname Ma, through the paternal line, back to one common ancestor in the 3rd century BC. Ma’s generation name, “Yo”, had been decided by his fourth great grand-uncle, Ma Ji Cang, in 1755.
Ma married his long-time girlfriend Jill Hornor, a German language professor, in 1977. He proposed outside her apartment. They have two children, Nicholas and Emily, and reside in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ma’s elder sister, Yeou-Cheng Ma, who was also born in Paris, is a violinist married to Michael Dadap, a New York–based guitarist from the Philippines. Yeou-Cheng Ma, executive director, and Michael Dadap, artistic and music director, currently run the Children’s Orchestra Society in Manhasset, Long Island, New York.
Awards and recognitions
- 2005 Princeton University
- 1996 Brahms/Beethoven/Mozart: Clarinet Trios (Sony 57499)
- 1993 Brahms: Sonatas for Cello & Piano (Sony 48191)
- 1992 Brahms: Piano Quartets Op. 25, Op. 26 (Sony 45846)
- 1987 Beethoven: Cello and Piano Sonata No. 4 in C & Variations (CBS 42121)
- 1986 Brahms: Cello and Piano Sonatas in E Minor Op. 38, and F Op. 99 (RCA 17022)
- 1998 Yo-Yo Ma Premieres – Danielpour, Kirchner, Rouse (Sony Classical 66299)
- 1995 The New York Album – Works of Albert, Bartók & Bloch (Sony 57961)
- 1993 Prokofiev: Sinfonia Concertante/Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme (Sony 48382)
- 1990 Barber: Cello Concerto, Op. 22/Britten: Symphony for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 68 (CBS 44900)
- 1998 Yo-Yo Ma Premieres – Danielpour, Kirchner, Rouse (Sony Classical 66299)
- 2010 Songs of Joy & Peace (Sony Classical B001BN1V8U)
- 2004 Obrigado Brazil (Sony 89935)
- 2001 Appalachian Journey (Sony 66782)
- 1999 Soul of the Tango – The Music of Ástor Piazzolla (Sony Classical 63122)
- 2004 Obrigado Brazil (Sony 89935)
·Nominated: November 17, 2010
·Awarded: February 15, 2011
In the movie School of Rock, Jack Black’s character tells the other teachers that he competed in a cello audition–and lost–to Yo-yo Ma’s cousin, who he describes as “Little Nepotiz”, a reference to the audition being on the same orchestral instrument as Yo-yo Ma plays, and implying that Yo-yo Ma’s cousin won the audition simply by virtue of being related to Yo-yo Ma.
- ^ Hatch, Robert; William Hatch. The Hero Project. McGraw-Hill Professional. pp. 82. ISBN 0071449043. Retrieved September 8, 2007.
- ^ a b National Medal of Arts. National Endowment for the Arts.
- ^ Presidential Medal of Freedom. Presidential Medal of Freedom.
- ^ “Yo-Yo Ma’s ‘Obrigado Brazil'”. National Public Radio. September 3, 2003. Retrieved January 29, 2009.
- ^ Salzman, Mark (2001). Album notes for Classic Yo-Yo by Yo-Yo Ma. Sony (089667).
- ^ “1”. Faces of America. PBS. 2010-02-10. No. 1, season 1.
- ^ Weatherly, Myra (2007). Yo-Yo Ma: Internationally Acclaimed Cellist. Minneapolis, MN: Compass Point Books. pp. 49–50. ISBN 0-7565-1879-2.
- ^ Associated Press (January 14, 2006). “Yo Yo Ma named U.N. peace ambassador”. USA Today. Retrieved April 10, 2007.
- ^ “Yo-Yo Ma”. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved April 8, 2007.
- ^ “Silk Road Project”. The Silk Road Project. Retrieved January 15, 2007.
- ^ Tyrangiel, Josh (March 27, 2005). “10 Questions for To To Ma”. Retrieved March 15, 2011.
- ^ Katherine E. Finkelstein (October 17, 1999). “In Concert, Searchers Retrieve Yo-Yo Ma’s Lost Stradivarius [sic]”. New York Times. Retrieved January 15, 2007.
- ^ “Testimonials”. Luis and Clark. Archived from the original on November 29, 2006. Retrieved January 15, 2007.
- ^ “Yo-Yo Ma becomes UN peace ambassador”. CBC.ca. January 14, 2006. Retrieved February 12, 2007.
- ^ “President Obama appoints Yo-Yo Ma to the Presidents Committee on the Arts and Humanities”. The White House. Retrieved December 8, 2009.
- ^ Kenneth Turan (November 19, 2010). “Movie review: ‘Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story'”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
- ^ “Film”. Jewsandbaseball.com. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
- ^ Scott Barancik (July 7, 2010). “New film explores our love affair with baseball”. Jewish Baseball News. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
- ^ Andrew L. Pincus (June 20, 2002). “Yo-Yo Ma: Exploring culture with passion and involvement”. Berkshires Week. Retrieved January 15, 2007.
- ^ BBC News – Quartet pre-recorded Obama music
- ^ Kennedy Funeral Includes Family, Music, President
- ^ Colbert Report
- ^ “Faces of America: Yo-Yo Ma”, PBS, Faces of America series, with Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 2010.
- ^ The Mystery of Yo-Yo Ma’s Name, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The Daily Beast, February 9, 2010
- ^ “Children’s Orchestra Society – Administration”. Retrieved September 29, 2009.
- ^ [http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/11/17/announcing-2010-medal-freedom-recipients whitehouse.gov
- ^ http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/02/15/watch-live-president-obama-honors-presidential-medal-freedom-recipients
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Yo-Yo Ma|
- Official Website
- Yo-Yo Ma at Allmusic
- About Us, The Children’s Orchestra Society, ChildrensOrch.org, 2007
- Yo-Yo Ma in Conversation from WGBH Radio Boston
- Yo-Yo Ma Interview on Time.com, October 2008
- Yo-Yo Ma Podcast Series produced by Sony BMG Masterworks
- Yo-Yo Ma TV Interview with Ennio Morricone from C Music TV
- 2006 Dan David Prize laureate