He’s a virtuoso on the cello. The cello. As if the violin isn’t geeky enough. But the thing is, Yo-Yo Ma somehow makes it cool. He brings out the beauty in an instrument that had always been second fiddle. Second fiddle – somebody stop me!
When his friends see him, do they say, “Yo, Yo!” And does he say, “Don’t use my middle name.” Okay, I think I’m finished being silly. Probably. Ma was born in Paris to Chinese parents who moved to New York and taught him German music. He was the epitome of the concept of child prodigy. As Mark Salzman wrote on the liner notes for Classic Yo-Yo: “At four, he learned his first Bach cello suite; at five, he gave his first concert in Paris; at six, he dazzled Isaac Stern; and at seven, he played in a televised concert hosted by Leonard Bernstein and attended by President and Mrs. Kennedy.”
Yo-Yo Ma has performed all over the world with the leading orchestras and musicians. He’s recorded dozens of albums, and shown how the cello adapts to a wide array of musical forms. And he’s a virtual Grammy machine, having won 16, mostly for Best Chamber Music Performance and Best Instrumental Soloist Performance. And this year (2011), he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Yo!