Yo-Yo Ma Yo-Yo Ma: Earth's Most Charming Male?

alling Yo-Yo Ma the world's greatest living cellist is like calling Monica Lewinsky Bill Clinton's favorite intern. Some dimensions don't reduce down to adjectives. But if you were an alien tasked to bring home earth's most charming male, Yo-Yo Ma would head up your short list. And if you were a promoter trying to come up with a surefire class note for a mass media spectacle like the Olympics or the Oscars Yo-Yo Ma would be your man.

     Ma's status transcends his 14 Grammies and over 50 albums during a professional career that began at age five. He isn't so much a musical icon or even a cultural icon as the very icon of culture itself. It may have something to do with the rapturous way he bows his 300-year-old Montagnana cello, as though channeling the spirits of Bach, Brahms or Beethoven. Or the fact that he has high society feeding ravenously out of his long-fingered hands. Or the infectious delight with which he feeds it cultural confections that meld Bach cello suites with Kabuki, ice-dancing or garden design. Or his ability to move, within the space of a single year, among albums featuring Appalachian fiddling, Tango and Baroque.

     And what Asian American hasn't noted Ma's collaboration with composer Tan Dun on the haunting score for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as well as his ambitious Silk Road Project to recreate musically the cultural movements along the old trading route between Europe and Asia?

     It doesn't hurt either that at 46 Yo-Yo Ma has the looks and the energy of a man half his age. And is it possible that, despite all his success, he still wears what looks like the same oversized glasses he wore twenty years ago?

     The worst epithet he's ever faced is being tagged "Sexiest Classicial Musician" by People.

     Yo-Yo Ma was born in 1955 in Paris to a singer mother and a musicologist father who set about with great determination to create a cello prodigy. At age six Yo-Yo showed enough promise to raise the eyebrows of violinist Isaac Stern. The following year the Ma family relocated to New York. At age nine Yo-Yo was enrolled in the Julliard School and studied under cellist Leonard Rose, a close friend of Stern's. For college he chose to receive a broad liberal arts education at Harvard instead of attending a music school. He graduated in 1976. A year later he married Jill Hornor, a violinist he had met during a performance at Mt Holyoke when he was 16. She was two years older. By the time he won the Avery Fisher Prize in 1978 Ma was a dozen years into his career as an internationally acclaimed cellist. He continues to perform regularly to packed houses around the world and is one of the world's leading classical recording artists. The Mas live in Cambridge, Massachusetts with their two children, Nicolas, 18, and Emily, 16.

     Is Yo-Yo Ma the world's most charming man? Or the most annoying? Or both?



[This page is closed to new input. Vote and continue this and related discussions at the new Interactive Area. --Ed.]
I met Mr. Ma, albeit briefly, on a New York City street after he performed at Carnegie Hall. The Concert was "A Concert in Rememberance" for the victims of 9/11. Mr. Ma exemplifies class, integrity and humanity to the highest degree. His graciousness toward me (on a chance meeting) was as great as my awe in meeting him.
   Saturday, December 14, 2002 at 02:52:44 (PST)    []
let's talk about his smithsonian project: the silk road.
   Tuesday, October 01, 2002 at 09:09:03 (PDT)
Actually, there are a lot of children in China with backgrounds similar to Yo-Yo Ma's: parents with music backgrounds and determined to train their kids in music. But they are not as luck as Ma who got to be trained in world-class environments. Alas for them!
Red Red Seashell    Monday, June 10, 2002 at 11:06:32 (PDT)
yo yo is beautiful & inspirational. he restores my faith in humanity. thank you yo yo.
an admirer
   Wednesday, May 15, 2002 at 20:30:32 (PDT)
Does anyone think he's "beating them (Europeans/Euro-Americans) at their own game?" with his classic "Western" instrument, the cello?
   Tuesday, May 14, 2002 at 14:09:56 (PDT)

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I'd like to ask a question that has been troubleing me for the past months Yo-Yo Ma in the eyes of the majority the World's best cellist?

My personal opinion is that Rostropovich never lost his title after the death pf Pablo Casals....

Emanuel Indrei    Wednesday, June 12, 2002 at 10:31:46 (PDT)
Apparently most of you don't follow Yo-Yo's career whatsoever or else you would know that he definitely does play classical asian instruments and is in fact touring around the world right now in a program of his invention called the "Silk Road Project", designed to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western cultures. Look it up! Get informed! Thanks,
from a devoted Yo-Yo fan and cellist
   Saturday, May 04, 2002 at 15:03:27 (PDT)
Yo-Yo has done a lot to spread interest in the cello among the "ordinary people" who would never listen to classical music except for his work. Thanks, Yo-Yo!
Drcello    Saturday, May 04, 2002 at 06:21:35 (PDT)

I doubt Sesame Street is the core demographic of what Mr. Ma caters to.

I was thinking more along the lines of just one track on CD just for Classical Eastern Music. One track would not make or break a CD.

AC Dropout
   Thursday, March 21, 2002 at 07:08:27 (PST)
AC Dropout,

So you would be satisfied with Yo Yo Ma if he went on Sesame Street and played some classic Chinese music? It is hard for me to comprehend at what point someone would be considered to bring certain music to the masses. What does it take? While western classical music is popular with many people...I don't think it is generally considered music of the masses. This is a little ironic considering how much popular music today is derived from classical music. It is surprising how many rap songs have classical themes...yet this is what makes them more catchy to a lot of people. Nonetheless, many classical musicians, including Yo Yo Ma, try to introduce classical music to the masses which is already a formidable challenge in itself.
   Wednesday, March 20, 2002 at 14:27:48 (PST)


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