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Yo-Yo Ma

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Biography

Yo-Yo Ma (Traditional Chinese: 馬友友; Simplified Chinese: 马友友; pinyin: Mǎ Y'uy'u) (b. October 7, 1955) is a French-born American cellist and winner of multiple Grammy Awards.

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 conductor and composer. His family moved to New York when he was seven years old.

Ma began studying violin, and later viola, before taking up the cello in 1960 at age four. The child prodigy began performing before audiences at age five. At eight years old, he appeared on American television 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.

Ma married his long-time girlfriend Jill Hornor in 1977 and had two children, Nicholas and Emily. They currently 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 guitarist. Together they currently run the Children's Orchestra Society in Manhasset, Long Island, New York.

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 Domenico Montagnana 1733 cello built in Venice and nicknamed Petunia. 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 cello, the Davidov Stradivarius, was previously owned by Jacqueline du Pré who passed it to him upon her death, though its current owner remains anonymous. 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 fibre by the Luis and Clark company of Boston.

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.

Ma has also been seen with Apple Computer 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.

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 movement 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.

Ma was a guest on the Not My Job segment of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! on April 7, 2007, where he won for listener Thad Moore.



 


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