Yo-Yo Ma

Passion for people


This man’s famous life was not determined by what he looked like or what he wore, but what he did and how he did it. Winning over 16 Grammys in his career and still determined to do better, he is an icon in music itself. Especially when it comes to the cello. One of the most accomplished and creative musicians alive, appearing on tv shows like sesame street, and the late night show. Being a musician, he was intelligent graduating high school just at the age of 15. This man was none other than acclaimed classical cellist, Yo-Yo Ma.


Yo-Yo Ma’s career wouldn’t be the same without experimenting with different types of music that other artists would not. His hunt for new challenges in the same music has brought a much larger audience to classical music. Though Ma is a classical artist, he is known for his versatility in different types of music including jazz and contemporary music. He has also experimented and played in different genres of music including traditional Chinese music. While people criticize him about it, he still plays. He also collaborates with musicians like Bobby McFerrin. He does what no cellist has ever done before. He likes to take risks whether they pay off or not. Many cellists that play cello would not collaborate with other musicians of the different genre. Ma has also collaborated with Mark O'Connor, Edgar Meyer, and Stuart Duncan. He has been a Sony recording artist for 30 years, and is considered one of Billboard's best classical musicians and sellers.


Starting his professional career at just 16 and going to college at the same age, he had a lot to juggle. School, cello practice, lessons, more schoolwork, and cello performances. Even though Yo-Yo had cello concerts, he still wanted to do well in college. Ma was unlike the other students leaving class to go to concerts, and playing cello in the hallways. Yo-Yo did everything he could do possible to keep his grades up. Determined to experience college life, Ma limited his skills at Harvard and took unique courses like anthropology and German literature. Instead of trying to get 100 in each class, he focused a little bit of his time on each to pass each class and graduated in 1976 with a liberal arts degree. “So I came here and I was a music major, but my great passion was anthropology.” says Ma interviewed by the Harvard Crimson.


Ma began playing the cello when he was just 4 years old. By age 5, he had completely memorized three of six Bach cello suites. Despite being pushed very hard by his parents, most of Ma’s success would not be here without his father's persistence and rigor. At a young age, Ma was already one of the most famous cellist in the world. The prodigy went on to attend Juilliard school in New York. Being only in fifth grade, he would act out in school and misbehave. He graduated from Juilliard early at age 15. An exceptionally young age for high school. One year after he graduated, he made his professional debut kicked off with performing at Carnegie hall in New York, New York. Ma went to harvard at the age of 17 in 1972. He began to take classes from anthropology to German literature. He started off trying to put 100 % of his effort into each topic but he could not manage on top of cello practice and concerts. Ma began to use a method to focus on two or three things at a time and if he did not do well in the other classes, it was ok to not do well. Ma graduated Harvard in the class of 1976 with a liberal arts degree.

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After that, Yo-Yo Ma’s career really took off. Creating his first album Robert white sings Beethoven just 3 years later. In 1984, Ma received his first Grammy. winning over 16 in his career. In 1987, he appeared on the popular kids show, Sesame Street. In 1998, Ma gathered his intelligence, creativity, and determination and went down another path to fund The Silk Road Project. His goal was to bring together instruments and genres of music from other cultures. In Ma’s words, “Good things happen when strangers meet”

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By Avi Bhuyan