Yo-Yo Ma was very talented at the cello from a very young age. He performed for the President of America, President Kennedy, when he was only seven years old. Today he is one of the best-selling recording artists in classical music. All his recent CDs have remained in the Top 15 for long periods, sometimes with four of his CDs in the Top 15 at the same time!
Yo-Yo Ma is Chinese American. Coming from two different cultures, Chinese and American, has meant that he has always been interested in different types of music. In 1998, he set up the Silk Road Project which brings together musicians from all over the world. (The Silk Road is a great name for the project because it is the name of the routes that traders used to take from Asia to Europe. Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project trades (swaps) music instead of spices and silk.) The Silk Road Ensemble play on instruments from different musical traditions. You can see some of them by clicking here.
Here are some questions that Yo-Yo Ma answered especially for littlecellist.com:
Why did you choose to learn the cello?
I come from a musical family. The first instrument I ever played was the violin, and I was terrible at it! Then I saw a double bass and I was very excited because it was so large. As it turned out, the bass was too large, so I settled on the biggest instrument I could play, which was the cello.
How old were you when you started to learn the cello?
Four years old.
Did you always want to practise when you were a child?
I did not always want to practise! I found that if I broke the piece down into a measure at a time, and learned a measure a day, I could make practising manageable that way. One thing I always tell students is that they should never play a note unless they can hear the note first in their head.
Do you get nervous before you perform?
I do get nervous. The best way I've found to combat nervousness is taking deep breaths.
What do you do when you find something on the cello difficult?
I often play through difficult phrases slowly.
What music do you most like playing?
I like playing all kinds of music. I don't really have a favourite piece - it changes day to day.
We love your CDs of Latin American music (Obrigado Brazil and Soul of the Tango). Did you enjoy making them?
Thank you! I had a wonderful time making those CDs.
Here you can watch Yo-Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin performing 'Hush Little Baby' (from their CD 'Hush'):
Hush Little Baby
Thank you to Phoenix Schallert for the great suggestion!