YO-YO MA Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


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Yo-Yo Ma (??? Pinyin: Ma Youyou) (born October 7, 1955) is a world-famous Chinese-American cellist. He was born in Paris to Chinese parents (with ancestry in Zhejiang), and had a musical upbringing. His mother, Marina Lu (???), was a singer, while his father, Hiao-Tsiun Ma (???), was a conductor and composer. Ma began to study the violin, then the viola, before taking up the cello. His family moved to New York City, United States when he was seven.


Ma was a child prodigy, appearing on American television at the age of eight in a concert conducted by Leonard Bernstein. He entered the Juilliard School, and then went to Harvard (where he was in Currier House), but was questioning whether he should continue his studies until, in the 1970s, Pablo Casals’s performing inspired him.


Since that time, he has steadily gained in fame, and has performed with most of the world’s major orchestras. His recordings and performances of Johann Sebastian Bach’s suites for unaccompanied cello are particularly acclaimed, and he has also played a good deal of chamber music, often with the pianist Emanuel Ax. One of his cellos, the “Davidov Stradivarius", was previously played regularly by Jacqueline du Pre and left to him upon her death.


Yo-Yo Ma has been called “the most omnivorous of all cellists” by critics and indeed possesses a far more eclectic repertoire than typical for a classical player. He has performed and recorded Baroque pieces on period instruments, American Bluegrass music, traditional Chinese melodies, the Argentinian tangos of Astor Piazzolla, Brazilian music, the soundtrack to the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and Philip Glass’s minimalist score of Naqoyqatsi in addition to numerous recordings of the standard classical repertoire.


He currently plays in his own project, The Silk Road Ensemble and records on the Sony Classical label.


Ma married his long-time girlfriend, Jill Hornor, a violinist, in 1978. They have two children, Nicholas and Emily. Ma’s elder sister, Yeou-Cheng Ma (???), also born in Paris, is a violinist, married to Michael Dadap, a New York guitarist.


Interestingly, Ma appeared on the children’s television series, Arthur.