Category Archives: Yo-Yo Ma

Life can be about more than who has a better vibrato

Anne Midgette has a fascinating piece on Yo-Yo Ma in tomorrow’s Washington Post (available now online).  The few times I’ve met Yo-Yo, he’s been warm and personable to absolutely everyone around.  I remember someone telling me back in the 1970s that there was this absolutely amazing teenaged cellist they’d met at Marlboro, that he was an incredibly nice and funny guy, and that if he decided he wanted to go into music he’d be a big star.  Well, obviously Yo-Yo decided to go into music.

Years ago I had a pre-blogging software blog called “Following the Inner Voice.” I wrote about 70 essays, which have unfortunately been lost–the site no longer exists and the hard drive where I saved the essays is damaged.  One was about my experiences with Yo-Yo, and the theme of it was that Yo-Yo lives in a world of wonderful people.  He finds, he looks for, what’s wonderful and great in others.  So many of us look for what’s wrong with others–and ourselves.  There’s something deeply spiritual, deeply alive, deeply loving about that.

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t hold people accountable or never gets angry or never fires someone or never criticizes someone or is never a jerk (I assume).  He’s human, after all.  In the mix of all his human qualities, imagination and love and passion and empowerment and giving and commitment to a larger purpose all seem to come out on top, and in a natural way.

His wide range of activities, his commitment to causes, his dedication to making the world a better place through music, his promotion of culture, his breaking down of boundaries, all make him a great role model for young (and middle aged) musicians. Not someone to imitate.  But someone to be inspired by to be more one’s self, more involved, more giving.

Ma doesn’t find causes and attach himself to them; rather, he follows what he already does to its utmost extreme. Music is “powered by ideas,” he says. “And to understand that is huge, because then the ideas can galvanize people together, as opposed to . . . ‘I have a better vibrato than you.’ “

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