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Ma, Yo-Yo (7th October 1955-Present)

He is a virtuoso cellist, violinist, violist, pianist and composer born in Paris, France. He came from a musical family from China with his father being a music professor, a composer and a conductor, his mother being a singer and his sister is a violinist.

The family emigrated to the United States when he was seven years old, by which time he was already playing the violin and viola and deemed a child prodigy.  He turned his attention to the cello when he was four and by then he was already giving public performances.

When he was seven he gave a performance for President Kennedy and the following year he and his sister were conducted by Leonard Bernstein on a television broadcast.

He studied at Trinity School, New York, and graduated when he was still only fifteen.  He then decided to question whether he wanted to continue studying the cello, but was persuaded to carry on by music professors at Harvard University. He graduated with his degree in 1976 and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1991.

In 1972 Pablo Casals directed him for his performance for the Marlboro Music Festival and this would be where he spent the next three summers.  This was where he met his future wife, Jill Hornor.

By the 1980s he had already performed with the majority of the best-known orchestras throughout the world and his studio recordings were gaining him much critical acclaim.

He is also known for his work in chamber ensembles and particularly in a trio with his old Julliard friend, the pianist Emmanuel Ax and the violinist Young Uck Kim.  He formed his own Silk Road Ensemble in 1998, which brings together a diverse range of musicians for each individual project that covers music of many genres from areas of the world that are connected by the Silk Road, which ran from China to the Mediterranean.

His works covers most genres of music and includes his performances on film soundtracks such as 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and collaborations with John Williams on Memoirs of a Geisha and Seven Years in Tibet.

Making several small screen appearances, he has featured on television shows that include The Colbert Report, Frasier, Mister Roger’s Neighbourhood, Sesame Street, The Simpsons, Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me! and West Wing.  He has also performed at large scale events such as the remembrance ceremony on the first anniversary of the World Trade Center attack, duetting with Sting at the opening ceremony of the 2002 Olympics, performing at the inaugural ceremony for the London’s Barbican concert hall in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II, performing in a quartet at the Inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama, duetting with Condaleeza Rice and playing at the mass for the funeral of Senator Edward Kennedy.

Working exclusively with Sony, his recordings are numerous with over 90 of his own albums that have earned him 18 Grammy Awards.  He has recorded with many other acclaimed musicians and composers that include Odair and Sergio Assad, Claude Bolling, Chris Botti, Liona Boyd, Stephane Grappelli, Wynton Marsalis, Kurt Masur, Bobby McFerrin, Edger Mayer, Ennio Morricone, Mark O’Connor, Andre Previn and James Taylor to name just a very few.

He has been honoured with the International Center in New York’s Excellence Award and the United Nations named him Peace Ambassador in 2006, which was extended in 2007. In November 2009 he was appointed by Barack Obama to sit on the President’s Committee for Arts and Humanities.

He currently lives with his family in Massachusetts and performs on several modern and period instruments, including a modern carbon fiber cello and Stradivarius cello that was bequeathed to him by Jacqueline de Pre.