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World-renowned cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, has performed at the Oscars, Grammy’s, Olympics, and now most recently, the State University of New York at Fredonia. The Paris native who was born to Chinese parents boasts an impressive resume with his cello, from playing in front of John F. Kennedy and Dwight D. Eisenhower when he was just seven to honoring his late friend, Steve Jobs, at a memorial this past October.
Releasing 75 records, holding 16 Grammy awards, a National Medal of the Arts, the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award, and the appointed Culture Connect Ambassador by the Department of the State, Yo-Yo Ma is one of the most famous and influential musicians that Fredonia has ever had perform.
Ma traveled to the campus of just about 5,000 students on December 7 to sit in and offer advice to students in the School of Music. He took the stage the following night in King Concert Hall with the College Symphony Orchestra, consisting of about 100 students, and their music director, David Ruge. The concert, also serving as a scholarship benefit, was sold out in a matter of two hours when tickets went on sale back in May for the 1.145 seating venue.
Ma walked out onto the stage with his 1733 Montagnana cello and a broad smile to thunderous applause, shouting, and whistling from every spectator. His friendliness is as impressive as his musical talent. Ma stopped to shake hands and exchange greetings with fellow musicians. When he did sit down as the soloist for the College Symphony Orchestra to play Antonin Dvorak’s “Cello Concerto in B Minor,” nobody made a sound.
Yo-Yo Ma’s classical experience, as well as enthusiasm for music, was blatantly shown as he flawlessly played. Where musicians today merely follow the notes off a sheet and lack emotion or feeling, Ma does not. It seems as though he acts out the music when he plays his cello, creating a connection with the audience.
The cellist repeatedly watched the students nearest to him when he was not playing, with an appreciative and approving smile. Ma finished to a standing ovation and quickly came back out for an encore. Ma seemed extremely excited and happy on the stage, exchanging hugs with the conductor, Ruge, and students. He even offered his bouquet of roses to a nearby violinist. She graciously accepted.
Later this month, Ma will be one of the five individuals to receive the 2011 Kennedy Center Honors, an award for a lifetime of contributions to American culture through the performing arts, presented by President Obama. The event will air December 27 on CBS.