Chinese American cellist Yo-Yo Ma has performed for several decades, produced 75 albums, and won more than 15 Grammy Awards. This musical genius, at the early age of 7, performed for U.S. President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline. This was his first public performance in the United States and subsequently laid the foundation for his music career in later years.
On November 29, 1962, a fundraising benefit concert called “The American Pageant of Arts” was held in the United States Capital at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. It was in this hall where 7-year-old Yo-Yo Ma played his cello, accompanied by his 11-year-old sister, Yeou-Cheng, on the piano. Together, they combined their instruments to perform the French cellist and composer Jean-Baptiste’s Breval Concertino No. 3 in A Major.
Please watch this video of 7-year-old Yo Yo Ma’s performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts:
The legendary American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, who was the master of ceremony for the evening’s event, presented Yo-Yo Ma’s high profile debut and expressed that the United States is a land of opportunities and freedom that has always attracted foreign artistes, scientists, and philosophers to visit or immigrate. Following this tradition, when Yo-Yo Ma was 7, he moved to New York City from France with his family.
In New York, Yo-Yo Ma could meet with the famous Spanish cellist Pablo Casals and was brought to the attention of Bernstein, who later introduced the entertainers of that evening. Besides President Kennedy and his wife, the other guests in this concert were former President Eisenhower, singer Marian Anderson, pianist Van Cliburn, poet Robert Frost, and actor Fredric March.
The following is a video of Yo Yo Ma playing Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 — Prelude. You can feel the significant growth in the interpretation of Yo-Yo Ma’s music over the period of half a century from the time he first performed at the age of 7:
Yo-Yo Ma was born in 1955 in Paris, France. At the age of 4, he learned to play the piano and cello, and at the age of 6, he began to perform in front of audiences. Some commentators believe that Yo-Yo Ma is “omnivorous” and extremely adaptable compared to other classical musicians. He composed and played the prominent theme for a number of films, including Silk Road for the acclaimed film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon:
Translated by Chua BC.