Yo-Yo Ma’s multi-faceted career is testament to his continual search for new ways to communicate with audiences, and to his personal desire for artistic growth and renewal. Whether performing new or familiar works from the cello repertoire, creating educational programs that not only bring young audiences into contact with music but also allow them to participate in its creation, coming together with colleagues for chamber music, or exploring cultures and musical forms outside the Western classical tradition, Mr. Ma strives to find connections that stimulate the imagination. Among his many honors, Yo-Yo has been awarded the Avery Fisher Prize (1978), the Glenn Gould Prize (1999), the National Medal of the Arts (2001), and the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award (2008). Appointed a CultureConnect Ambassador by the United States Department of State in 2002, he has trained and mentored thousands of students worldwide. In 2006, Ma was named a U.N. Messenger of Peace.
Yo-Yo was born in 1955 in Paris, France where his parents were working as struggling musicians. He began to study the cello with his father at age four and came with his family to New York two years later. While it is typical for Chinese families to keep a genealogy, Yo-Yo knew almost nothing of his family’s past. When the Faces of America research team began their search, it was believed that the Ma genealogy had been lost during the political turmoil of the Cultural Revolution. Its rediscovery by the team is an amazing tale of serendipitous circumstances. As it turns out, a cousin had hidden it in the walls of his home to save it from destruction. Yo-Yo’s direct paternal genealogy can be traced back 18 generations to the year 1217. The genealogy was compiled in the 18th century by an ancestor and contains naming traditions, a summary of the lineage and a genealogical chart of the generational ancestors. The genealogy traces all the people with the surname Ma, through the paternal line, back to one common ancestor who lived in the 3rd century BC.