As a young cellist, I knew every recording Yo-Yo Ma ever made. I saw him perform live on numerous occasions and was lucky enough to meet him after a concert, when I was in college. So, I was thrilled to learn I would be sharing the stage with him for the inauguration of the new Gaillard Center. It proved to be a highlight of my career and entire musical life. Yo-Yo is extremely warm, approachable and generous. And oh yes, he plays rather well.
Rehearsal was full of great music and fun. Yo-Yo likes to look around the orchestra while he plays and he will lock eyes with you, making you really feel like you are playing together. Even though I was sitting on the fourth stand, I had a clear sight of him and we had a number of such moments. One of those moments in the slow movement must have been particularly intense, as I got totally lost. For the concert, I made sure to wear my music reading glasses and not look at him. After our first play-through, Yo-Yo walked over to the cello section and traded his cello with Damien, the assistant principal. He still sounded great while playing on a strange cello, and Damien got to play one of the most famous and valuable Stradivarius cellos in the world for the the remainder of the rehearsal.
After rehearsal, I ran into him in one of the backstage hallways and got to visit with him for quite a while. He remembered the concert where we met 31 years ago. We joked around about how old we are now, but he insisted we “still have it!” He also signed the underside of the cello podium next to my signature. As to be expected, the concert was spectacular. It was a day of music and camaraderie I won’t ever forget.
written by Terry Muir, CAM cello faculty