Excerpted from

Yo-Yo Ma's Journeys

by Janet Tassel, Harvard Magazine, March-April, 2000

It was when he was five that Yo-Yo Ma, the archetypal child prodigy, played his first public concert, at the University of Paris. He played both the piano and cello, including the prelude to the second Bach suite for unaccompanied cello. Ma's father, Hiao-Tsiun Ma, a violinist and a professor at Nanjing University, had left China for Paris in 1936. His mother, Marina, a singer from Hong Kong and former student of Hiao-Tsiun's, emigrated to Paris in 1949, where she and Hiao-Tsiun were married. In 1955, Yo-Yo was born. Some years ago, he told interviewer David Blum that "Yo," which in Chinese means "friendship," was the generational character chosen for him and his sister, Yeou-Cheng '73, M.D. '77, now a violinist and pediatrician, who is four years older than he. "With me," he said, "they seem to have got lazy and been unable to think of anything else, so they added another Yo."

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