Yo-Yo Ma: A Musical Life

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Famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma celebrated his 60th birthday on Oct. 7, but it’s his fans that receive the gift: two days later, he released his latest album, Songs from the Arc of Life, which he calls “a reflection, a sample of what might be or could have been or was.”

He recently spoke with Zoomer’s Judy Gerstel.


Judy Gerstel: You’ve had an amazing life and career…

Yo-Yo Ma: The thing[s] I missed I can never redo. My wife believed in what I was doing even though it meant my leaving. We’ve been married 37 years, and I’ve been gone 24 of those years. But I was never made to feel guilty. It was an unbelievably generous thing that she did.

JG: Will life change at 60?

YYM: The older I get, the more I’m thoughtful about what I choose to do. In my 20s, I would have said about almost anything, “That’s exciting! Let’s go!” Now, I stop to think, “Is that going to be a waste of time?” I’m also very interested in how culture and education fit into our society. We can’t just close our eyes and hope everything will be okay. I’m trying to bring more people into the discussion everywhere I go. Turning 60 makes me a little bolder in terms of saying things.

JG: Does aging affect your performance?

YYM: It’s greater effort with diminishing return. All the other work I do fuels my desire to play every phrase with as much intentionality as I possibly can. And I would love to play in tune as long as possible.