Yo-Yo Ma (born October 7, 1955) is a French-born American cellist, virtuoso, orchestral composer of Chinese descent, and winner of multiple Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts in 2001 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. He is one of the most famous cellists of the modern age.
Yo-Yo Ma was born in Paris on October 7, 1955, to Chinese parents and had a musical upbringing. His mother, Marina Lu, was a singer, and his father, Hiao-Tsiun Ma, was a violinist and professor of music. His family moved to New York when he was five years old.
At a very young age, Ma began studying violin, and later viola, before finding his true calling by taking up the cello in 1960 at age four. According to Ma, his first choice was the double bass due to its large size, but he compromised and took up cello instead. The child prodigy began performing before audiences at age five, and performed for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Dwight D. Eisenhower when he was seven. At age eight, he appeared on American television with his sister, Yeou-Cheng Ma, in a concert conducted by Leonard Bernstein. By fifteen years of age, Ma had graduated from Trinity School in New York and appeared as a soloist with the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra in a performance of the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations.