People in the News: Yo-Yo Ma | Level 8 | By Little Fox

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[Series Introduction]

Young newscasters Ben and Olivia introduce well-known people from around the world. These “people in the news” have accomplished extraordinary things in science, sports, music, business, politics, and more!


BEN: Hi, Little Fox readers! On today's People in the News, Olivia will be introducing us to Yo-Yo Ma, whose musical gifts have made him the most famous cellist in the world.

OLIVIA: Hi, everyone. Yo-Yo Ma was born in1955 in Paris, France. His father was a highly respected music teacher who began teaching Yo-Yo to play the cello when Yo-Yo was only four. Some of the earliest pieces of music that Yo-Yo learned to play were Bach's Cello Suites, which are really difficult for most musicians. But Yo-Yo's father had a special technique for teaching: Yo-Yo learned two measures each day, and by the end of a year, he knew three of the suites by heart. But Yo-Yo wasn't good merely because he could play difficult pieces of music. He was able to pour a lot of emotion into his playing, and it wasn't long before other musicians saw him as a child prodigy.
In 1961, when Yo-Yo was six, he and his family moved to New York in the United States. A year later he and his sister performed in Washington DC for President Kennedy, along with a crowd of five thousand people. Two years after that, Yo-Yo and his sister performed in Carnegie Hall, one of the world's most famous concert halls.
After completing high school when he was 15, Yo-Yo enrolled in The Juilliard School, a world-renowned music school. But he soon grew frustrated with spending endless hours in a practice room, and he began acting out. He rarely listened to his teachers, and he avoided practicing as much as possible.
Yo-Yo eventually realized that he wanted to experience other things in life besides the cello. So he left Juilliard, and without telling his parents, he enrolled in Harvard University, where he had a chance to learn about subjects such as history, philosophy, and literature. He became particularly interested in anthropology, the study of other cultures. Yo-Yo's time at Harvard gave him a much broader view of the world, a view he never would have acquired if he'd stayed in music school.

BEN: What about the cello? Did Yo-Yo still play while he was a student at Harvard?

OLIVIA: Yes, Yo-Yo still dedicated a lot of time to his instrument, performing at student functions and other events. In addition, he performed professionally around the world, as both a soloist and a member of small groups and full symphony orchestras.
Then, when Yo-Yo was 22, he recorded his first album. Several more followed, and in 1983, he recorded "Bach: Unaccompanied Cello Suites," the same suites his father had taught him when he was first learning to play. The recording was a huge hit with classical music fans, and it earned Yo-Yo a Grammy—an important award in the music industry. Yo-Yo went on to record over 75 albums, many of which were critically acclaimed. He also appeared on several television shows and played cello on some movie soundtracks. In fact, his growing popularity helped to make classical music a lot more popular in the U.S.
Yo-Yo doesn't just play classical music, though. He has always been interested in other cultures, and that has led him to experiment with the music of many of those cultures. In 1993 Yo-Yo traveled to the Kalahari Desert in Africa to meet with the Bushmen, a group of hunter-gatherers he had learned about while studying anthropology in college. Yo-Yo played some classical music for the Bushmen, and then
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[Little Fox Introduction]

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