Brunch with Yo-Yo Ma
Today I had brunch with Yo-Yo Ma. Does that read as crazy as it sounds? No, it’s true! Myself, and Cooper, (and about 100 other people too), were invited to attend a reception to honor the legendary cellist at the US Ambassador’s residence here in Stockholm. It was a gathering to celebrate Yo-Yo Ma’s acceptance of the Polar Music Award—a prize given to an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to the advancement of music. The international award was founded in 1989 by Stig Anderson, the manager of the group ABBA, and since then at least 16 Americans have received the prize, including: Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Issac Stern (yeah, I didn’t know who he was either), Led Zeppelin and this year, also newly awarded, Paul Simon.
The award is prestigious enough—the “Nobel Prize of Music”—but the money ain’t bad either, 1 million SEK, about $144,000 US dollars. Truthfully, I can’t think of a more deserving artist. Yo-Yo Ma was born in Paris to Chinese parents; his mother was a singer, his father a violinist. They moved to New York when he was five years old and that same year he began performing for audiences. By seven he had played for John F. Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower…and it only gets better from there.
His life has been dedicated to bringing cultures together through the language of music, his style ranging from Appalachian inspired rhythms to Baroque classics. I love his soundtracks from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, but we don’t have to argue about which ones best, he has over 75 albums to choose from—15 are Grammy Award winners.
What I loved about meeting Yo-Yo Ma, or anyone you’ve put on a pedestal for that matter, is that you get to see they are real. Yo-Yo Ma cracked jokes, smiled easily and was gracious in his thanks for being part of the event. The event included lots of tasty hor d’oeuvres, and when we all had a drink in hand, Ambassador Brzezinski gave an inspiring speech, concluding with a toast to Yo-Yo Ma. (My virgin mary was excellent.)
Afterward, I spoke with his daughter. She was lovely, warm and friendly, excited to be doing all of the touristy things people do in Stockholm—visiting museums, going shopping in the outdoor markets. When Yo-Yo Ma left with his wife and daughter it had started to rain. He got out his umbrella and we got out ours too. Walking into the deluge, it felt like more than just being out in bad weather…it was me and Yo-Yo Ma in the rain, in the same city, experiencing the same thing! Somehow that was much cooler.
(Jillair, I hope you’re reading this because I thought of you!)