Yo-Yo Ma composes speech, inspires audience

09.30.11
Yo-Yo Ma
The DePauw

By Alicia Tutini

A soothing composition by Bach drifted across Kresge Auditorium last night as Yo-Yo Ma began his lecture with the first song he ever learned on the cello.

Silence and awe settled over the audience as the piece came to an end. Yo-Yo Ma stood, greeting the pleasantly surprised crowd with a joke that immediately erased any trace of somberness from the room.

After opening with the "Prelude," Ma spoke about his background. He knelt on the ground to demonstrate the practice techniques of a four-year-old cellist and showed a video from elementary school days when he played for Presidents Kennedy and Eisenhower.

Then, with a rare touch of seriousness, Ma pointed to a board behind him then turned to ask the question written upon it: "Who am I and how do I fit in the world?"

He began to speak of his teachers and other people who significantly impacted him as a person and as a musician.

His objective was to "expand my mental capacity to imagine things beyond," he said. "Everything you play is significant for a purpose."

After addressing those who influenced him, Ma tackled music and the impact it has upon him and the world surrounding us.

"How does a piece of music live?" Ma asked. "Imagination and empathy are two things through which the arts can empower society."

Inspiring words echoed throughout the hall as Ma continued to speak of the influence that the constant companionship of music had on his life. He encouraged the audience to "light the fire to curiosity" and "open our senses."

Ma's speech ended with a fittingly musical style as the audience harmoniously applauded and arose to thank him for his words.

Though it would be nearly impossible to sum up his entire message in a single phrase, there is one that embodies it with signature Yo-Yo Ma style: "make things as memorable as possible."